I always tell people that if they’re confused as to how a novel synopsis should look, simply go to Wikipedia. Search any movie made in the last five years and the first thing on the page is the long “Plot” section, which is essentially a front-to-back synopsis. A lot of them are too long; a lot of them are poorly written; but some are good – and you will get a sense of how they work.Or – you could just let find good ones for you. The first great synopses I edited and posted were Starman (see that one here) and Peggy Sue Got Married (see that one here). This time it’s Dragonslayer, a fantasy! I know a lot of people are writing fantasy stories and it’s a category I don’t read as much as I should.
Look at the synopsis below. Note how the reader can get lost with a lot of names, so only five names are mentioned throughout – Galen, Urlich, the King, Valerian and Elspeth. Also notice how the kingdom is not named nor is the dragon. Remember: more names and places = more confusion. Keep it simple. I consider Dragonslayer to be adult fiction, but this is not far from YA fantasy either. If Galen were, say, 16 years old, then this would be YA. Fantasy is hard to summarize; even after I edited the heck out of this, it was still 125 words long. For what it’s worth, see the synopsis below.
A sixth century post-Roman kingdom is being terrorized by a 400-year-old dragon.
A group of men from the kingdom travel far to the house of ULRICH, the last sorcerer in the land. The frail Ulrich is assisted by his young apprentice, GALEN, who also seeks to be a wielder of magic. The men of the expedition explain that they need help, and how the dragon is only appeased by an offering of two virgins each year. The wizard Ulrich, despite foreseeing his own death, agrees to help. Before he can leave his home, however, a skeptical man in the group demands proof of sorcery. Ulrich invites the skeptic to stab him to prove his magical powers. The wizard dies instantly when stabbed, however, much to the horror of Galen. The young apprentice burns his master’s body and collects the ashes.
When the dead wizard’s amulet begins to obey Galen’s Latin incantations, the ambitious apprentice decides to take up the task of defeating the dragon. On the journey to the kingdom, Galen discovers that a smart young man in the expedition, VALERIAN, is actually a girl in disguise. She was passed off as a boy to spare her “the lottery,” where virgins are chosen at random for sacrifice to the dragon. Arriving at the kingdom, Galen inspects the dragon’s lair and blocks the entrance by causing boulders to fall. The village celebrates Galen’s success and Valerian abandons her manly disguise. The feast is interrupted by the KING, who guesses that they boy is not a real wizard and that the “entombment” has only served to anger the dragon.
The king locks Galen away. Meanwhile, the dragon has stormed its way through the rubble and emerges with a vengeance. The dragon attacks the village with fireballs; much is destroyed. Galen escapes the castle prison. The next morning, the King reinstates the lottery.
Galen, meanwhile, is hiding with Valerian while plotting to reclaim his amulet. At the lottery, the king’s daughter rigs the draw so that only her name can be chosen. The King is appalled but unable to overrule the decision. Galen sets off to save the princess before the sacrifice can take place. Before he leaves, he shares a tender moment with Valerian and they kiss. At the lair, Galen frees the princess, but she chooses to sacrifice herself and die. Galen slays three dragon babies before confronting the beast itself. After wounding it, Galen breaks his spear, and only a fireproof shield saves him. The villagers fear another attack is imminent and leave the village, turning to religion and priests. As Galen and Valerian prepare to leave, the amulet gives Galen a vision that reveals his master, Ulrich, had planned everything from the beginning. The old sorcerer was too frail to make the long journey himself, so he had his apprentice make the trip for him by carrying his ashes. Galen releases the ashes in a lake of fire and Ulrich is resurrected.
Despite the disappointment of realizing he had no powers after all and was merely channeling Ulrich via the amulet, Galen is overjoyed to have his master returned. Ulrich reveals he is not back for long, and that Galen must destroy the amulet when the moment is right. As the sun is eclipsed, Ulrich battles the dragon; the beast soon grabs him and flies away. As instructed, Galen destroys the amulet, causing Ulrich to explode and the dragon with him. The King arrives at the scene and claims glory for himself. As Galen and Valerian leave the kingdom together, Galen reflects again on how he had failed to conjure any real magic. But when he says, “I just wish we had a horse,” a white horse appears out of nowhere to take the incredulous lovers away.
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 24, 2017: The Alabama Writers Conference (Birmingham, AL)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- March 25, 2017: Kansas City Writing Workshop (Kansas City, MO)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- April 22, 2017: Get Published in Kentucky Conference (Louisville, KY)
- April 22, 2017: New Orleans Writers Conference (New Orleans, LA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- May 19–21, 2017: PennWriters Conference (Pittsburgh, PA)
- June 24, 2017: The Writing Workshop of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer’s Digest Conference (New York, NY)
Don’t let your synopsis be rejected for
improper formatting. The third edition of
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript
has more than 100 examples of queries,
synopses, proposals, book text, and more.
Buy it online here at a discount.
Other writing/publishing articles and links for you:
- How to Write a Synopsis When You Have Lots of Characters.
- Synopsis Example: “Witness” (literary fiction)
- Synopsis Example: “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (young adult fiction)
- Synopsis Example: “Gladiator” (historical fiction)
- Does Our Author Appearance Matter?
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.