Sandra Neily here: My June topic is the dreaded synopsis (or plot summary). I suspect many readers cannot get into this type of dread, so I’ve paired the issue with something we can all ….DREAD. (Don’t miss the they’re-still-laughing black fly video… below.)
… the June onslaught of bugs when every species gangs up on us or staggers their hungry waves so they overlap. I could not find pictures of authors grinding their teeth, so I have included bug pics, fun videos, and advice.
(I did find a writer hair-tearing pic, though.)
First, I have not used the best synopsis advice: write the dreaded synopsis as you write your book. You can always go back and revise it as your story or text evolves. Less gnashing of teeth when one wants to enter a contest and is facing a deadline of only hours. (I was gnashing my teeth.)
I will do that next time.
The fallback option is to use one’s story “pitch” to frame up the summary. The pitch (or the short answer to what the story’s about) should have the essentials. What are those?
Use the late Miss Snark’s “Hook me up” formula.
X is the main guy: she wants to do _______.
Y is the bad guy (s); he wants to do ______.
They meet Z and all L breaks loose.
If they don’t resolve Q, then R starts, and if they do, it’s L squared.
Expert Advice: Jane Friedman is always my go-to source for most anything to do with publishing or getting published. Here’s an excerpt of her advice:
“In most cases, you’ll start the synopsis with your protagonist. You’ll describe her mindset and motivations at the opening of the story, then explain what happens to change her situation (often known as the inciting incident). Motivation is fairly critical here: we need to understand what drives this character to act.
Once the protagonist is established, each paragraph ideally moves the story forward (with events unfolding in exactly the same order as in the manuscript), with strong cause-effect storytelling, including the key scenes of your novel. We need to see how the story conflict plays out, who or what is driving that conflict, and how the protagonist succeeds or fails in dealing with it.
By the end, we should understand how that conflict is resolved and how the protagonist’s situation, both internally and externally, has changed. Think about your genre’s “formula,” if there is one, and be sure to include all major turning points associated with that formula.”
Caro Clarke also has great advice. “The synopsis should mirror the genre of the story. If it is a limpid romance, it should flow like a romance, delivering its unfolding love story in a charming, beguiling way. For a mystery, it must become more tense and even thrilling as it goes.
While still summarizing and giving the action with a few tiny ‘colour’ touches, you can make it exciting. Yes, you give away the ending, because you must tell all the action, but you can do so in a way that the agent or publisher finishes it saying, ‘Wow!’
But, more than this, she will have read a synopsis that demonstrates that you can take an opening scene, develop the action in an arc of subsequent actions that logically derive from that first scene, and end it with a satisfying conclusion that closes all loops and which ‘delivers’.”
Here’s the pitch I used to write my last-minute synopsis. In Deadly Turn Patton and her wayward dog Pock are hired to collect dead birds and bats at wind power generation sites. When a turbine explodes, she stumbles over one body part of an unknown man. Under a brutal fall heat wave and the unblinking scrutiny of the game warden who is another mystery in her life, she is drawn into a battle that offers billions to developers, a green future to environmental activists, and fear to local tourist businesses. Adopted by a teenage trapper who moves in and is illegally raising an eagle to hunt over terrain targeted by the wind project’s expansion, Patton is offered only outlaw solutions to fight for a disappearing world. A world that is also her family and her safe home.
(In the synopsis I reveal the ending and the bad guys. The pitch is still a teaser to attract attention.)
Now for the bugs. Here’s the BEST black fly swarming video ever. And for sheer antics (that might work) here’s the cup on the head to deter deer flies strategy. (I think I will try that with my three-year-old granddaughter.)
My own June strategy (honed after years working outdoors as a river guide where I could not have bad bug crazies in front of the clients) is as follows: wear light colors or white. Black flies love dark or bold colors. Stop the use of all perfumed products. (All bugs love perfume-y things and I found non-odorous substitutes.) Smoke cheap cigars but don’t inhale … or hand them out to others in your group.
And remember, black flies only breed in really clean water. We are so lucky to have lakes, streams, and rivers that are clean, clean, clean.
Sandy’s novel, “Deadly Trespass, A Mystery in Maine,” won a national Mystery Writers of America award, was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, and she’s been a finalist for a Maine Literary Award. Find her novel at all Shermans Books and on Amazon. Find more info on the video trailer and Sandy’s website. The second Mystery in Maine, “Deadly Turn,” will be out in July and the Kindle version can be pre-ordered on Amazon now.