Before you can tell somebody your story, you have to know it yourself. Recently I got the opportunity to help somebody with a synopsis of a book I hadn’t read, and as I did that, I figured some things out. So I wanted to share them. I boiled it down into three things you need to be able to tell somebody. If you can fill in these three statements, you can write a synopsis. More importantly, you’re probably on your way to writing a story.
For our example, we’ll need a main character.
1. Everything changed for Bob when _________ happened.
Seems simple, right? But if you can fill in that blank, then Bob has an inciting event. You can read all about inciting events, and different people will tell you that they have to be in the first chapter, or the first ten percent of the book, or whatever. What nobody will argue about is that you have to have one. It goes near the beginning of the story, and it’s the thing that sets your character on her journey.
2. Bob was convinced that he’d figured everything out, until he found that _________.
Right around the middle of your book, things change. The story goes in a new direction when the main character learns some key information. Some people call it a mid-point twist, but it doesn’t have to be a twist, as much as a change in direction. We thought the story was one thing, but now we gain information and we realize that it’s something else.
3. Bob reached his low point when _________ .
Call this what you want. The low point. The dark night of the soul. Rock bottom. It’s the moment when all is lost, and it triggers the third act where Bob rallies against all odds to defeat his enemies. It can be as early as 65% of the way through your book, or it might not be there until 80%, but it’s the thing that brings us closer to the main character and sets us up for his redemption.
This was super short. But if you have to write a synopsis, think about these three questions, because they define the beginning, the middle, and the (beginning of the) end of your story. If you’ve got these three things down, you’re on your way.