A Structure for the Novel Synopsis

Here are notes I took while in a PNWA seminar by Jason Black.
He’s a great teacher. I recommend taking this course, checking out his editing services, or taking other courses by Jason.

Essential 6 Ingredients:

1) Setting & Genre
2) Major Characters (Names or role-title)
3) Central Conflict / Major Goals
4) Major Plot Events / Turning Points (Inciting Incidents)
5) Character Arc Elements (Changed Characters)
6) Resolution (end of the story) goals met or not

Leave Out:

1) Over-specification of the setting / genre
2) Supporting characters & bit players
3) Secondary conflicts & goals
4) sub-plots and minor complications (focus on net result)
5) Over-specification of the resolution

Structure of a synopsis:

Synopsis mirrors your story, Keep it chronological, Minimize Back story

1) Immediate impressions
An enticing image, setting or concept to grab attention

2) The protagonist
Who and what’s their dream

3) Inciting Incident
What event, decision, or change forces the main character to take action

4) No turning back
Action or decision which changes the story’s direction. Protagonist is all in.

5) Conflicts, characters experiences
Who do we meet and what happens leading to…

6) Midpoint
What event forces the MC to do an about-face on an attitude, emotion, goal etc.

7) Final Crisis and despair (something unexpected)
What near-success is thwarted, or unexpected crisis occurs, making victory seem   impossible

8) Climax
What happens in the final confrontation

9) Denouement
MC’s fate; how does he/she re-orient towards the next phase of their life. Tie up loose ends.

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13 comments
  1. Mary said:

    Perfect Useful info here 🙂

  2. Kira said:

    Thank you for posting this very helpful post. I am re-visiting some of my novels in progress and had hit a wall. Using this might jump start some forward momentum again! 🙂

    • tyroper said:

      Great! It is definitely helping me add some stuff and cull other things.

      • Kira said:

        it’s a wonderful outline 🙂

  3. Just what I was looking for last week! Thanks for posting this info.

  4. Thanks for the notes. I can’t think of anyone who really likes writing a synopsis. I certainly don’t. It takes me forever to churn out one.

    • tyroper said:

      Yep, same. I had a hard time getting mine completed.

  5. Very helpful, it’s almost comical, I can do a novel in 4 months, but can’t do a synopsis to save my freaking life (or launch my author career)

    • tyroper said:

      I know, I don’t like it either. It feels unnatural, and like I’m back in grade school all at the same time.

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