Our critique group took a break from the normal 'story edits' stuff and we looked at each others' synopsis. We've been critiquing together for about six months, and in some cases, the manuscripts created confusion about what we're trying to do. We thought a synopsis, and 'revealing' the end, might help us as critiquers.
This brought up the question of what really is a synopsis. I thought, based on my experiences, that a synopsis summarized the main events and characters of the novel and told the ending. You can't hide the surprises. It's not a type of publicity blurb that might go on the back cover or the inside jacket. It's something the editor or publisher wants to read to know your concept, test your writing skills and judge how original your whole treatment is without actually taking the time to read the book. They want to judge how good your book is, without reading it.
As writers, we're also told to have a concise, ten to thirty second long elevator pitch. My elevator speech/pitch is easy. The first book is Stephen King rewriting The Devil Wears Prada. The sequel is less flashy, but is something like "Fashion designer must defeat supernatural villains to heal the fractured soul of a dead friend in order to save her, and himself."
The trick of the synopsis is to maintain your writing voice and not to write a ninth-grade book report. Sometimes, it helps to read as you type. There seems to be something conversational about this endeavor...
This is an excerpt from mine synopsis for Book Two of the Fashion and Fiends series, Courting Apparitions:
Mount Bethel, Pa., February 2003. Etienne d’Amille hasn’t felt much like himself lately—not since he suffered a heart attack after finding his surrogate daughter Adelaide Pitney dead of suicide in his bathtub. He’d always worried about the prospect of dying young like his father, but the reality of it hadn’t sunk in until that day. Five months later, the frenetic French fashion designer and his 32-week pregnant ex-wife, Basilie, return to the United States to sell the house where she killed herself.
It’s only a matter of days before they discover Adelaide left something behind—her ghost.
So, while heart medication and depression have stifled Etienne’s joie de vivre, creativity, and legendary capacity to reduce any woman to putty, he now must deal with voices in the night, eerie dreams, premonitions, and visions of Adelaide. The d’Amilles quickly learn that Adelaide did not clumsily end her own life. Instead, mysterious photographer Galen Sorbach murdered her for her magickal powers. Etienne doesn’t believe in ghosts, and he sure as Hell doesn’t believe in magick.
Etienne isn’t the only one freaked out by Adelaide’s earthly return. When Galen coerced Adelaide into surrendering her water-based elemental powers, he thought he’d gained the final segment to master his magick. But, Galen noticed his aptitude in fire magick didn’t return as it should have with Imbolc and its promise of spring. Then, Etienne saw something that had disturbed Galen for months: Adelaide’s traits surfacing through Galen’s body.
Now I'm going to skip ahead to the very end:
Each member of the d’Amille family must offer Adelaide what they carry of her, and Etienne must place the final kiss on Adelaide’s unembalmed year-plus-old corpse to give her rest. Adelaide has one last act before she goes, she reaches into Etienne’s chest and heals his troubled heart.
This particular synopsis is three pages.