Friday, April 08, 2011

Deborah Hale: What to Pack In Your Short Synopsis


Synopsis writing is like packing a suitcase. Your story is a large wardrobe, and when you write a synopsis, you 'pack' only items you're likely to need. A one-page synopsis is like a carry-on bag. Taking every item of clothing from the larger suitcase and cutting off sleeves or a few inches from the hem to make them all fit really isn't the way to go!

You need to start from scratch, deciding what you’ll need for wherever you're going. You don't want to run out of underwear, and you don't have room to pack your favorite sweater if you won’t wear it. 

If some items will do double duty by mixing and matching, you'll save room for other clothes. That's what you need to do with a short synopsis -- include what you need, leave out what isn't essential and try to make some items do double duty.  Here are the essentials to pack into your short synopsis.

Hook Sentence: Pique interest, show story hooks (secret baby, bodyguard, Cinderella, etc.) Pose story question: “Can a Greek ugly duckling find happiness with her WASP prince charming in spite of her colorful, interfering family?”

Heroine Goal/Motivation: Who is the heroine, what does she want and why does she want it?

Hero Goal/Motivation: Who is the hero, what does he want and why does he want it?

Situation: How are the hero and heroine thrown together, and why is this going to cause trouble for them? It may be obvious if their goals are opposed. If they are opposites in some way that will make
the situation volatile, spell it out here.

Budding Attraction: When and how do they begin to fall for one another?

Non-Physical Attributes that Attract: Why do they fall for one another? What is it, besides looks, that appeals? Loyalty, strength, humor, intelligence?  Make it something that the editor would expect based on what you’ve told her about the characters. If the heroine is on the run from an abusive situation, a combination of protective strength and gentleness in the hero would appeal to her.

Complicating Events: Events in the plot that push the characters toward each other or away from each other. Usually early events push them together, which they resist because of internal conflict issues. Later events may have the potential to destroy their blossoming love.

Emotional Complication/Internal Conflict: Why is each event emotionally significant to these characters? How and why does it push them together or apart? I cannot stress enough how vital this is. If a plot event provides no emotional complication, leave it out of your short synopsis.

Black Moment: The most destructive complicating event. Makes it seem impossible for these two characters to be together afterward.

Life Lesson/Character Growth: What have the characters learned during the course of the story that allows them to get past the Black Moment and reconnect? How has their interaction with each other changed them in critical ways to help them meet the challenge of the Black Moment?

Happy Ending: Wrap it up in a way that provides emotional resonance for the reader. If the hero’s children figure in the story, they may be part of the wedding party. A significant location may be where the couple wed or honeymoon. The couple’s first child might be named after a significant secondary character.

~ Deborah Hale’s new Gentlemen of Fortune miniseries is on sale now!  Her first Regency romance for Love Inspired Historical will be released in the June anthology, The Wedding Season.


  1. Thanks, Deb. Great points! I dread writing the synopsis but once I start, it's usually fun. Congratulations on your Gentlemen of Fortune series. I'm planning to start Bought this weekend:)

  2. I hate writing a synopsis! Never seem to be able to figure out what to include and what to leave out. This is a great guideline Deb!!