Many people feel a synopsis is a waste of time. They just want to be let loose to write. I understand that. I really do. But there’s really so much you need to do first if you want a well-written, coherent book.
One thing I believe in is writing a synopsis. You need to keep your story on track. As I mentioned before, it’s one thing for you to be writing and for your thoughts to take you in a different direction later on. But you have to have your direction set out before you start writing. Nothing is worse than forgetting by Chapter 17 what happened in Chapter 6.
And, believe me, you will forget.
You will forget names, dates, even days of the week. You will get so wrapped up in writing the story that you will forget that she met her friend by the apple tree, not on a busy corner in town.
Start with your main character(s). Male? Female? Is it one person’s story or a two-sided relationship? Write a short bio on your main characters. From fighting on the playground to taking drugs or moving to California. These main points in their life will most likely never see the light of day in your story, but they will give you an idea of why your characters are who they are. This is especially important if it is one character’s story.
A good plot always has an antagonist. Usually it’s a person with their own evil agenda. It also could be a corporation, association or a group of people. If it is a group of some sort, give them their own personality. Somebody has to pay for the bad deeds. Make it them.
Supporting characters. It’s good to have some, not to fill your story with them. Give them a purpose to be there. There’s no problem peppering your story with people who come and go to move the story forward. You don’t necessarily have to have backgrounds on all these people, but have a general idea if they’re married, widowed, rich, poor, or mentally unstable, for their presence can enrich a story. Have each additional person add to the story in some way – a servant who is afraid, a cousin who knows it all, a taxi driver that gives advice.
As you write your story, your character’s direction might change. This is what many writers refer to as the character taking the story in their own direction. If this happens, go with it. Stay as true to your storyline as you can, but if an idea hits you from left field, listen to it. See if it fits into your story. If it moves your story forward, great. If it takes the story into a completely different direction, make sure that direction makes sense. No one turns left without a reason. Especially if their destination is straight ahead.
Your story can take place at any time, in any place. Don’t let convention keep you tied to modern times.
For my first book that took place in 1880, I had a folder on my computer with different topics: fashion, food, Victorian homes, Victorian life, 1800 inventions, backroad directions, jobs, vernacular. It was important when I was writing what the house looked like or what jobs the neighbors had.
The book I’m writing now is going to take a lot of research, for I am unfamiliar with the geography. I also want to add some info on famous people, so I need to research them as well. I need to check out local food, customs, and climate. So I have quite a lot to do before I start writing.
It’s important to set the stage for your play. How people looked, how they were brought up, the morals of the day, the jobs they held and what they did for entertainment. Make your references as accurate as possible. That way the reader will really get lost in the story’s atmosphere. It’s going to take some time, but it is so worth it for the voice of the story.
The same is true for non-fiction. Get as much of your information collected before you start writing. Year-to-year information. Give your subject an atmosphere every chapter. Collect it all. Write it all down. You may not need all of it, but it will help you get a feel for the bigger picture.
If you are writing is a self-help book, write down all the steps before you start embellishing them in creative copy. Think of this type of book as a tarot card spread — past, present, future. What the market/the person was, where they are today, and how they can get where they want to go in the future.
One other piece of advice before you start writing.
Don’t be afraid of your characters.
You are always your character, yet you are not. Your characters can be a murderer, a whore, an abused victim, be mentally deranged, or a super hero. They can be aliens, starship captains, or Egyptian slaves. Don’t think that just because your main character stabbed an innocent person that you will go out and stab some innocent person. Don’t be afraid to take liberties with these make-believe people. For they are only make believe.
The challenge for a writer is to make the character’s personality believable.