When I started writing my initial set of stories and my first book I was clueless about their endings, only the beginning of the stories would be clear in my mind. After writing nearly three fourths of my first book, I floundered in mid sea, with no idea regarding how to resolve the issue. A month later, perhaps taking pity on me, my muse dropped in with an ending I considered brilliant; it was promptly dismissed by my editor as “a too common a resolution.”
The book lost out not just because of the way I had ended it, but also the way I had treated it. I was clueless right from the beginning about major chunks of the story. Neither the conflict, nor the character’s goals were well defined. And the character himself was a watery version of the one I had in mind.
That incident taught me the value of writing out a book or a story in an outline form, before I actually started writing it. Even for the short stories (800 to 1000 words) that I pen for the newspapers, I do a one line outline: who is the protagonist, what is his/her conflict and how it’s resolved. This one line synopsis helps me get a feel of the entire story before I tackle it.
For the longer stories (2500 to 4500 words) that are used in anthologies, I do a one paragraph outline before I sit down to write the story. This one paragraph outline or the one paragraph synopsis has the following things: the protagonist, his/her or conflict or goal and the antagonist or forces against them, maybe a few lines about the protagonist and the antagonist.
For the books my initial synopsis is quite long, maybe two to three pages ; the protagonist, their current status and what kind of a person he/she is ( headstrong, reliable, thinker, rash, calm, independent, sentimental ) and which aspect of their nature can get them out of tight spots and which trait of theirs can get them into trouble ( this in particular helps me when I am working on the conflicts) the things that perpetually trouble them (another aspect that helps me in conflict), their aim in life, the antagonist or forces creating obstacles in their path, the antagonist’s strength and weakness, and how the protagonist jumps over the obstacles.
As this particular synopsis is just for my benefit, I even add a little about the other characters who assist or provide stumbling blocks to the main character. Several twists and turns the plot takes too are thrown into what I call the ‘ Working Synopsis.’
It’s like I write the entire story (especially the main highlights) in an outline form. My last such synopsis was four pages long. But it helped me get a feel of the entire story. As this synopsis is not shared with anyone else, it more often than not can go the lengthy route. Just writing down that long synopsis took several days, but it brought out the entire story in my mind.
To get the short synopsis that agents and editors prefer ( who is the protagonist, what their story goal is and what are the forces against them) the long synopsis can be stripped to its bare essentials and polished. I have decided never to write a story until I have an ending in mind. Once the ending is clear in our mind, we can start building towards it, by adding the twists and turns that lead to it.
What kind of synopsis do you all write? Like me do you write a ‘Working Synopsis’? Do you all follow the policy of writing a book/story in an outline form? Or do you all just go along and see where the story and characters lead you?