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I say thee Nay

December 29, 2013

The post title is courtesy of my son, who started using that phrase when he counterspelled me in Talisman this weekend. Soon I expect a Verily or two, and eventually a “By Odin’s beard.” If I hear a “I would have words with thee” I’m drawing the line.

In book news: I finished a two-page plot summary for the SF novel today. Tomorrow I wave my magic wand and turn it into a (with luck) shorter synopsis. No, really, they’re not the same, although they both accomplish more or less the same thing: conveying the plot in a coherent, compact fashion.

The difference lies in tone and rhetoric. A plot summary tells the reader what happens in a novel. It’s a useful tool for handing to a beta after they read the manuscript and asking, “Is this what you thought happened?” as a reality check.

A synopsis, on the other hand, tells you a story: the story of the book you just wrote, as in, “what happens to the main characters and why does it matter to them, to me, or to the Man on the Moon?” A synopsis leaves out detail in favor of engagement. It’s a sales tool that demonstrates you have a working sense of how characters move in a plot, and how a plot can be shaped, while conveying some sense of the tone and voice of the work.

The best synopses would not sound out of place in the stories they tell. The best plot summaries would not sound out of place in TV Guide.

As always: YMMV, but the above works for me.

P.S. I promised my son I wouldn’t post that phrase on Facebook. Fortunately, WordPress does that for me. 😀

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