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What to cut from the synopsis?

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Hi everyone! I was just wondering, how much should you edit out of a synopsis? I know a synopsis is supposed to be a super tight version of the main plot, but how much do you leave out? For example, is it okay to cut characters out of the synopsis—writing it as if they never existed in the novel?
#1 - March 22, 2015, 04:25 AM

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Are you talking about a one page synopsis? If so, then yes, it's good to stick to the main character, main antagonist and perhaps one other important character. If you're writing a longer synopsis, say ten pages, you can squeeze in a few more.
#2 - March 22, 2015, 06:26 AM
twitter @VonnaCarter


I've struggled with the same question this past week. It's hard to know what to include and even harder to know what to leave out.

The Blueboards have been helpful, as well as, these sites:

Hope this helps and good luck!
#3 - March 22, 2015, 06:29 AM

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One good piece of advice I've heard is to name only the characters that play instrumental roles in the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Otherwise leave them out or just refer to them obliquely (e.g. as "a friend" rather than as a person with a name and description).
#4 - March 22, 2015, 06:42 AM
Twitter: @MelissaKoosmann

Thank you, Vonna. Yes, a 1-2 pager. I should have stated that!
#5 - March 22, 2015, 06:44 AM

Thank you for the additional resources, Tim. It is hard! Skimming over subplots and supporting characters feels like a form of lying, but I guess it's good to keep in mind that the synopsis is about the core of the story. Doesn't make writing one any easier though....
#6 - March 22, 2015, 06:47 AM

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I wrote a Bulletin article on the dreaded synopsis. It's in the January/February 2013 issue. You can look it up in the archives. It presents my process. Basically, I work chapter by chapter defining the main action in each. If a character is in the main action of a chapter, they may or may not need to be in the synopsis. If a character is in the main action of a few, they certainly will need to be. A character who is only central to one may need to be rethought. It could also mean the chapter isn't pulling its weight. You'll know as you go through.
#7 - March 23, 2015, 08:16 AM
Twitter: @dvilardi1

Thanks, Debbie! I will check that out!
#8 - March 23, 2015, 12:37 PM


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