Help with Synopsis!! Please Help!

Ugh. You got stuck writing a synopsis. Help is on the way.
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HillaryJ
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Re: Help with Synopsis!! Please Help!

Post by HillaryJ » April 7th, 2010, 3:39 pm

I understand the big, steaming pile of frustration that is a synopsis. I'm going to take a look at what you posted when I have some time. And, just some friendly advice, when you ask for help, don't submit something that you acknowledge is full of errors. You're asking people to take time away from their own writing and struggles, so post your best effort. It's likely to be taken more seriously and, if it is the best you can come up with, the response should be at a higher level.

Below is the content of a post by agent Nephele Tempest about writing a 1-page synopsis. I used this advise to build two versions of my own, a 1-page (2 when double-spaced) and a 4-page for those agents who accepted longer versions. Ms. Tempest's advice helped me to understand the purpose of the synopsis and gave me justification for some of the more painful cuts I had to make to the 10-page synopsis I had at the time. I hope it helps you as well.

from Nephele Tempest:
However, when agents ask for a one-page synopsis, we are not looking for a one-page story summary. We want to know what your story is about, not what your story is. If you can tell me your entire story, blow by blow, in one page, why bother writing a book? But you should be able to tell me a basic outline of the plot with a focus on what the themes and ideas of your book are in one page. Instead of telling me every adventure your hero or heroine experiences on the road, you're telling me he or she is off on a quest to find--on the surface--x, y, and z--but in reality--redemption or true love or his/her place in the universe. Of course you're going to include a few details, because we want to know what makes your hero's quest for redemption any different than the next guy's, and that's why you get an entire page instead of a sentence or a paragraph. But the small details aren't necessary--we'll read the book for that. We want the broad strokes: a few world details if you're writing outside the normal scope of the world (or if setting is vital to your story), who the hero/heroine is, who the antagonist is, two or three details leading up to the conflict, and the resolution.

That last is important. Include that resolution in your synopsis. In a query I want you to hook me--like a blurb on the back of a book. In a synopsis I want to know how it ends, because that's the only way I can judge if you've got a strong arc with a resolution that pays off. That's how I know if I want to read the whole manuscript.

So that's the purpose--at least for me--of the one-page synopsis. And I think it's important that you are able to come up with this type of synopsis, because it gives the reader--most likely an agent but also sometimes an editor--the big picture of your story. It's a sales tool for you, but it's also a way of checking to make sure that your story has a big picture. If your novel is just a story--just a series of events that you follow from start to finish--but you cannot identify any sort of larger theme, then the chances are good that your hero or heroine has not changed much, if at all, over the course of the novel. And then you have a problem, because in a well executed story, your protagonist undergoes some sort of change, whether it's learning a lesson or coming into their adulthood or whatever.

So, it's not so much a question of whether you, as a writer, have the ability to write a good one-page synopsis. I agree it can be difficult and I know many writers hate doing it. You might find it hard to do because it does require you to switch gears from examining every tiny detail of your book to make it perfect, to looking at the whole and trying to see the overriding arc. But there is a difference between your finding it hard because you dislike the task, and finding it hard because your story is missing some vital components--the ones highlighted in a one-page synopsis. It is in this latter instance that you will discover problems with your novel, not in the first.

I maintain that writing a synopsis is a good skill to develop, and really a necessary one. The short synopsis is a sales tool when shopping to agents, and as an agent I sometimes get requests from editors for a short synopsis as well. The longer synopsis, which serves as more of a plot summary, is the type you'll need to write when you already have a publishing contract--generally as an obligation for a second/third etc. book in the contract, with the first few chapters, or when pitching option material. I suspect writers who are used to writing short fiction along with novels find these tasks a bit easier, but they are still part of the job regardless, and skills to be cultivated.
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Re: Help with Synopsis!! Please Help!

Post by brandi_fey » April 7th, 2010, 3:58 pm

Drewes, it's really hard to cut on a synopsis. Been there, done that, but I shall strive to provide some insight. And, I'm sorry, but it is a habit of mine to point out typos when I see them, and, honestly, I think you can only benefit from that. ;) [quote="drewes202"]

The Great War between vampire and humans lasted hundreds of years, and was between vampires, and humans. Humans lost. When the humans lost, they were enslaved. Rebels were hunted by No longer at the top of the food chain, humans are now enslaved, or hunted by the vampire -led regime the Tartarus Corporation. Earth has been caste into constant darkness for the last 600 hundred years, and our planet will die with mankind if something isn’t done. Six hundred years later humanity is on the verge of extinction, and the planet is dying. The world is now under the control of the vampire regime The Tartarus Corporation, led by the elder vampire Casticus. (You've already said this.) One last mission will putNow, DOM (Character names should be in all caps the first time they are mentioned. Also, you should probably insert a short description of who this is. Ex: DOM, the leader of the human resistance...) and his team against must face the most powerful army the world has ever known(This is a cliche. Be more specific.). Failure isn’t a word they have time to utter or think about, the fate of humanity, and their planet rests solely on them. They will come out victorious if it means fighting their way into the depths of Hell and putting a bullet in the Devil’s head. (You've already said this, too. It sounds to me like you're writing in circles.)

(New paragraph.)Resistance fighter Dom Craddock is sick of fighting a war his side is losing. The last groups of humanity and werewolves came together to form HADES a resistance militia to fight again the Tartarus Corporation, a vampire controlled regime that has taken complete control of the planet. (You're banging us over the head with this.)Dom’s team the Hounds of Heaven contains a unique mixture of individuals: Dext, the hacker; Logan, the explosives expert; Dozer, the heavy defense expert and Rik, the werewolf. All of the humans in HADES were powered armored suits to help them fight against the much stronger vampires, and demons. Humans that wear these suits are called Exo’s as in exo-skeleton.(We don't need this information in a synopsis. You want to focus on plot, not objects in the story.) Dom has three exo’s in his team, Dext the young hacker, and rookie, Logan the explosives expert, and Dozer the heavy defense expert. Rik is the other teammate and werewolf on Dom’s team, both were in the same Gallic clan during the Roman wars when they were turned in werewolves thousands of years ago. (Whoa, hold up. Dom's a werewolf, too? We need to know this right up front when you first mention Dom.

(This is where your plot begins. Before hand you've just been giving us the set-up.) After a routine mission of taking down a blood bank Dom heads to the city of Necro which was once New York City. There Dom takes on the persona of his cover as a hired gun,(remove comma) and private detective for the lower level district in Necro. One of Dom’s main informants is a vampire stripper named Anya, and she works at the high class gentleman’s club in the upper levels of the city. Anya tips him off to a high ranking Captain in the Tartarus Vampire Enforcement Team. This Captain told Anya that he was handpicked by Casticus the had a special mission to investigate a lone bunker in the sublevel of the city, among the ruins of New York City. At Club Zero, Dom meets with Anya to get intel on where this Captain is. While Dom is at the club the Captain comes in to get a dance with Anya. Dom ends up knocking the Captain out and taking him back to his apartment, torturing him, and gaining information on the mission and where the bunker is. Dom bring this information to Commander Thomas King, the leader of the resistance group H.a.d.es, (You need to be consistent. Before you used all caps for HADES, and now you're using periods.)and he sends Dom and his team on a mission to investigate this bunker before Tartarus does.

I have to stop there. My mind is whirling because it seems that you keep backtracking and repeating information and not moving forward. A synopsis should be a linear thing that shows the rising action, the climax and the falling action. At this point (three paragraphs in) I should have a very good idea about what is going on, who's who, and a sense of what this story is going to be about. I don't. In my opinion, the first paragraph can be condensed to one sentence that basically conveys that the vampires have enslaved humans for the past six hundred years and the world is in peril. The second sentence should introduce your MC (Dom, I'm assuming) and give us an idea who he is and what he wants. By the third sentence, you should have moved straight into what's happening in the book. Include only things that move the plot forward. (We don't need to know about the nifty Exo suits in the synopsis, save that for your actual pages. I would recommend doing a bit more research on synopses and read some samples to give you a better idea of what a synopsis should be. I wish you the best of luck and happy writing. From what I can discern, this sounds like an interesting story. :)

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Re: Help with Synopsis!! Please Help!

Post by Emily J » April 7th, 2010, 6:03 pm

I was trying very hard to revise this, but I have to be honest, there were too many errors for me to actually get a sense of what was happening. I think you should shorten this and then proof-read and re-submit. I honestly think you will get more feedback because as it stands it's too dense and therefore scares away potential comments!

I did want to address a few issues in one section:

Everyone goes out towards the factory in a few days; they run into an ambush half way there. An old Tartarus Corporation post, forgotten but still manned by a few vampires and demons. maybe it's just me but this strikes me as inadvertently funny, "manned" by vampires and demons One of the rovers with Rippers apostrophe needed here men in it gets destroyed killing everyone. Logan, the explosive expert on Dom’s team always gets injured by incoming fire. what does this mean? "always?" They get to the factory and with Ripper’s authorization gain access into the factory. Once inside they are greeted by the automated V.I I know what A.I. is? but what is V.I and why isn't there a period after the I? (and what does it stand for? you need to explain the acronyms!) named Veronika. She informs them that they are in the Gaia Complex, which is a United Federation Star Fleet Factory okay I just think you need to rename this, I mean Star Fleet??? Star Trek has claimed that, sorry used to create spaceships when the human government was still together. Veronika brings them through on observation tunnel that shows the different phases of the ship building process, and explains to everyone the reason behind the factory. During the tour of the complex, they find out that the Veronika has been keeping tabs on both groups all of these years, both groups? meaning vampire & human i'm assuming? logging every piece of information sent over the extranet. ???

Veronika briefs the of this is what I mean, you need to proof read this because it just isn't comprehensible in its current form the space station, and the planned colony on Mars that was never finished. Mankind saw that the end of their species was inevitable, and felt that building a barrier over the planet and escaping was the only way of survival. Humans created the barrier around the planet as a way to stop any more ships from following, but everything was put into motion to quick, too not to and the barrier sealed their own fate. The ships in the factory have the ability to get through the massive nano-bot barrier around the planet, nano-bots? there doesn't seem to be any preface to this, how are nano-bots a barrier? they are teeny tiny? and to encompass the planet? that would take zillions... upon... okay, yeah i just don't understand this but they didn’t have enough time to get an evacuation started before the Great War. Veronika shows Dom and his team the five cloned cypiens (cybernetic-sapiens) who have been genetically created and programmed with the collective consciousness the brightest minds on the planet before the Great War ended. They each have the data that will close the barrier around the planet, and then terra-form Earth bringing it back to what it was about 9,000 years ago. And this is where you lose me. This really doesn't make any sense to me. How could a cybernetic being be "cloned"??? Or a genetically engineered being for that matter? Cloned implies it is the clone of something. I think what you are trying to say is that they are genetically engineered. But this whole plot point made no sense to me. Are they cloned from previous cybernetic-sapiens? *head explodes*

So you are obviously aware that you need to clean this up before you are going to be able to get really helpful feedback. However, judging from your synopsis it seems as though everything imaginable from fantasy/science-fiction is throw into this story. Vampires, werewolves, A.I. (i think), demons, the devil (possibly), zombies, magic (demon shaman?), terra-forming planets, nano-bots, cryogenics, cloning, genetic engineering, space travel, cyborgs, collective consciousness?
*Whew* this is a ton of disparate creatures and sci-fi elements. Just be sure you are integrating them in a comprehensible way and that you aren't simply relying upon the cliches of sci-fi or creature/features. I do worry though, that with so many different aspects you may not be giving each element enough development, if that makes sense?
But again I would suggest editing and reposting. I think you will get more feedback that way!
Good luck-

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Re: Help with Synopsis!! Please Help!

Post by HillaryJ » April 7th, 2010, 7:09 pm

You're too quick and already revised it! I read through the first synopsis you posted, and my understanding of the story/suggestions are as follows:

Section One – Rules of the World
Earth is enshrouded in darkness, protecting vampires from their only real weakness: daylight. The Great War between vampires and humans has lasted hundreds of years, and humans are losing. The vampires’ Tartarus Corporation (question – why would the world-dominating regime call itself a Corporation? Was it a corporation that rose to prominence and then domination during the Great War?) hunts and enslaves the remaining free humans. A barebones militia of human and werewolf resistance, known as HADES (explain the acronym), are humankind’s last hope. The vampires rule the upper strata of Necro, the city built atop the remains of New York, but humans are were still live in the ruins of the old metropolis.

Section Two – Characters. Tell us who and what your main characters are (not good supporting cast – just the MCs) and what is at stake for them. (At the first mention of any characters, put their name in ALL CAPS)

Section Three – What’s Going On
Dom discovers a group called the Odin Brotherhood, human scientists who believe they have found a way to rid the world of darkness and bring back the light. It’s the first good news in six hundred blood-soaked years. Only Odin scientist Kala survives a Tartarus raid on the Brotherhood, and she and Dom hand the preserved research over the Hades.

Dom is ambushed, pursued, and finally captured by Tartarus’ crack team of commadoes. Casticus, leader of Tartarus, asks Dom to return to working for him, helping the Corporation to rid itself of HADES and cement their rule over the planet. Dom declines and is beaten and left for dead. He is rescued by a rogue vampire, sympathetic to HADES’ cause, who returns him to the HADES command post. The Brotherhood’s research has been decoded, revealing not a solution, but a map of a bunker in Old World Europe that can only be accessed by the pure blood of a full human.

Dom and Kala share war stories over drinks and discover that…suggest that you explain his attraction to her and hers to him before noting that they are intimate.

Needing locals who know the land, a HADES team including Dom and Kala fly to the Helsing Knight stronghold in Europe, a series of catacombs held by the last group of trueblood humans. The Knights are primitive, fighting the vampires in hit and run raids and barely surviving. As they plan the mission to access the bunker, Dom and Kala grow closer.

The team sent to the bunker are ambushed, but the few survivors discover that the bunker they were expecting is actually the Gaia Complex, a spaceship factory abandoned in the early days of the Great War. The artificial intelligence persona running the complex has been monitoring the war and explains that a portion of humankind intended to flee Earth and begin civilization in colonies on Mars. The darkness choking the planet was created by humans, who planned for it to create a barrier so that, once they fled, no ships could follow. But the vampires rose too quickly, and the protective barrier trapped mankind inside and hastened their demise.

Dom and his crew, assisted by the AI, awaken a cloned cyber-sapien with the knowledge necessary to break down the barrier and speed the terraform rebirth of the Earth. They launch a ship toward a space station, where they can accomplish these tasks. Once there, they are betrayed by Kala, a spy for the vampires, who imprisons them and allows a squad of Tartarus commandoes to take over the space station. The AI frees Dom and his crew, disables the Tartarus ship, and Kala programs it for self-destruction.

Dom and his surviving crew return to Earth and activate beacons to begin the terraforming process. The last beacon is buried beneath the Tartarus command center in Necro and HADES has to infiltrate and destroy the building for the beacon to work. The battle for control of the building is bloody, but the HADES team prevails.

Now, I haven't read your story, so I might have gotten some of the details wrong, but these seem to be the important plot points. You'll have to do the world rules and characters. I agree with the comment that this reads as though you have taken every prevalent fantasy and science fiction type and trope in existence and included them in your story. If I remember correctly, your query letter said that this story was somewhere around 80,000 words long. Unless that word count has changed, I'm going to assume that your story speeds through the plot/action at the expense of believable, well-supported world building and/or character development.

I also, after having read the synopsis, don't understand why your MC is a werewolf. Yes, it makes him stronger and longer-lived, but the werewolf aspect seems utterly incidental to the story. Also, I don't understand why, if humankind are hunted and on the verge of extinction, your MC has a fake life where he's a PI in New York City. That just doesn't compute. Finally, the part about Tokyo, which you start and then say continues in a new story feels like such a massive break from the rest of the story and the arc of the plot, that it might make sense to end this story with the success of the disintegration of the barrier and the start of the terraforming and then tell that story, separately, in its entirety.

Good luck.
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Re: Help with Synopsis!! Please Help!

Post by dahosek » April 7th, 2010, 8:30 pm

Thanks for editing/deleting the first draft. I've accidentally reviewed old drafts in giving feedback before. You're officially my hero.
drewes202 wrote: The Great War between vampires and humans lasted hundreds of years when the humans lost, they were enslaved. This should be a separate sentence. Rebels were hunted by the vampire led regime the Tartarus Corporation. This sentence should be in the active voice. Six hundred years later humanity is on the verge of extinction, and the sky has been blacked out and the planet is dying. DOM, a werewolf and battle-hardened (compound-word adjectives get hyphens) resistance fighter must take his team on a final mission. That final mission will bring Dom and his team closer to saving humanity, and the planet. But to complete that mission they’ll have the Anti-Christ Antichrist and the army of hell standing in their way.
Me wrote:It seems like you've given us a hook up front here. You don't need it.
Resistance fighter Dom Craddock is sick of fighting a war his side is losing. The last groups of humanity and werewolves came together to form HADES, a resistance militia to fight against the Tartarus Corporation, period here, not comma Dom’s team the Hounds of Heaven contains a unique mixture of individuals: DEXT, the hacker; LOGAN, the explosives expert; DOZER, the heavy defense expert and RIK, another werewolf.

After a routine mission of taking down a blood bank Dom heads to the city of Necro which was once, the former New York City. There Dom takes on the persona of a hired gun and private detective for the lower level district in Necro. One of Dom’s main informants is a vampire stripper named Anya, and she works at the high class gentleman’s club in the upper levels of the city. Anya tips him off to a high ranking Captain in the Tartarus Vampire Enforcement Team. Choppy and confusing. I wasn't sure if Anya tells Dom about the Captain or the Captain about Dom. You don't want vague in a synopsis. This Captain told Anya that he was handpicked by CASTICUS the leader of the Tartarus Corporation, who gave him a special mission to investigate a lone bunker in the sublevel of the city, among the ruins of New York City. Wow that's a lot of detail which doesn't seem to help me understand what's going on. At Club Zero, Dom meets with Anya to get intel on where this Captain is. While Dom is at the club the Captain comes in to get a dance with Anya. Dom ends up knocking knocks the Captain out and taking takes him back to his apartment, torturing and tortures him, and gaining to gain information on the mission and where the bunker is. Dom bring this information to Commander Thomas King, the leader of the resistance group HADES and he sends Dom and his team on a mission to investigate this bunker before Tartarus does.

Once Dom and his team reach the bunker they find a group of scientists inside the bunker. Hidden from the outside world for the last 600 years. These scientists call themselves the Odin Brotherhood, and have been working on the technology to rid the world on constant darkness, and bring the sun back. The lead scientist gives Dom all of their research as the Bunker is being raided my Tartarus enforcement agents. Awkwardly phrased. Before Dom and his team escape,
OK, I'm stopping here. You've got a lot of punctuation and grammar issues. It's not a race. You want to really polish things up. If you haven't been doing this, I would recommend printing a copy of your synopsis and reading it on paper with a pencil in hand. Then, as a help to editing, one good trick I've found is go ahead and re-type everything (I typed my novel from scratch three times on top of all of the in-place edits that I did. It really makes sure that you really read and edit). As someone who reads little genre fiction, I can't comment too much on the story idea itself.

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Re: Help with Synopsis!! Please Help!

Post by JTB » April 8th, 2010, 12:25 pm

is this to send out to someone one or just for you - laying out the details of the story?

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Re: Help with Synopsis!! Please Help!

Post by KappaP » April 8th, 2010, 1:31 pm

drewes202 wrote:I know it was fast! and yes I know its full of typos. I just wanted to get something out there that had decent material. The typos I'll fix later, the content is what I'm worried about. I'm just looking for feedback on the material.
Honestly, I took one look at that wall of text with typo after typo after typo after grammatical mistake and said no THANKS. You can't really say "hey, please read this text full of mistakes, ignore the mistakes, and tell me if think it's a great idea." I mean you can, but I can't get ANY sort of idea of what this story is about by reading something that just doesn't feel like you've read over more than once. This is a writers' forum... convince me you can write.

I suggest you spend some time polishing and giving us the best product you can produce because, otherwise, we CAN'T evaluate if it's decent material or not. The idea is nothing without the writing to back it up.
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