Thursday, October 18, 2012

Writers: Learn From ABC (Part Two)

So, Tuesday I told you about how ABC handled its “recap” of both Once Upon a Time and Revenge’s season one.

Now let’s talk about how their fun versions of a TV synopsis can serve as a lesson for writers. After all, after the query letter, the synopsis is one of the most torturous gateways to publication every writer must face. Eventually. 

We get told a lot of advice about them too: synopsis’s must be short, but longer than a couple of paragraphs like on the back of the book, and must sufficiently describe all the plotlines, but not go way too in-depth or off-track, and must tell the ending but not reveal too much because why else would an agent care enough to read it?

Yeah. It’s pretty headache-inducing. So after you’ve read the first post on this and see how ABC handled their recaps of Revenge and OUAT, how can you use that to be more unique with the recap of your book (especially if, like TV shows, your WIP is a series and not a novel?)

1. Focus on the characters
Much like OUAT did, make sure you give all your MC’s a paragraph to call their own. If you don’t know your characters’ backstories, how they get introduced, or what they contribute to the tale (hint: It’s not just “why does your hero care about them?” Why does your ----reader----- care about them?) then you have an issue. Make sure you can talk about all your characters like an elitist at a social event BEFORE you ever start on the synopsis. Or submitting, for that matter.

Just a small example of how different EVERY character can be.

2. Give it away.

Let’s say in chapter two, your hero/heroine hears something/meets someone/sees an important item that will play an important, life-or-death role in their tale…later on, around the end of the book. While in your book this can be a subtle detail, in your synopsis you may have to actually talk about it.

So when leading up to your twist endings and surprise epiphanies, make sure you talk about the hints and clues strewn throughout your WIP. Otherwise, you’ll be saying “And so, Awesome Guy remembered what he had learned that one time in the beginning of the book that I forgot to mention, and used that to save the day!” No. Just no.

There is no need to include a "spoiler alert" in a synopsis.

3. Use your voice

If you know anything about query letters, you know how vital “voice” is in your pitches. Pitches are similar to the two paragraphs on the back of the book or on an Amazon summary - a quick, snappy, catchy intro to your story meant to get you readers, agents, and so on.

Yet we seem to forget that synopsis’s should be snappy and easy to read too, not a dull “This happened, and then this happened”. We’re paraphrasing our story, sure, but we’re also trying to keep Mrs. Agent’s attention so she asks for a full manuscript. 

While I’m not saying narrate your synopsis through a secondary character like Revenge did (though not a bad idea…hmm…can we do that?) have a voice. A personality. Really tell your story and sell it. Maybe even narrating through your character wouldn’t be too horrible, and then changing the “I’s” to “she/he’s” if you feel nervous about submitting it that way.

Have you already written synopsis’s for your stories before? What do you consider when you write one? Or if you haven’t written one before, how do you feel about them?

As for a less depressing topic…what do you think of the ABC shows so far?


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