Ask Daphne! About a synopsis

July 29th, 2008 • Kate

Some vintage shoes for Rich, who writes:

I am having trouble thinking of how to craft my synopsis. The problem is that the story jumps from present day of the narrator to back when he was in high school. I’m not sure how to incorporate these flashbacks into the synopsis but I really have to because they contribute most to the overall meaning of the story. The narrator uses these flashbacks (almost funny short stories really) to give more meaning to what is going on in his life as he tells the whole story. I feel that if I include these flashbacks in the synopsis it will be confusing and not convey what they are supposed to but it also can’t do without. Do you have any advice for time jumps in a synopsis?

Rich, I can think of a couple of different ways to work with this, but you have to pick the one that works best for you. You could tell the straightforward story of your narrator’s present-day adventures, and use phrases like “a memory of high school helps him” blah blah blah move the story forward. This would probably work best in a short synopsis of one or two pages.
If you’re writing a longer synopsis, you can go into more detail, recapping his high school memories as they apply to the present day story.
But ultimately, you need to convey the outline of your novel. If these flashbacks form a good chunk of the narrative and illuminate the plot, they need to be mentioned. Use as straightforward a method as possible to keep confusion to a minimum, and try phrases he “back in high school” or “when he was a teenager” to help the reader understand this next section will be a flashback.
Writing a synopsis isn’t an exact science, I’m afraid, but there’s some great general advice on them out there that you can apply to your specific situation. Like this, for example.
(Funny side note about that link. I entered “writing a synopsis” in my google search, and the page automatically came up. “That’s too easy,” I thought, and went back to searching through Rexroth’s blog archives, looking for when he wrote about writing a synopsis. The link he posted? Yeah, it was the same one.)
Good luck!

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One Response to “Ask Daphne! About a synopsis”

  1. dust Says:

    I've been using Writing the Fiction Synopsis, by Pam McCutcheon, and I like it a lot. Riffing through it, I don't see any flashback-specific advice, though. The examples she uses follow Kate's first bit of advice, though.