Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Agony Of Writing - Part III : The Synopsis

Yeah, I know. What happened to Part II? Well, I'm saving that for a little later. So, what is Part III?

The Synopsis

It is worse than writing the damned story. Harder. How the heck do I do this?!!!
...I'm hoping it gets easier. I suspect it won't. It's like having to do homework: a really tough essay for a subject that you previously loved.

You've been bashing your head into the wall for weeks trying to work out how the F to write one. You've read all the helpful notes other people have put out there on the subject. And it is still impossible. Your eyes are bleeding from the mental strain of trying to wrap your brain around it.

I was reminded of this last night by a panicked phone call from a friend of mine. He has written the most amazing, wonderful (you b*st*rd Clive! I'm envious!*) book and is currently wrestling with The Synopsis in preparation for sending it to an agent. "Help!" he cried. ... There may even have been tears?

He'd written out the plot, beat by beat, as you should. And then hit the wall when he came to shorten it.

What all the helpful suggestions from other writers don't really cover properly, is the fact that you need three documents.

1) The Plot document
2) The Emotion document
3) The Suspense / Surprise document

So you have** to go through your story again, and write all the emotion beats. Then you have to go through your story again and write all the cliffhangers and twists and interesting gripping stuff. ... and then shorten all of these documents into a manageable size - I recommend one at a time, otherwise the whole thing seems far too gargantuan to contemplate. ... And then somehow you need to merge all three documents into one. ... And then shorten that.

One of the good things about screenwriting is the art of "25 words or less". It's easier than the synopsis, by miles, but it teaches you a bit about being concise and boiling your story down to something bite-size ... which is the whole art of The Synopsis.

He says I helped. He now has a plan. I hope I did. And maybe this can help you too?

Any additional suggestions from others on The Art*** Of The Synopsis would be very welcome!

By-the-by, I think my eventual "Eureka!" moment was triggered by a post on Jane Espenson's blog (see the side bar for a link) which gave a 'how to' on incorporating emotion into the dusty synopsis process, in order to grip producers by the brains/balls and not let go!

*He's one of those annoying sods who can just sit down and it pours out, in order, without much need to plan, or go back and redo half the darned thing. Where as I have stories that sit in the corner of the room laughing at me for years, over a decade in one case - because I read them through and something isn't quite working. And then you realize you have to go back and fix THIS! which changes half the darned plot and you've got to rewrite half the b*gger from start to finish. And if only you'd planned it all out first! And ... I've become an advocate of 'The Plan'. My first screenplay, my very first screenplay wrote itself; and it was good. And it took me a lot of heartache through repeated 'it's not bl**dy working!' to finally realise the truth. 'The Plan' is a good idea. *Copious swearing*

**The word HAVE is a little strong, - like the French devoir - You don't HAVE to do any of this. It's just my opinion, and you should take it with a very large pinch of salt much like all my other witterings. It's just my humble suggestion, but the ego in me says YOU MUST!, which then comes out in my writing. Sorry. It's just my opinion, feel free to ignore it and make your own minds up. Do what works for you, that's the important thing with writing.

***It's a CRAFT! Just like writing... Daniel Martin Eckhart has a great post about the craft of writing. He and Philip Morton really speak to me. If you are searching for screenwriting inspiration / information, I recommend a look-see at both.

1 comment:

Rynth said...

You have a nice and interesting stories I like it.. :)

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