Sunday, April 01, 2007

Weekend 9: Working synopsis

flow.jpgNinth weekend with "Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery".

This weekend is The Working Synopsis.

The working synopsis is a summary of your story *so far*. At this point most people will still have gaps and weak spots (especially the second act). That's not only okay, it's expected at this stage. The synopsis is another technique for organizing your thoughts and seeing where the holes are and what still needs work.

Write the synopsis in the present tense, that is, describe characters as though you're seeing them and their actions right now and telling someone about it: "Boris is a bottom tier student at a top tier college. When he enters the RA's dorm room, he finds the senior draped dead across the bed, an iPod cord wrapped around his neck."

I don't know why they're written in present tense but I've done synopses before and without anyone telling me to do it in present tense it came out in present tense. Maybe it feels like a play-by-play analysis in sports since you're chronicling what happens as it unfolds :-)

The authors have written their synopsis in 5 parts. Set a time limit for yourself so you don't sweat over trying to be perfect. When the timer goes off, stop and move onto the next section. Be fast and loose and have fun with it. Play with the language. A couple of the authors' suggestions are to:
  • start a bunch of sentences with "Because ..." as in Because she wanted x, she did y. Because she did y, he wanted z. Because he wanted z, she did a.
  • start a series of sentences with "And then .." And then a happened. And then b happened. And then c happened.
  1. Back story (also written in present tense) - 10-15 minutes - This is all the events you have so far that have shaped who you characters are and the seeds of what ends up as murder. (It's also written in the present tense.)
  2. Act 1 - 10 minutes
  3. Act 2 -- First half - 20 minutes for *both*
  4. Act 2 -- Second half
  5. Act 3 - 10 minutes
Write two synopses: In the first you should feel the "sweep of the story" from beginning to end. In the second (the rewrite) you focus on the problem areas. Take a break before you start on the rewrite but when you come back, start with Act 2 since that's the area most books have problems in. Give yourself about an hour for the first synopsis and a little more for the rewrite.

Next weekend is scene building.
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