About the image, don’t ask. Couldn’t think of an appropriate image so you get a WoW selfie.
I’ve done it! After a lot of work and worries that I’d have to eat my own words, I have successfully condensed my entire story idea into one page. It has the tentative working title of War Stores. I was thinking Store Wars but that would be pointless pun given that this has nothing to do with Star Wars. Anywhere, here it is. The whole dish-darn thing:
BUT FIRST, let me talk a little bit about what synopses are just in case anyone doesn’t know. Synopses are not the same thing as blurbs, and when the things on television information pages or DVD box set cases refer to themselves as a synopsis, they are lying to you. The point of a synopsis is to sum up the story – the whole story. No juicy cliffhangers or tantalizing set-ups like a blurb would do. You have to lay the whole thing bare; quick, clean, and clinical. It can actually make your story end up looking pretty boring, but it serves an important function.
For starters, like I said yesterday, trying to fit your story onto a single page is a great way to tell if it is too over-complicated or not. If you simply cannot fit all of the important events of your story onto a single page, look into dropping characters or scenes, or merging them together. It’s pretty surprising how much you can compress without compromising your story at all. In fact, since brevity is the soul of wit and pacing is nine tenths of the law and a stitch in time saves for a rainy day, it’s often better for your story to throw away as much as you possibly can.
Especially if you’re a no-name loser like me who’s never been published. No one wants to spend printing money on a newbie, so the smaller a package you can offer them, the better chance you’ve got. Speaking of publishing, synopses like these are also standard when trying to query agents or publishers (more likely agents, to avoid the slush pile – the term given to “things we didn’t even bother to read a single word of”)
Agents are a cantankerous sort, and so tend to demand you only give them a single page synopsis on the grounds they won’t read anything bigger.
Though some of them also demand that the synopsis be double-spaced and that’s just cruelty like what the fuck is 1.15 spaced not good enough for you opulent bastards?
So, to summarize, a synopsis should be the most no-nonsense, no frills, no thrills, most beige thing you could possibly write. Tell the story as it happens. Lay out the events in chronological order. Nothing more, nothing less.
In the synopsis below I’ve also capitalized the first instance of a character’s name. This sort of thing is more commonly done with film pitches than with books but as far as I know there’s no rule against doing it for book synopses, and I like the quick visual indicator of how many important characters your piece is going to have in it. In my case, it’s six. If I can get away with it, I always have six major characters and no more. I just think it’s a nice, balanced number. Not too crowded but not too sparse.
Or it could just be that I really like Pokémon.
Anyway. At long last, here it is. The shit what I writ:
Failed web designer CHUCK CHESTER is waiting for the results of a job interview with Costcrushers, a popular supermarket chain. He’s also got a weird roommate who keeps lacing the flat with deadly booby traps. It’s not ideal. The phone rings, he picks up. He’s got the job! He meets his new colleagues, including supervisor LAKSHYA SAMUEL and manager GREG BRAMLEY. His first couple of weeks are fine. Then the monthly evaluation comes in. Of the 14 stores across the country, theirs is 13th. Greg loses it, and terrorizes his employees. Back at home, his weird roommate has started stealing his nametags, uniforms and even his first pay slip. One late Saturday night Chuck is working when vandals graffiti the shop. Chuck goes to confront them and gets attacked. Lakshya comes to the rescue wielding nun chucks made of filled petty cash bags. Dozens more vandals burst out from a nearby van. Another van roars to life, slamming into the first. Several of Chuck’s colleagues pile out of the back. They wield mops, wet floor signs and other shop implements. They win the fight. Greg arrives out of breath, and pulls Chuck into the office.
He and Lakshya explain the Way of the Warring Stores, a long-standing code of combat between stores competing for rank #1 and the coveted Christmas bonus. The next day, Chuck meets JULIA PONTIFEX, the NW regional manager. He is fully anointed into their cult. Not long after, Greg is killed when an assassin gets smuggled in with a delivery. Lakshya is promoted to manager and Chuck, who proved himself in the spray brawl, is his replacement as Supervisor. He goes home in a panic and his roommate kidnaps him. Chuck awakes in the bedroom of his roommate, TERRY THOMPSON. Terry reveals himself to be a former regional manager; one of the best. He explains that the mysterious CEO, GRANT KETTLE, is actually a wraith-like being who is empowered by blood spilled in his name, hence encouraging constant conflict. Terry was too dominant, stagnating the fight, and so Grant attempted to suck out his soul and use him as a host body. He escaped and has been in hiding ever since. He has a plan to seal Grant’s spirit in a jam jar (he has no urns) and needs Chuck’s help.
Chuck plays the part of the dutiful supervisor, pretending to carry out hits on Lakshya’s behest. Though he refuses to take a life, he still ends up in his fair share of combat, and finds himself performing ever-impossible feats of acrobatics – a sign the Way of the Warring Stores is taking hold on him. Due to his exemplary service, he is invited to the annual Christmas party, just as Terry planned. He suspects an attempt on Julia’s life due to her faltering strength. He needs Chuck to ensure her safety to bait Grant. He does so, and Grant appears. Terry reveals himself and strikes down his old CEO, unmasking the wraith beneath. He attempts the ritual but fails – he has embraced the Way for too long. He belongs to Grant. He is sucked dry by Grant, who then possesses Julia and offers promotions to Chuck and Lakshya. Lakshya gives into temptation whereas Chuck refuses, and Grant demands that they fight to the death. Chuck gains the upper hand but refuses to kill, and so Grant swoops in to drain his soul. Finally seeing sense, Lakshya grabs the jam jar and performs the ritual as Terry did. It works, partially. With Chuck’s help, they both slam the lid shut and seal Grant for good. Julia is unconscious, but alive. They call the police and leave.
Chuck spends the next month living on his friend’s couch, looking for work. His e-mail lights up. His aunt wants a website for her dog. She’s offering £20. He accepts.
And that’s the idea in a nutshell. I took it from 4,000 words to a single page, and now I’m gonna spread it back out to 50,000. Stretchy, squishy fun! I’m going to get to work on the manuscript starting on the 8th of November. I’ll reserve the next two days for drawing my characters to show them off, and just to let my brain settle on the idea and see if any major rethinks are in order.