Conquering the Synopsis

by Autumn Birt

One method of boiling down a novel...

One method of boiling down a novel…

Boiling 100,000 words down to a comprehensive 200 to 250 has always felt to me like a sadistic challenge. Writers, especially fantasy writers, like to describe things. Words are a magic spell and only getting 250 to play with feels akin to giving an artist three colors and telling them to paint the world. It is theoretically possible, but it isn’t fun. Frustrating, time consuming, yes. Fun, no.

But you need a good blurb to attract readers!

When I sat down to work on the blurb for Spirit of Life, the final book in my epic fantasy series on elemental magic, the Rise of the Fifth Order, I decided I needed some help. And I decided to start the process early, as the book won’t be released until late May!

I have two books leading up to this one, so I mined their synopses and came up with:

Would you protect a girl whose forbidden abilities condemn her to death?

Welcome to the mythical world of Myrrah, ruled by the Church of Four Orders – Fire, Earth, Water, and Air. But there is more than the ability to control one of the four elements. Another gift, dubbed magic, is considered an aberration by the Church. To be born with powers of magic is to be condemned to death. To be born with the ability to control fire, earth, water, or air is to born to a life serving the Church… and obeying its rules.

Now the story must end.

Return to the World of Myrrah with Spirit of Life, the final book in the Rise of the Fifth Order series!

Niri and Darag are lost in the destroyed Temple of Ice. Ria and Zhao return to the Kith from the hidden Temple in the Clouds to warn their friends of danger and the threat of war. They arrive to find that for one piece of their news, they are too late.I

The restoration of Khodan’s amazing gifts provides another ally to stand against the Church of Four Orders. As High Priest Sinika gathers the might of the Church, those in the forest of the Kith prepare to fight, while a few take on a greater challenge – a race to avert the coming war.

Discover in this final chapter if those born with the gift of magic are truly a fifth Order of Spirit Elementals or if the Church will ultimately rule, exterminating all who control magic at last.

I thought, yeah! I’m done. If a reader had followed the previous books, they’ll be reminded of the dire plights of the characters. You can tell exciting and dangerous things are on the verge of unfolding. Its good.

Well…

synopsisI beta tested the blurb on Google+ in the Fantasy Writing community. I owe many thanks to Ann Smyth who not only gave me a great piece of advice, but offered up her work as a wonderful example. You can see her comments here.

I love her example. Her second iteration hooked me. Why? Simple. There weren’t so many names or plot lines to fuss over! It flowed with one theme from beginning to end – an important task with only 250 words to get a point across. I’m sure there is so much more going on in her story, but the synopsis isn’t the place to nail that down. AND, by throwing out too many names and subplots, you can overwhelm a NEW reader. I don’t want to turn off new readers!

I sat back down and thought about what the trilogy was really about. Who was the character the synopsis needed to talk about? I have seven characters (eight if you count villains!) the story follows. One has a prophecy to fulfill, one is trying to restore his life, one is… you get the idea. But really, the story is about magic in a world of elemental abilities. It is about Ria.

Which brought me to this:

Would you protect a girl whose forbidden abilities condemn her to death?

Welcome to the world of Myrrah, ruled by the Church of Four Orders – Fire, Earth, Water, and Air. But there exists another gift, dubbed magic, which is considered an aberration by the Church. To be born with the powers of magic is to be condemned to death. To be born with ability to control an element is be be born to a life serving the Church… and obeying its rules.

Seventeen year old Ria has mastered her forbidden gift of magic despite the Church’s pursuit. But for those who have protected her, the price will be paid in blood. War threatens those who have given her and others, who harbor the power of magic, refuge. As High Priest Sinika gathers the might of the Church, friends in the forest of the Kith prepare to fight, while a few join Ria to take on a greater challenge – a race to avert the coming war.

Return to the world of Myrrah with Spirit of Life, the final book in the Rise of the Fifth Order Series!

It is time for the story to end.

I’m happy with it and the comments back from a second round of beta testing were thumbs up. And I would say I was done, but…

I found this awesome blog post by author Mike Wells and it totally changed my thinking on writing a synopsis. It isn’t a matter of boiling 100,000 words into 250. It is building one up from 20. Yah, you heard me.

Ria... angry. Persecution does that.

Ria… angry. Persecution does that.

Now go read his article.

If I follow his advice, I’d start with these key elements:

Hero: Ria

Situation: born with the forbidden gift of magic

Goal: live her life peacefully

Disaster: persecution and death

Villain: the Church of Four Orders

Which leads to:

Ria, who was born with the forbidden gift of magic, must free herself from persecution. Will she find a way to escape the Church of Four Orders so that she can live a peaceful life?

That is short and not too gripping but it IS the main theme. And it is only 35 words! If I’d started there… well, it is easier to add descriptions than whittle them away! Heck with a bit of tweaking, I get:

Ria, who was born with the forbidden gift of magic, finds herself at the center of a coming war. Will she find a way to stop the Church of Four Orders from their persecution of those who harbor magic before the fighting destroys the homes and lives of her friends?

It really isn’t a bad place to start. And it took me less than half an hour. How about you? What are your tricks for writing a synopsis? Which of the examples for Spirit of Life do you like best?

– Learn more about Autumn and her books at her website: www.AutumnWriting.com or ask her on twitter or Facebook!

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7 comments on “Conquering the Synopsis

    • Including me! Glad you liked the post, Bruce. When I found Mike Well’s article, I knew I had to share it here. Building a synopsis UP from 20 words is such a wonderful thought!

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