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Friday, November 24, 2006

Fiction Friday: Synopsis writing - a few tips

First or third person?

Synopses are traditionally in third person, but these days, there are a few in first person. It’s a matter of risk. Some editors or agents would be intrigued by a well-written synopsis in first person. Others would be turned off by it, and there’s no way of knowing what type of person will read your proposal.

I personally believe in the safer route and would suggest that unpublished writers write their synopses in third person. However, there are success stories of some writers who landed a book contract with a synopsis in first person, so it’s not unheard of.

The choice—and the risk—is yours as the writer. In this, get the opinions of your friends and other experienced and published writers. Have them look at your synopses to tell you which is better written, catchier, tighter. Ultimately, however, you will have to decide if you’d like to risk a first person synopsis or not.


While a synopsis is usually not your best writing, and a synopsis is all telling and no showing, you should nevertheless try to make the synopsis sound like your writer's voice.

If your story is poignant, try to make the synopsis sound that way. If your writer's voice is uniquely quirky, try to get that into the synopsis.

Risa Takayama has no social life because she's thrown all her energies into her wedding accessories shop in the mall. Unconventional, rebellious Risa hates the numerous family gatherings because her aunts tweak her about her weight and lack of a Significant Other.


Risa Takayama would rather eat rotten tofu than listen to her aunts’ tweaking her about her weight. She’s the Elephant Man next to her Barbie-doll cousins with their Ken sidekicks, so she throws herself into her wedding accessories shop in the mall, All the Trimmings. She’s becoming so savvy and self-sufficient, she hasn’t needed to bother God for any help in a while.

This usually adds words to a synopsis, and if you're trying to cut words, you might be tempted to cut out your voice. The choice is yours, but if you can, try to cut other words and keep your writer's voice.

How do you recognize your writer’s voice? It’s the words, phrases, and rhythms that resonate to you as you read.

Tightening a sentence is not the same as writing out your voice. However, if the act of tightening a sentence significantly dims the sparkle of your writer’s voice, you might want to think twice about rewriting it. Find other sentences you can slice or tighten instead.

By keeping your voice in the synopsis, it will make the synopsis stand out and give a taste of what your story is like, the atmosphere of the novel.

Camy Tang lives in San Jose, California. She previously worked in biology research, and she is a staff worker for her church youth group. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, and her Asian chick-lit novel will be released in September 2007.

Everyone who leaves a comment receives a 10% off coupon for Camy's Story Sensei critique service (coupons cannot be combined)! Please leave an e-mail address so she can send you your coupon (use this format: you [at]

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