Thursday, April 30, 2020

Narrative Synopsis: A Tool for Story Writing

Story Step 9

Writing a short narrative synopsis of my story is another step I take in this process. What’s a narrative synopsis? According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, a narrative is

  • a spoken or written account of connected events

while a synopsis is

  • a brief summary or general survey of something.

In my mind, a narrative synopsis is a summary of the connected events that will take place in my story. I like to think of the synopses as short stories of my novels written in a compelling format that will catch editor or reader interest.

Preliminary Writing Tool      

Many writers dislike writing a synopsis and save it for last. I followed that school of thought in the beginning of my writing career. I didn’t write the synopsis until I finished the manuscript. Eventually, I began writing a short narrative synopsis during the early stages of my story writing. Now I see the synopsis as a powerful preliminary writing tool, because it makes you pare the story down to the essentials. 

More importantly, it unveils the theme.

How can a synopsis do all this? Think about it. If you’re planning a 100,000 word novel and condense it into 500-1,000 words, you have to strip the story down to its essence. The exercise helps you find the dreaded “theme,” because to find the core of the story, you must think in terms of one overriding idea which, of course, is the theme.

Components of a Synopsis 

The seven essential ingredients I mentioned in Story Steps Seven (protagonist, antagonist, situation, motive, goal, conflict, and resolution) offer a good starting point for writing a narrative synopsis. It’s also helpful to have major turning points or plot points in mind. These are the obstacles or events that are going to cause your characters to “turn away” from the path they were following. It always helps to have some idea of why your main character(s) can’t reach their goals easily.

Remember this is a short story of your novel. It should contain the prerequisite beginning, middle, and end.

A narrative synopsis provides material from which to draw your pitch for that all important editor or agent meeting. Or to write the 100 words or less ad. Or hook visitors into reading an excerpt at your website. Or write press releases and advertisements.

Six Reasons I Love the Narrative Synopsis

Here are six reasons I love to write the narrative synopsis:

  • It gives me the opening paragraph or hook for my query letter.
  • It makes me think about the story from beginning to end which helps me organize the story line.
  • It forces me to create interesting characters with viable needs, goals, and flaws.
  • It makes me think about the middle of the book.
  • It gives me vital turning points so I have specific places to go with my story.
  • It gives me an ending to write toward.

What I love most about the narrative synopsis is that it eradicates the problem of blank pages. Each sentence in the synopsis is a scene waiting to be written. I now have the bare bones of a story just waiting to be fleshed out.

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