Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday Writing Workout: One-Sentence Synopsis

Anybody who has been in one of my workshops knows what a fanatic I am for the one-sentence synopsis. If you don't know what I'm talking about, take a look at the title page of (almost) any book for kids. See the sentence that sums up the entire story? Not much to it, is there? Should be easy to write one, then, right? Um...

Sometimes called an elevator pitch – because if you find yourself in an elevator with an editor and s/he asks what you're working on, you don't want to ramble on like a doofus (she said from experience) – the one-sentence synopsis is also an excellent tool for keeping your story on track during the writing process.

Oh, how many times my stories – especially my rhyming stories – go off in a direction I hadn't intended. When a story veers out of control, I know it's time to back up the truck and ask myself one simple question:

What is this story really about?

Crafting a one-sentence synopsis has saved my bacon time and again. It cuts to the heart of the story, clarifies your main character's motivation, and illuminates the path from a story's beginning to its end.

So give it a try. Write a one-sentence synopsis for your work in progress.


1.  Your main character's name.

2.  What it is s/he is struggling with.

3.  What's at stake for your MC (if not readily apparent).

4.  What s/he does to reach her goal or overcome the problem (if needed).

Here's an example from one of my 2014 books, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! (Dial):

Nadine, a braggy cow, gets into hilarious trouble when, to save face, she's forced to lead her friends on a nighttime hike through the spooky woods.

That probably isn't what will be on the finished book's title page, but it's my one-sentence synopsis of this story. It pretty much tells you everything you need to know in deciding whether to read it or replace it on the shelf.

If you care to, go ahead and put your synopsis into the comment section, I'd love to see what you're working on.

Good luck! And don't forget to enter our giveaway for a chance to win Tamera Wissinger's Gone Fishin'. Hurry! Today's the last day.

Jill Esbaum


Gia Volterra de Saulnier said...

Hi, I'm new to your site (found you off of and I'm here to "comment" on this post which is fabulous by the way!
I promote and perform at Renaissance Faires/Festivals (MA area)and you only have one chance to make an impression. Words are a very powerful tool when writing anything!

Jill said...

You're so right, Gia! Welcome to Teaching Authors! Glad you found us. :)