Tuesday, December 06, 2005

TTT: Four Horsemen Pt 2

Ahhhh, the Apocalypse continues.

The Third Horseman of our evil writing duties is the Short Synopsis. Now, if you remember our last two examples, you'll see how each grew from the previous by adding a bit more information. Your key ingredients of Hook, Character, Conflict must be present in all, and right from the get-go. But, where the logline is about the mainest character, the blurb should be a paragraph each about both core characters. Heroine is usually first because the editors know that readers need to relate to the heroine. (Courtesy of Brenda Chin: "The reader MUST relate to the heroine and fall in love with the hero." This is a golden rule of romance. Learn it. Live it. Love it. And just to keep this difficult, both of these things need to happen as early as possible. First chapter. No "Eventually we'll get to know her". No "We'll be in love with him at the end". This is part of your unspoken hook. If the reader doesn't connect with your characters immediately, they won't keep reading. Period.)

I'm going to give credit where credit is due and admit that I didn't come up with this next step. Your favorite naughty girl and mine Lyn Cash did it. I am admittedly not smart enough to have figured out how to make the jump from good blurb to good synop. I have sucked--without vacation--for 8 years at writing synops. Just could never get it together. She's the briliant one. I'm just the loud one.

Now, to start your short synop, you can pick up your blurb and call that the first two paragraphs. There are some rules, reportedly, to writing synops. I'm no great purveyor of rules. They blind you to your own instincts in my own opinion, but some of them are there for purely common sense purposes. We're going to include those here:

Things you need to know and put into your synnop:

1) What is the situation?: Let us know who your characters are at the start of the story and what they are into that's going to make their lives difficult and why they are willing to enter this adventure. "Candy store owner Elizabeth Clarke is in trouble, Bickner Chocolates is claiming she stole a formula from them and she can't prove she didn't."

2) Plot points: Create a list of the main plot twists: "Elizabeth goes undercover at Bickner to discover who is stealing her recipes; She's caught by security, who agrees to help her after hearing her plight; Elizabeth discovers the traitor and turns them in." No details. Simply the order in which the most important aspects of the situation happen. Make a separate list for both primary characters.

3) Turning Points: People define these differently. To me, a TP is the point that twists the relationship in a new direction. These are usually separate from the plot points, but can coincide. Make a list of them, you should have a minimum of four in any complete novel:

The Meet: Introducing the characters changes something for both of them--new course.

• 1st Change: When they discover something about one another that changes their original impression--he sees a moment of her humanity instead of her career driven desperation. she sees a kindness in him that is at odds with the hard ass schmuck he's been so far--OR overturning previous positive impression--she discovers he's friends with her enemy, he learns she's a vindictive cow.

• 2nd Change: Accepting that the other is not so bad because they are forced by their situation to deal with one another or simply accepting their sexual attraction and acting on it, despite believing the other person is less than stellar.

• 3rd Change: The Black Moment. The party is over. Faced once again with eachother's shortcomings--or percieved shortcomings--the pair will part and learn what life is like without the other. Mind you, they should definitely NOT enjoy this period. If they do, you're doing something wrong.

• 4th Change: Resolution. Having despised life alone, they come back together with acceptance and change from both parties. This is your happy ending.

There are multiple combinations of this list, The Meet and 1st Change often are combined, or 1st and 2nd Change are combined. Or, you can do all five. It's up to you, but you should have an exact list of what each point is for them as a couple.

Now, your job is to combine all of these events in a fast, subjective and punchy set of paragraphs (alternating who you're discussing by para) to create a page of synopsis.

Things to avoid putting in your short synopsis:

• Secondary and especially Tertiary Characters: Don't need em, don't want em. Leave em out. Trust me.

• Details: We don't even really need to know what city they live in. That includes what color hair, how tall, why they're pysically attracted to each other. Nada.

• Padding words: Though, but, and, actually, Then, So. You're adding word count and really, you don't have the room. One or two isn't a bad thing. But definitely try to keep them out of your sentence structures.

Now, how do we combine all of this crap I've dumped on you? You write sentences that cover a LOT of ground. You're not here to be fancy or flowy. You're here to get the story out concise and with a little bit of your voice. But the key word is PUNCHY. Nothing long, nothing artful. Get to the point and move on. Move from plot point to plot point, intersperse with turning points where they come in the course of the story. Add a little bit of the tone and remember to stay in present tense.

Here's an example:

Candy store owner Elizabeth Clarke is in trouble, Bickner Chocolates claims she stole a formula from them and she can't prove she didn't. Unable to decide which of her dedicated workers has sold her recipe to the chocolate mogul, Elizabeth decides to infiltrate the company herself--until she's caught by a security guard on overnight duty...at least, that's what he looks like.

Undercover agent Russ Stover's luck couldn't be worse. The night he's waited months for is being blown by a loopy candy cook with delusions of theivery. Rather than start all over, he takes her with him to uncover how the choco-magnate is secreting out drugs with their sweet treats. But how is a guy supposed to do his duty when there's a sugar coated redhead next to him, ready to eat?

Elizabeth refuses to be sidetracked by Russ's refusal to explain what he's up to. Getting away from him, she finds the research dept, unknowingly setting off alarms before finding proof that her dearest friend has betrayed her. Russ rescues her from the factory before they can be caught, but at the cost of his own case. Elizabeth's guilt compounds her hurt and she offers to do what she can to make it up to Russ. Whatever she can...

Taking advantage of Elizabeth's guilt isn't really what Russ wants to do, but neither is going to bed alone. Besides, Elizabeth's former employee is just the person he needs to get back into Bickner's illegal activities. What's wrong with mixing some business with sweet pleasure? The only problem is, the more tastes he gets of Elizabeth, the less interested he is in catching the bad guys. Until she finds out that she's little more than a means to an end. Then Russ is on his backside on her curb and sweetness is nothing more than a bitter memory.

Not liking to see how empty his life is without Elizabeth--or admit it was empty before her--Russ throws himself into his work. But Bickners isn't about to leave a loose end like Elizabeth alone and now the only way to protect her is to put them away. Making use of her former employee, Russ invades the factory once more and unearths the drug supply hidden within. The Bickner's venture is over. Elizabeth is safe. So why does he still want to see her?

Elizabeth's life hasn't been going so well. Missing Russ, having trouble trusting her new employee, she's none-too-thrilled when the press hoardes her to ask about the fall of Bickners. Learning the truth of the takedown--and Russ's part in it--Elizabeth rushes to his apartment to find him. He's surprised to see her, but he won't let her apologize. He admits he was wrong to hide his case from her and to let her think she meant nothing more to him. Elizabeth offers a second chance, for both of them. He still has his sweet tooth and she's sure she has a lifetime's worth of sugar to keep him satisfied. Russ is too busy sampling the goods to even think about arguing.

Now, I'm not callling it nobel peace prize winning, but it gets the story across in a single page. Sunny's rule of thumb, 1-100k book=1 page short synnop. If you go over that, you're going on too long. Keep it short, keep it sweet. You'll see better results.

Next week: The Long Synopsis


Shesawriter said...

Printing this off, sweetie. Thanks a bunch!


Dee said...

LOL!!! Glad to help!