Starting and Ending

I’m in a bit of a fix just now. I have to write a synopsis for a new book. Not a problem: I’ve written many of them in the past, and this will not take too long. But it did bring me to consider how I tend to do such things.

The normal approach with my crime books was always to find a crime – looking it up in the Coroner’s Rolls or in the court records usually – and then develop that murder into a full-blown story. Generally my story would start with the death, and then I’d begin the investigation by moving on from that point. However, in order to make the story more readable and convincing, I would usually bring in a lot about the character’s past, and usually begin with a look at the victim’s life. I always liked to show that the victim was not just a minor character. The dead person has to have a believable life, or what would be the point of investigating his or her death?

However, with the current series it is much harder to pick a simple start point. There are so many potential beginnings with a war story. Do I pick up from the end of the book immediately before this? Or explain what had happened in the interim and jump straight into the campaign?

The best advice always when there’s any confusion, whether writing a business report, an essay or a novel, is always to start at the beginning. Tweaks and new ideas can be incorporated later. So, when writing a synopsis, I tend to always begin at the beginning and write the straight-line story: it begins here at A and runs on to B. Then I have a section of subplots that I want to incorporate, and finally a description of all the leading characters who’ll be included in the story.

Breaking down the story in this manner makes it easier for me to understand where I want the story to lead, but it also makes it easier for an editor to see what my overall concept is, and how it can be improved, hopefully.

The main thing is, keep the synopsis as broad-brush as possible. Where there could be a significant change in the tempo of the story, or where the story may bring out some real emotional fireworks, by all means put them in, but for the most part, a synopsis is a very short summary. The real work comes later.

Incidentally, last Friday I had the enormous pleasure of visiting the New Zealand High Commission building, and then going on to the Tower of London to see the fabulous display of poppies. It was heart-warming to see how much effort was going into creating this stunning showpiece, and to know that even a hundred years on the sacrifice of so many is still remembered.

It was especially enjoyable because I was there with my three brothers and father. Alan, the oldest, is heading back to New Zealand today, but it was great to get together with the others. It’s rare that we get a chance to meet up._GMH2374

Right. So, on with the synopsis!

3 Responses to “Starting and Ending”
  1. I think breaking down a story always helps, you can really see where every sections leads! Good luck with it :)


  2. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Sound advice from Michael :)


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