Synopsis: When you have a weird weird format

I was watching an episode of Sex and the City last night, when Carrie's ex-editor came out of a liquor store with an enormous bottle of gin, pissed about a publisher dropping a talented author, and couldn't help but think of you. ;-)

Well, to the issue in question: my novel is not in linear format. Quite a good bit is told in flashback via dialogue, dreams or... well, flashback.(Hell, one entire chapter is a child telling a story to a dying man) Should the synopsis be written in a straight format, or flow in the same manner as the book?

I'm just going to take a big fat guess here and theorize that your novel is not plot driven. You'll thus need to be as creative in your synopsis as you are with the novel. You may want to use short paragraphs for each major character and the journey they go on. You'll need a start point and an end point for the synopsis that covers the plot but it can come in the paragraphs about the characters.

A synopsis is a tool. You may need to run it through the forge to temper it for your specific task, but there's no rule against that. You DO need to preface the synopsis with an explanation of how you've altered the usual format or you're going to get people scratching their heads and thinking you don't have clue one.


Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:

In a recent submission I made, where the publishing house requested and wanted non-linear, but with a plot, mine you, stories, I weighed this question myself.

I finally decided that the prospective editors needed only to know (a) that it was non-linear story and (b) if the over-all plot line worked and made sense. So I briefly described the structure of the story (how I made it non-linear), and then I outlined the story line in a linear fashion, focusing on the character arcs and how the characters were changed by the main turning points.

To do otherwise, I think, would be like sending a mystery synopsis to an agent or editor, and add that classic newbie line: if you want to see who the bad guy is, request the full.

Just My Humble Opinion.

Cynthia R. Reese

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:

Eeek! Sign me up for Nitwit of the Day. I just re-read my comment, and realized I have a typo: "mine you" should be "mind you."

And thus, another illustration why e-queries are scary. After a dozen years of working in journalism, I've learned the hard way that on-screen typos and other glitches hide, sniggering, until you've either printed out the hard copy or you've past the point of no return.

It's amazing what will jump out of a printed page.

Yay for Miss Snark taking only snail-mail queries! I personally prefer a hybrid approach: snail-mail submission, with e-mail correspondence after that.

Cynthia R. Reese (who's read this three times and hasn't caught any typos ... they're lurking, waiting for me to hit the publish button)

Paul Jessup said...

I don't understand how a non-linear story can't be plot driven. What about Slaughter House Five? It's non-linear and extremely plot driven. Of course, I don't think non-linear writing should be done in flash backs. I've always thought flashbacks fared poorly in the written word, while on film they work out OK.

I've just finished writing a non-linear plot driven novel. None of it is in flashback. But, I am going to go into edits in a month from now, and that might change depending on wether or not the way it is written really works (basically each chapter lists the age of the main character when the events happen).

Anonymous said...

You missed one, LOL

It should be passed, not past, the point of no return.

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes ...

Dangit. You're right. Nasty little beasties. I'll never sell!