The Joy of the One Page Synopsis – Part Two

Righto, now I shall reveal all my secrets… 🙂

Seriously, I am not setting myself up as an expert in this so please take my advice with a fairly hefty grain of salt. The final judge will always be the editor. However, I have learned a few things in the past year and doing it this way does make a lot of logical sense to me. Whether you feel the same though is up to you! 🙂

Okay, so I’ve rewritten my Kate and Alex synopsis the way I would do it now, given what I’ve learned.

You start with the internal conflicts:
The sole survivor of a car accident that left the rest of her family dead, environmentalist Kate Weaver is used to taking care of herself. But the loss of her family has left her with a desperate need to protect herself from emotional harm: falling in love is far too emotionally risky for Kate.

Millionaire property developer Alex Woolf lost his parents young and a series of violent foster homes ensured a lesson he never forgot: only the strong survive, never admit weakness. Love is definitely a weakness and one he will never fall prey to.

Then you have the story opening:
Kate and Alex meet at a protest that Kate has organised against a development by Alex’s company in an Auckland mangrove swamp. Sparks fly and the chemistry between them is red hot. When Alex suggests a weekend together, Kate cannot resist: she doesn’t want love but surely a little sex is okay?

Then there is the growing attraction (why do they fall for each other?):
Their weekend together is unexpected. The sex is sensational but there’s more to it than that. Alex, used to control and not showing weakness, is drawn to Kate’s uninhibited passion and her blunt honesty, while Kate is attracted to his intellect, the way he makes her laugh and by the vulnerability she senses, something he is trying to hide.

Then you have the emotional turning points of the story, such as the moment when each falls in love, why they fall in love, and the black moment. These points should be active – the characters make decisions and choices based on their internal conflicts.
After the weekend, they agree to keep seeing each other. Alex tells her not to expect any more than a fling but Kate is happy with that, it’s what she wants as well. But an incident at a party forces her to revaluate this: Alex defends her from an over-amorous suitor and it’s the first time anyone has taken care of her. It tips her liking for him into love.
Defending Kate felt natural and right to Alex but he doesn’t know why he did it. He’s only ever looked out for himself, not anyone else, so why does he feel the need to protect now? Deep down he knows the reason but he shies away from it: he must stay strong and admitting feelings for Kate is a weakness.
And then Kate finds out that their weekend has consequences: she’s pregnant. Kate wants the baby desperately, wants to have a family again. Since Alex defended her once, maybe he’ll have a change of heart when he hears about the baby?
When Kate tells him about the pregnancy, Alex is appalled – a child is the one thing that demands unconditional love, a weakness. And yet latent protective feelings stir in him. His own childhood left him scarred; he would never wish that on a child of his own. So he decides on a compromise: he’ll provide for the child in every way, but he will maintain a physical and emotional distance.
But Kate will not settle for half measures. She wants a family and that means Alex in her life and in their child’s. She demands to know why he can’t provide this so he tells her about his childhood and why he cannot give her anything more. Kate asks him whether her loving him makes any difference and Alex, desperate to protect himself, to be strong, angrily tells her that no, it doesn’t. She will have to be satisfied with what he gives her.

Then the resolution (how do they resolve their conflict and why?):
Kate is heartbroken but the need to provide for their baby gives her the will to fight. She involves Alex in the pregnancy every step of the way, setting him an example that being strong has nothing to do with denying love. Alex sees how determined Kate is to be there for their baby and he realises that it’s love that makes her strong. It’s not a weakness to be fought. The example she sets allows him to finally admit that he loves her, that he wants the family he never had just as much as she does. Together they will make it work.

Easy eh?

Okay, okay, so not easy. And this is by no means a perfect synopsis. Kate’s emotional journey is truncated – why does she fall for Alex, out of all the men in all the world? What does she learn from him and how does she learn it? I’m sure you can spot other things too.
But the focus of the synopsis is solely on the basic internal conflict. And that’s the main difference to the previous one – I’ve actually given Kate and Alex some internal conflict (the loss of their childhoods/parents). Also, there is no external conflict in here apart from the opening set up and the bit with the amorous suitor. Introducing this has Alex having his hero moment but should this come from an outside source? Still, it has him making the decision to defend Kate and her reaction to that defence.
There is no secondary characters included, and there is no ‘voice’. The voice is for the partial – nothing but cold, unadorned facts in the synopsis. What I’ve done is shown the editor how their romance will play out and how it will eventually be resolved, via the main emotional turning points – initial attraction, why they fall for each other, Alex’s hero moment (Kate falling in love), pregnancy and reaction, black moment, resolution. It’ll be up to the editor to decide whether this makes enough sense and whether the story is strong enough for her to want to see the rest of it.
The formatting is a little off (thanks Blogger) but this synop, in Word, is one page with a blank line between each paragraph.

And if you’re wondering, this synopsis isn’t actually the way I’ve written this story. Not sure of the ethics of posting an unpublished synopsis that I’m hoping to submit (one day!) so this is one I based on my original story, which was eventually rejected. 🙂 Anyway I hope it gives you a bit of an idea on how to proceed. Feel free to ask questions or anything, or even let me know if there’s a better way to do it! Like I said, I’m no expert…

19 thoughts on “The Joy of the One Page Synopsis – Part Two”

  1. Thank you, Jackie. I never thought I’d be able to write a one page synopsis but your example has shown me the way. It’s very generous of you to share what you’ve learned.

  2. No problems, Janet. The best way I find is just to write it out without worrying too much about length, then gradually cutting it down to its most basic. Either that or concentrating solely on the internal conflict to start with. Good luck with yours.

  3. Brilliant!

    It’s going straight into my Synopsis Folder – the ‘how to’ file is growing thicker by the minute. The more examples the better for me. Another synopsis example I found helpful was Paula Roe’s. Now to practice, practice, practice.

    I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to come home to your blog after spending my morning trekking around trying to sort out my sick apple mouse – silly rodent wouldn’t scroll up.

    Now I’ve changed my mind about your blog being like a box of chocolates. It’s more like Felix the cat’s bag of goodies (I grew up coveting one of those).

  4. Thanks Veronica. Will check out Paula’s too – I like learning from other people as well!
    Glad my blog is better than your poor mouse. Gotta be useful for someone. Though I’m not sure it’s as good as Felix’s bag. 🙂

  5. Great post, Jackie. For some reason my blog not telling me you’ve updated yours 🙁 So glad you tweeted otherwise I wouldn’t have known to check out your advice.

    And after finishing my first chapter and launching into my second, I’m well aware of a need for me to write a synopsis before it’s too late. Maybe that can be my afternoon job, seems that might be less painful than painting the conservatory!!

  6. Awesome post Jackie! Thanks so much for sharing your expertise…now, how am I NOT going to go and look at the revised synopsis I just emailed to the London office two days ago? LOL.

  7. No, Laura, don’t do that. I’m very good at not taking my own advice and now wish I could change the synopsis I sent through 14 weeks ago!
    Take heart in that it’s the ms really that counts. Hopefully. 🙂

  8. Yep, I reckon they have too, Lacey. In fact, when I sent my last sub off and I had to do a two page single spaced synop, I had so much space, I didn’t really know what do do with it!

  9. Thanks Jackie – very informative post and very timely I can tell you. Having read this I will use it as a “proof” for my synopsis which I can already tell you ‘ain’t nothing like it should be! Ah well. Still got a month to get it right – or as right as it ever will be! Take care. Caroline x

  10. Hiya Jackie,

    Thanks very much for posting a very clear example of a synopsis, detailing the conflicts, the turning points, the black moment, etc etc. I’m afraid I’m one of those idiots who always need examples to understand.

    However I do have one query about a particular point in your synopsis, relating to Kate. You state:

    Kate wants the baby desperately, wants to have a family again…

    Alex’s emotional reaction to that piece of news is brilliantly revealed, but I don’t think Kate’s emotional reaction to being pregnant is.

    All we learn is that she wants the baby desperately, but we have absolutely no idea why.

    After having read the synopsis up to that point, I’m afraid I had a ‘WTF’ moment when I read that sentence.

    So my question is: should the synopsis also have contained more about why Kate wanted this baby?


  11. Thanks for sharing. It’s great to read about the theory behind writing a synopsis and even see examples in books or online, but to see how another author in a similar place as me does it for real; invaluable!

  12. Hi Elizabeth, yep, I’m an example girl too. As for Kate’s wanting a baby, great spotting! Yes indeed, her reasons for her desperation should be in there. You can kind of work out why (wanting a family of her own after her own have died) but it’s not at all obvious. If this was a real sub, I’d be thanking you muchly for pointing this out and editing it in response!

    Thanks Kaily. Like I said to Elizabeth, I really like examples as well – the theory is all well and good but I need to see the practise.

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