A Synopsis Is Not an Information Dump

Every now and then, I come across a synopsis that feels like an information dump. It seems to happen most often when the story in question is a fantasy or science fiction tale that involves a lot of world-building. Unfortunately, these types of synopses often leave me with a spinning head. The synopsis feeds me a lot of names, places, and so on with very little to relate to. It’s a deep world, which means for me to get it, you’re going to need to take the time to explain it like you would in the actual story. And therein lies the problem.

You see, you can’t take your carefully planned introductions to five nonhuman races, a few magic properties, and a land that is decidedly not earth and put them into the five or so paragraphs you get on the back of the book. Instead, you need to get us interested right now. If you try to tell us all about the world in that little space, you’re going to both confuse us and not have room left for the story. There’s a reason you have more space in your book to introduce all those world-building elements.

How do you fix the synopsis? Bring out your logline!

When you write a logline, you have just one sentence to get across the key elements of your story. What this means for you is that you don’t have a chance to even think about cramming your world-building in there. You just can’t! So you pull back and think about the story itself.

To fix your synopsis, then, begin with writing a logline. If you need help with this, I have a book about it. There’s a free sample that you can download which just so happens to be a crash-course in loglines. By all means, download that and get started.

Got a logline yet? Great! Let’s move on to the synopsis.

Think about your synopsis like you thought about the logline. Try applying the “adjective-noun pairs” rule to it, but modify it a little bit. It’s okay in a synopsis to use character names, so take your character’s name and add your adjective-noun from the logline. So if you have a snarky policeman in the logline, bring that to the synopsis and say, “Snarky policeman Bob…”

Then pull in the other key logline elements. Your synopsis needs to detail a protagonist, the situation he’s in, the protagonist’s goal, and the antagonist in his way. The logline you wrote can help you. Expand on what you already have. Bring in more details. I find it sometimes helps me to keep a stash of all the things I took out of my logline so I can try to fit them back in when I get to writing the synopsis.

Always remember that your job is to write a synopsis without it becoming a crash course in Your Fantasy World 101. Your story is more than those trappings of setting and names. There’s a core there that will be more compelling if your reader isn’t trying to get to know a dozen new names and learn five new concepts into the bargain. Simplify and focus on the story. The reader will gobble up the world once he’s got the book open.

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I have some copies of Finding the Core of Your Story with a small formatting error. It doesn’t make the book unreadable, but it is an error nonetheless. This is actually good news, though, because I’m now selling these at a pretty decent discount. If you’re interested in a bargain price, signed copy of the book, check out my page for the discount “oops” copies.

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