Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How to Write a Character Based Synopsis

I've been writing a lot of synopses lately so I'm always on the look out for new ways of tackling them. A fellow Entangled author, Bronwen Evans, shared a template with our group the other day for character-driven synopses. As a romance writer, this works great for me because romances focus on their characters. So, while my usual method of focusing on the inciting incident, turning points, climax, resolution works great for me, I think this method will be useful as well.

The template Bronwen shared was more geared toward romance specifically so I tried to adapt this a bit to be more universal.

Here's the gist:


  • Identify a theme: Finding a theme and sticking to it helps you reduce the book down to a three page summary. It eliminates the 'laundry list' syndrome where every scene is given one sentence. 
  •  STAY FOCUSED: KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) The trick is to focus on the key plot points and turning points of the book, NOT the secondary plots and characters.
  • STEP #1 THE HOOK: Either a unique opening line in the first character sketch, a bold opening to the heroine/hero, or a snappy/humorous/opening line overviewing the book's premise. 
  • STEP #2 INTERNAL CONFLICT:  Describing relevant back story and the key internal conflict main character(s) must overcome. You want to focus a bit on the layers here - the past relationships/events/trauma that has molded your character and made her/him who she/he is. This internal conflict will be overcome in a black moment, when your character realizes her/his weakness/fear and leaves it behind in order to overcome his/her main obstacle. 
  • STEP #3 EXTERNAL CONFLICT: One paragraph, usually the set up that brings the hero and heroine together and establishes the external conflict blocking their way. It could be the hit men trying to kill them, a planet to save from extermination by another species, a murder to solve, brother's name to clear, serial killer ex-husband, etc. (For non-romance, this would be the external conflict that is keeping your main character from overcoming his/her main obstacle - like any of the above examples without the hero and heroine getting together :D )
  • Steps 4 - 7 are geared toward romance - for non-romance, the next step would be describing the a reversal/turning point - the hero/heroine makes progress toward overcoming his/her obstacle and then experiences a reversal
  • STEP #4 HERO AND HEROINE WORK TOGETHER: First plot point is usually the one that makes the hero and heroine temporarily overlook their differences and work together. 
  • STEP # 5 INTIMACY: The forced contact of working together and of course, raging attraction, make the hero/heroine succumb to physical intimacy - whether it be the first kiss, or making love, whatever suits you at this point. 
  • STEP #6 THE MORNING AFTER: Hero/heroine promptly remember all their fears, fall back on their INTERNAL CONFLICT and reject each other. 
  • STEP #7 HERO/HEROINE WORK TOGETHER AGAIN: This PLOT POINT normally brings them back together again. (Court case, space pirates, alien invasion, eviction proceedings, missing person, murder, whatever monkey wrench you want to toss into the story at this point.) 
  • For non-romance - main character(s) overcomes previous reversal and more progress is made toward main goal
  • STEP #8 is the SHOWDOWN/BLACK MOMENT: This is the PLOT POINT/ TURNING POINT where you need a big showdown to bring everything up to a high tension level. 
  • STEP # 9 is the RESOLUTION: The bad guys are now revealed/caught. The situation changes and is reversed. The Hero/Heroine are reunited. 
This template is great for more character driven stories, especially romances. The advantage of this type of story outline is that it uses the external conflict to develop your characters' relationship with each other. It also focuses on the layers of your characters and their journey to self-realization.

1 comment:

Lori Robinett said...

This is also a great template for getting thoughts organized before writing the novel. Love the fact that it's more character driven. Thanks for sharing!