October 22, 2019

Mike Well’s Secret Formula for Book Synopsis

 

Mike Wells is an American who teaches creative writing at Oxford–and who happens to be a best-selling thriller and suspense author. Readers talk about his fast-paced, “unputdownable” novels. Every story contains the same five elements. Identify these in their most undeluded, potent forms, and (Mike claims) you will draft a beginning, two-sentence synopsis of your book.

Your book is too long or complex? Not a chance. This formula really cooks The five elements are:
(1) hero finds himself stuck in a
(2) situation from which he wants to free himself by achieving a
(3) goal. However, there is a
(4) villain who wants to stop him from this, and if he’s successful, will cause the hero to experience a
(5) disaster.
Too formulaic for you? Then another move the goal into the second sentence in the form of a question, to achieve this result:
Hero finds herself stuck in situation from which she wants to free herself. Can she achieve goal, or will villain stop her and cause her to experience disaster?
I went back to Jennifer Castle‘s analysis of her successful query letter to test these formulaic synopses.

“In THE BEGINNING OF AFTER, sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a car accident, which also involves the parents of her bad-boy neighbor, David. In the aftermath, Laurel must navigate the delicate and sometimes mystifying relationships with people around her, as well as empower herself through grief to the next stage of living. During it all, there is David, who swoops in and out of her life and to whom she is now forever connected — a connection that will ultimately change them both in unexpected ways.”

Laura finds herself stuck in grief and sudden responsibility at the sudden death of her and her bad-boy parents from which she wants to free herself. Can she navigate the delicate and sometimes mystifying relationships with people around her, or will David, her bad-boy, stop her and cause her to experience disaster?
The example works, more or less, except Jennifer seems unclear about the possible pending disaster. Being with anyone over time will likely change a person. It seems that the model critiques Jennifer’s story summary more than the other way around.
I will recommend Mike Well’s story to proposal writers.

For a plan to write a brief synopsis and then expand this, see Beth Anderson’s blog on bare bones synopsis.

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