The Dreaded S-Word

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By Bonnie Calhoun

There is nothing in this writing world that can elicit more dread and loathing than saying the simple word ‘synopsis.’ The definitions of the word range from ‘a brief summary or general survey of something’ to ‘an outline of the plot of a book…’ So we are going to discuss writing a brief outline of a book. That sounds better than using that “S” word.

This is a great time to write an elevator pitch for your book. An elevator pitch is a two or three sentence summary of your story that you could tell someone in an elevator before you get to the next floor! And you can NOT use run-on sentences or talk real fast! I always use this as an exercise because once you’ve boiled your plot down to an elevator pitch you are well on your way to writing a syn… er, uh…brief outline for your book.

Just to show you that it can be done…this is the elevator pitch for my newest book Lightning: “Selah thought finding her real father would make her life better. But she learns that what gave her ability to find him could also drive her to a life of madness.”

I did that in 31 words. You can too. Just state your protagonist and his/her quest and leave out all the descriptive words like ‘great quest’ just say quest. Or to say ‘terrible problem’ just say problem. LOL…as an old TV detective used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

Once you’ve got the elevator pitch, create a list of your main characters that run throughout the story and have a part in a major plot point. When I’m writing, new characters usually are the beginning of a plot point for me, so that’s why I mention both. You may have a major plot point where there is no new character, so give that plot point its own line in your list.

For the characters, remember to assign their age when you first introduce them. As a personal preference, I also like to write their name in all caps the first time I introduce them to the syn… er, uh…brief outline. For example: SELAH RISON (18) flees to the safety of TicCity.

Now write a brief paragraph introducing each character and the plot point they’re involved with. Keep the list in order of appearance and relevance to the main character. You don’t need to involve subplots at this time. If there’s a plot point (only major points, not subplots at this time) with no new characters give the point a paragraph in the logical order where it happens in the list. When you have this list done you will have a basic…synopsis.

Yes! There I said the word! You will have a basic synopsis. At this point I’d also like to be no more than one page, single spaced, one-inch margins all around, and 12-pt Time New Roman or Calibri or something similar. By setting the parameters your one page will mimic my one page.

Now you can build from here depending on how many pages or words they want and you get to add in the subplots. Oh, and the reason I made you write an elevator pitch first was because it makes you strip away all the extras and just wind up with the barebones, and the bones make the building blocks.

Lightning-booksBonnie S. Calhoun’s YA dystopian series with Revell is titled Stone Braide Chronicles. Thunder published in 2014 and the second book Lightning published Oct 2015. There are two FREE e-book short stories. Tremors is the prequel to Thunder, and Aftershock (short story) comes before Lightning. You can find Bonnie on her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest and Amazon.

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  1. Pingback: Writing a Synopsis | Dust 2 Diamonds

  2. Just went through the agony of writing a long syn…er brief outline and also a short one. Thought I was dying, but didn’t! Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom as I pursue writing another book.

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