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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Writing Challenges » Synopsis Challenge Discussion

   
Author Topic: Synopsis Challenge Discussion
Meredith
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So, while we wait for the last results, I say "Let the discussion begin."

Hopefully, commenters will be willing to expand on their critiques by answering questions. Or we can just discuss the common threads we learned about what works or doesn't work from reading the synopses and comments.

For me, it seemed that those synopses that kept the names (especially the unfamiliar, hard-to-pronounce ones) to a minimum and stuck to the main story arc worked best. They seemed to be the ones that told a coherent story without being confusing.

Anyone else?


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mfreivald
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The ones that worked best for me had more words devoted to character conflict and tension. The lesson I'm getting from that is to drastically simplify the telling of the plot and to beef up some character reactions/interactions.

Getting the right perspective for that has been an ongoing battle. :P


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mfreivald
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By the way, this might be premature, but what's the interest among us for round two?
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MikeL
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I am interested for round two, but I will need some time four to six weeks should be good for me. Some of the issues pointed out in my synopsis are issues I already knew about but don't have a fix yet. I am so early in my novel that I am still making minor plot changed from time to time.

One thing I see from this is that it is no longer or not exceptable to utilize dialogue from the book in the synopsis. I read somewhere that it has been used somtimes. Can we say?: -CUT-

[This message has been edited by MikeL (edited July 27, 2010).]


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Tiergan
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Confusion reigned supreme. Mine included. Yes 3-5 names are tops that should be use and simplify the story arc.

But that is where the problem lied with me, while my MC's, battle each other, the magical entities in their weapons take on their traits/persona and become their extension, and in the case of THe Five become even more horrid than their master, and more the bad guy, as in truth Trevain would be nothing without them. Also, I know persona isnt the right word, but damned if I could find the correct word, if a pure person controls the shield the entity inside would be an extension of him, pure and good, where if evil held it, the entity would be evil.

I dont know how much discussion we want or how in depth, but I for one want as much as we can get.


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Utahute72
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I think the issue I saw with most of them is one I've seen in technical writing. While what you are putting down seems perfectly logical and clear to you, you are carrying your own perceptions with you. This means that while you understand it someone without your intimate knowledge pf the story or the concept can become easily confused. The more complex the plot the more clearly it needs to be laid out. Also only include the information that will push the central plot forward, save the digression for the manuscript. This will also give you leeway to slightly change the story as different thing occur to you while writing it.

[This message has been edited by Utahute72 (edited July 27, 2010).]


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Meredith
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What is everybody's concept of a "round two"? The same synopses with our revisions? Different synopses? Vote for the most improved? Allow new people to join in, or not?

I hadn't actually thought about it, but I'm interested to hear what you all have to say. Everyone would obviously need plenty of time before it started. I know I would.


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TaoArtGuy
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quote:
While what you are putting down seems perfectly logical and clear to you, you are carrying your own perceptions with you.

I agree with this big-time. My novel plays up the importance of Valda's golden hair quite well, but I really dropped the ball on carrying that over to the synopsis. While I was trying not to weigh my piece down with too many extraneous details, that is a pivotal plot point which I need to make crystal clear to fresh eyes that see it.

I also assumed more people would be familiar with the basics of Norse mythology. I've been reading all sorts of mythology ever since I was a small child and that knowledge is second nature to me now but I shouldn't assume that for anyone else. This relates to the Norns. They were the three Norse goddesses of destiny- past, present and future.

Regarding Valda's hair: Loki was bored one day and while he was walking around he saw the goddess Sif asleep under a tree. Being the Trickster god that he is, he cut off all of her hair. Her husband, Thor, was furious and was all ready to crush Loki like a bug when Loki promised to fix the problem. He went to the dwarves and had them make Sif magical hair out of real gold. So, if Valda has the same hair then the dwarves must have stolen some of the gold. More importantly, the gods want unique items. They don't want any mere mortal having the same thing as them. It would be sacrilege and must be punished.

Edited to fix UBB code.

[This message has been edited by TaoArtGuy (edited July 28, 2010).]


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Owasm
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The trick, I guess, to good synopsis writing is learning what NOT to write. Mine devolved into explaining concepts that have context in the novel, but are rather difficult to explain in a synopsis without making it too long and rather info-dumpish.

Perhaps some things are better left unsaid, like that Planners don't really know where souls go. That's really in the novel for a later volume when the MC invades the Planner's world and may or may not find out. It also is in there so I don't offend more people than I already have with this particular view of the afterlife. But it was a sticking point for some reviewers and sticking points are bad in a synopsis.

The other thing I learned from re-reading mine and others is that what set Meredith's synopsis apart was it had very good flow. Same thing for Valda. As a marketing tool, I think having good flow has to be important.


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TamesonYip
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Meredith-trying to keep spoilers minimum, but discuss my ending here.

With mine, several people commented on the ending being a bit abrupt. If people watched Angel, I actually love how the show ended. Trying not to put too much in in case Meredith is still reading, but it isn't that I rushed or ran out of words, the novel stops right were the synopsis does. When I was writing and then when editing, I tried writing a few more scenes, but it never felt right. The characters had all changed and evolved and I felt like the end was satisfying. None of my beta readers have made it to the end though, so that is just my opinion. Also, in some ways, the journey was not about the stated purposes, but about the type of people they ended up being at the end. The big changes in the world are there not because of the book, but because they are who they are. It is something I hope the reader sees, but it is never stated out right in the novel and I am not sure how to say that in synopsis.


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Crank
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One aspect of my synopsis that was hinted at---and outright mentioned once!---was the question of who was the POV character. It was my intention to highlight all three of the story's main characters: Nevvias, Shreum, and Jacoby Billis (although, I edited out the vast majority of Shreum's info to fit the synopsis under the word count), since all three are primary POV characters in the novel. I can definitely see where the POV in the synopsis got twisted; however, it caused me to question not my wording but my basic approach: is it more expected / insisted by editors and agents that a synopsis highlight only one POV character?

S!
S!


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Meredith
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quote:
I can definitely see where the POV in the synopsis got twisted; however, it caused me to question not my wording but my basic approach: is it more expected / insisted by editors and agents that a synopsis highlight only one POV character?

Hmm, good question. And one for which I don't have a good answer.

Maybe, for the purpose of the synopsis, try to look at it another way. Instead of thinking in terms of POV characters, can you tailor the synopsis to highlight just the main story arc? I'm not sure that would work, but it might be worth a try.


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TamesonYip
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I think author author claims one POV is correct, but I don't know how accurate she is. I know that there are things she says are rules that other people/ agents disagree with. Some of her points are good, some not.
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Meredith
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I don't think anybody can put together a one-size-fits-all set of rules for synopses. They almost have to be as different as the stories the represent. Which is probably part of what makes them so frustratingly difficult. If only there were a simple set of rules to memorize and follow . . .

One of the many things I got out of this challenge is that the main thing is probably clarity. If too many characters, events, etc. interfere with the clarity, then cut it down.

Second, is that the synopsis, as a sales tool, needs to tell a compelling story. So do what works for your story to make that happen. I know from experience that it usually takes more than one attempt to get a decent synopsis and sometimes you do have to try looking at it from a different angle to get there. At least, I do.


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Utahute72
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I think the take away I had from OSC's writing class was that if you change POV make sure it's at an appropriate spot, changing POV's mid paragraph, for example, is bad. While it's probably better to stay with one POV, each work is different, just make the transitions clear that you understand what you are doing and show that you can handle it. It makes your job tougher, but it can be overcome.
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mfreivald
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I followed a link to a synopsis discussion at Anne Mini's blog.
http://www.annemini.com/?cat=328

There's some good advice to be had there, I think, and I'll be rewriting with them in mind. Numbers one and thirteen seem to be the biggest to me. Get an indelible image in that first paragraph or so, and write *scenes*, albeit circumscribed ones, not just plot points.

The most stark points (other than obvious ones) that were made seem to be these (more explanatory text at the blog):

(1) Does my synopsis present actual scenes from the book in glowing detail, or does it merely summarize the plot?

You want the answer to be the former, of course. Why? Well, if you’ve been following this series for the last couple of weeks, you should be chanting the reason in your sleep by now, but allow me to repeat it: the synopsis is, in fact, a writing sample that you are presenting to an agent or editor, every bit as much as the first 50 pages are.

Make sure it demonstrates clearly that you have writing talent.

Not merely that you had the tenacity to sit down and write a book, because in these days of steeply-rising PBI, agents and editors will be hearing from tens of thousands of people who have done that, but that you have a gift with words and sharp, clearly-delineated insights.

It is far, far easier to show off your writing in detailed summaries of actual scenes, rather than in a series of generalities about the plot and the characters. And if your favorite line or image of the book does not make a guest appearance in the synopsis, whyever not?

(4) Does the synopsis tell the plot of the book AS a story, building suspense and then relieving it? Is it clear where the climax is and what is at stake for the protagonist? Or does it merely list all of the events in the book in the order they appear?

(9) In either a novel or a memoir synopsis, is it clear what the protagonist wants and what obstacles are standing in the way of her getting it? Is it apparent what is at stake for the protagonist if she attains this goal — and if she doesn’t?

(13) Does the first couple of paragraphs of my synopsis Is there an indelible image that the reader can take away?

To put it another way, does the opening of the synopsis contain something both unique and memorable? A vivid sensual image, for instance? A surprising juxtaposition of words? A fresh emotional dilemma?

(14) Does the opening of the synopsis read too like the opening of the book?


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Tiergan
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So I have a question, and hoping you can all help out here. So in my novel KNIGHTS VALOR, there are magical weapons, that possess supernatural entities that take on the ? of the wielder. I don't know what the ? word is, Its like this, if someone good wields the weapon the entity inside is good, when wielded by evil hands, the entity is evil, but more than this a direct extension of the wielder, different levels of evil, example a man likes to kill he shoots people in the head, they're dead. Another man likes to torture in long drawn out ways, the creatures become the same.

SO my question is what word is the ? , persona, trait, I still haven't found the right word. Any thoughts?

[This message has been edited by Tiergan (edited August 03, 2010).]


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mfreivald
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Would a modern term (to help pin it down; I wouldn't use it) like "psyche" be close?
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Utahute72
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How about they take on the nature of the individual. If they are evil in nature the powers are evil if they are good in nature they are positive.
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