Friday, April 13, 2012

One-Page Synopses and Your Voice, Your Setting, Your Theme, Your Characters

Every now and then I publish a question and answer column in my Sharing with Writers newsletter.  I mean, I can't possibly let some of the work I do with clients and readers go to waste, right? (-: 

I especially like this one because it so aptly reflects one of the things I hate about the Web (actually there are very few things I hate about it!). And that is, that there is so much misinformation going around. People--authors included--forget they need to read between the lines and consider the source. And the Web is like that gossip game kids at parties play. One person whispers something to another and passes it around. As it spreads, it changes--and often manages to get more outlandish and sometimes downright destructive. Ooops, I'm on a rant, aren't I? Here's the Q&A on synopses.

So What About These One-Page Synopses? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Isn't a one-page synopsis supposed to be written in the voice of the book? (Someone said it wasn't.)


It's pretty safe to say that anything you submit to an agent should reflect your voice. Why would they want to read straight journalism/texty copy hour after hour? How could they possibly be impressed by it.? The inaccuracies that go around on the WEB drive me crazy. And sometimes it's really hard to determine the credibility of the person giving the advice. Having said that, if an agent says they prefer "no voice, third person, passive tense, dull verbs" then that's what we would send them. But remember, there are lots of fly-by-night agents out there giving advice, too.


And shouldn't a one-page synopsis give you a good idea about the characters with the highlights of the plot, rather than a blow by blow description of how_x__happens and then__x__ happens next?


Actually, a little of both. Try to work characters into the description of the narrative. You should also try to give a sense of the setting. You don't have much room in a one-page synopsis, obviously. "Highlights of the plot" is at least a little about what happens then and what happens then--just more reduced. Like the sauce that Ratatouille, the Disney mouse chef makes. They call a sauce like that a reduction, meaning boiled down to something extremely flavorful. (-: And, yes, the highlights, and the flavor, of the plot, are still there). It will be more pungent if the characters and the setting can be seen in the mind's eye.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second ediction of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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