Write a synopsis to jump-start your story

So many of us have ideas for novels and short stories that stay in the “idea” mode for far longer than necessary. Usually it’s because we have the “great idea” but none of the details.

I became a participant in the NaNoWriMo challenge as an opportunity to bring my idea to life. As I filled out my author profile on the NaNo site, I noted that writers could share a short synopsis of their novels. That stopped me in my tracks. How could I include a synopsis if I don’t have a single word of the novel written?

Here is a definition of synopsis: “A brief summary of the major points of a written work …” (Source: Wikipedia).

Major points?

I actually toyed with the idea of backing out of NaNoWriMo as I thought about how much of a “newbie” I am. Then I remembered the gist of my new writing life: Learn. With that I relaxed and imagined the NaNo synopsis as a simple exercise and preparation for later, greater things. No famous book editor was going to be looking at this bit of prose. So, I took my simple idea, started typing, and the magic began.

Do you have an idea for a story that’s simmering, waiting to be put down on a page? Let a synopsis get you started. Here’s how I used the writing of a synopsis to take my idea to the next level.

A Brief Summary

Use the definition of synopsis as your starting point. Write a brief summary. If you only have a few sentences to describe your novel, then use that. For example, here is what I started with as my story summary:

  • Jasper is a spirit who waits to be born and experience a fulfilling life on Earth. But an abortion puts his human life on hold. As Jasper waits for his time, he sees and learns things that make him wonder if it’s worth giving up the spirit life that he knows and loves.

There’s the summary, and it’s nothing near a story. Just an idea. But writing it out and seeing this humble beginning on the computer screen got my creative juices flowing.

Develop Major Points

As you continue reading that definition of synopsis, the next step is easy to see. Major points about your story need to be included. Examples of these include:

  • Plot: Take your idea and flesh it out. How are you going to tell this idea in a way that captivates a reader? For me, I knew that I wanted to write about the subject of abortion and have characters in the spiritual realm, but how would I do that in a fictional story? Working on the synopsis forced me to narrow down my idea to a workable story. This took patience and time yet it was the most rewarding part of the exercise.
  • Characters: Who will your readers be introduced to with your story? Give your main character a name, though you may change it as you go down the writing road. Are there other important characters to mention? Prior to working on a synopsis, Jasper was my only named character. Now I have three other important characters named and an idea of the personality for each.
  • Setting: At what place and time does your story happen? Is the location fictional? If so, have fun making up the name. Deciding on these now will help you later with the details of your story.
  • Main Events: Mention the important events that will move the story along. This part of the exercise proved to be a turning point for me. For the first time, I began to feel that a story had been born. An idea had turned into concrete and sequential events.
  • Main Idea: Finally, what is the point of your story? We write because we have something important to share. What is the thought you want your readers to take away after they’ve finished? End your synopsis with that very important idea.

Now, pick up your writing tools and get to work! By the way, this list of major points comes courtesy of what I learned through my high school and college English and literature teachers, God bless them! Let it help you as you work to take your idea and turn it into a story.

Question: Are you ready to take that idea out of the closet and get started? Let me know if you use a synopsis to get going on your great idea!


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