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  1. #1
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    QUERY and SYNOPSIS STRUCTURE

    It might be useful to have this in a separate thread for easy reference.

    Important Disclaimer: These are my ideas on the differences between synopsis and query, along with a couple ways to create queries. They are not carved in stone, nor do they in any way reflect any official stance or policy of writers.net. In fact, anyone who disagrees with anything here is invited to make their case. Speak up, and we'll talk about it.

    First, the difference between TELL and SHOW.
    Telling occurs when the author speaks directly to the reader about what happens in the story.

    Then there's showing, where the author uses the characters to show the reader what happens in the story.

    Each has its place, as we'll see in the next few minutes.

    Synopsis:
    The synopsis TELLs the important bits of the story. The purpose is to prove to the agent and/or editor that the author can create an interesting plot and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Typical synopsis lengths are one to two pages, single spaced with blank lines between paragraphs. Character names should be in all uppercase the first time, then normal case thereafter. The title should be uppercase also. There are many ways to create a synopsis. One method is to summarize each chapter in one sentence, then use those to tell the story, including the ending. No holding back. There are other methods. Research them.

    Query:
    The query's purpose is more subtle. It has to SHOW enough of the plot, mixed with enough about the character and his/her/its problems to convince an agent to ask to see additional material. It's a marketing tool. It's not a vaguely-written back-cover blurb. Queries have to be more specific.

    There's two principal methods for structuring a query. It's useful to try both to see which works best for your story.

    Method One, AKA the hook/plot/bio method:
    Write one sentence that encapsulate the theme of your story. That's the hook. Then write one paragraph of mini-synopsis. Finish with one paragraph of biography, why you're the best person in the world to write this story. For more info on this method, go to AgentQuery.com and follow the links to how to write a query letter. Queries built with this method tend to tell, more than show.

    Method Two, AKA the motivation method:
    Write one sentence describing the world you built.
    Follow that with one sentence describing your MC.
    Then answer the following questions:
    1. What does your MC want? Specific answers please. Save the planet and be happy doesn't qualify.
    2. What does the MC have to do to get it? Again, be specific. The harder, the better. Get nasty.
    3. What happens if the MC fails? Now go all out with all the Really Bad Things that can happen. These are the stakes the MC has to overcome.
    Next, assemble the sentences in a pleasing order. There's the query.

    What's not there? The ending. In fact, you only have to show enough of the plot to develop the character's motivation.

    IMO, method two produces consistently better queries, because it better SHOWs the MC's motivations and actions. But try both. Then post them and the folks here will massage them for you.

    Feel free to chime in with other ideas, please.

    Stan



  2. #2
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    Re: QUERY and SYNOPSIS STRUCTURE

    Uh . . . okay.

  3. #3
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    Re: QUERY and SYNOPSIS STRUCTURE

    Stan, I know which method you prefer, you have told me several times, and I'm not in any position to say that you're wrong. I think what you laid out is interesting and thought provoking. I'm just wondering if in your explanation (see! I think I used 'your' correctly!) you took a side. In fact, you did. Through the whole thing, you pushed the motivation method and not the hook/plot/bio method. That's totally fine, I'd just like to see a more in depth discussion on the latter....

  4. #4
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    Re: QUERY and SYNOPSIS STRUCTURE

    Just to clarify

    Stakes are the things that are at risk for the character (what he will gain or lose.) The obstacles are what the character must overcome.

  5. #5
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    Re: QUERY and SYNOPSIS STRUCTURE

    Also remember that the purpose of query is to a) show that you can write and b) get someone to want to read what you've written. You don't have to give too much detail of the plot or the character - just enough to get someone interested.

    As for the ending, if that's the most fascinating element in your novel or one sure to create interest, then by all means put it in the query.

  6. #6
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    Re: QUERY and SYNOPSIS STRUCTURE

    Quote Originally Posted by Finnean
    Through the whole thing, you pushed the motivation method and not the hook/plot/bio method. That's totally fine, I'd just like to see a more in depth discussion on the latter....
    As I said, AgentQuery is a good resource for information on the hook/plot/bio method. Head over there and take a look. I'm not going to reproduce their content here.

    Try both, see which one you like.

    Stan

  7. #7
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    Re: QUERY and SYNOPSIS STRUCTURE

    Also remember that the purpose of query is to a) show that you can write and b) get someone to want to read what you've written. You don't have to give too much detail of the plot or the character - just enough to get someone interested.

    As for the ending, if that's the most fascinating element in your novel or one sure to create interest, then by all means put it in the query.
    What Simon Says...

  8. #8
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    Re: QUERY and SYNOPSIS STRUCTURE

    Simon says...
    Anyway, yeah, I'll check that out. I'm trying to figure this all out right now. I assume everyone will have different approaches that they prefer, and I'd assume agents do, as well. I was just curious to hear what people on here thought about it. There are so many talented query people on writers.net, I figured someone would be equally as fervent an advocate for the hook method as you are for the motivational method. But I'll drag my *ss over to AgentQuery and see what they got to say....

  9. #9
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    Re: QUERY and SYNOPSIS STRUCTURE

    For a direct look at former agent Noah Lukeman's query letter method, here's a link to a free download from Smashwords.

    Former agent Nathan Bransford also posted useful query information on his blog. There's also a good list of resources for further reading.

    Stan
    _________

  10. #10
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    Re: QUERY and SYNOPSIS STRUCTURE

    I find it ironic that one of the key aspects of a query is brevity, and Lukeman takes 75 pages to explain how to write and send one.

    I mean seriously, it ain't rocket science.

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