The Power of Synopses and a Pensieve of My Own



I can’t have been the only one who, upon first reading about Albus Dumbledore’s Pensieve in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire thought, god I wish I had one of those! A magical pot swirling with all the memories you wanted to keep alive and rewatchable, Catch-up TV style? Fantastic! It would be the most useful thing I could ever hope to own as a storyteller, with one slight alteration. Instead of memories, it would have the option to hold the flashes of all the untold fictional worlds in my head instead. Imagine, just like Harry, being able to tumble through the fog and emerge on the other side only to see a vivid dreamscape – one of your own creation.

Writing isn’t something which a lot of us are able to dedicate our working lives to, we need to set aside alloted hours in our busy days. During these times we have the space to let the worlds in our head take shape through words on pages, monitors and tablets. It’s understandable then that those flashes of stories we get throughout the day, ones sometimes staring characters we’ve never even met before, can often get lost in the frenzy of our ‘real lives’. I can’t begin to count the number of settings, characters and plots that have been lost to me, having forgotten them in lieu of concentrating on my work or home commitments. As many have said before me, it’s all a matter of time, and not everyone gets very much of it.  As I have no access to a Pensieve of my own, I’ve come up with another solution.

I’ve started doing things a bit backwards.

A synopsis is often one of the last things you do as a writer. Once your work is as polished as you can make it, you begin to put thought into marketing the damned thing. Traditionally, this meant approaching publishers but as more recent Artist and Writers Yearbooks will inform you, most houses no longer accept unsolicited scripts in any form. This means going about things a rather different way, and selling a manuscript to anyone involves a good cover letter and, most importantly, a good synopsis. A decent one will be concise and informative, showing off both the style and important plot points. A detailed one should be somewhere around the 300 word mark.

Writing these is a skill most of us have to practise, because to a writer every plot point in their story is important, every setting lush and vibrant, every character worthy of mention. I was always taught to practise doing synopses for books I’d already read, but now I find myself doing them for novels I haven’t written yet. I have notebooks dotted with examples of these, little insights into stories that have sparked inside my head, but that I’ve not yet had the time to go exploring in. Below is an example of one that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, but haven’t had the confidence to step into as I’ve little to no experience in Dark Fantasy:

Millie is a ten-year old outcast, but at least it’s by choice. School is a place for learning, not a making small talk and Millie is just fine with her quiet seat at an empty lunch table, thank you very much. But when her curiosity gets the better of her and she finds herself lost in a place dark and strange, a friend may well be the difference between being trapped in the Underworld forever and seeing home again.

Connor is a Conductor, a resigned spirit sentenced to an eternity of shipping people below on a mysterious train with only one stop – the end of the line. While he is more than prepared for a fight, going up against his grim brothers for a likely hopeless cause, the questions posed to him by a confused little girl come to prove the more difficult challenge, during their daring bid for escape.

I’m not entirely sure who Millie and Connor are, to be quite honest, but they seem very insistent that they have a story to tell. Unfortunately for them it’ll be a little while before I get the time to write it, but having this short description of their adventures will ensure that they will remain in the back of my mind somewhere, waiting for their turn.

I’m curious as to whether any of my fellow bloggers do this or if you have other ways of ensuring you don’t lose potential fodder for future tales. Leave a comment!


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2 thoughts on “The Power of Synopses and a Pensieve of My Own

  1. If I get an idea which feels REALLY promising I’ll usually jot down a brief brief outline in a nearby notebook. The next day I’ll have forgotten which notebook I wrote it in, and if I do end up finding it, it never sounds as good as it did the first time.

    You should write the story whose synopsis that is. I’d totes read it.


    • Pretty much the same over here. Notebooks full of random lines of dialogue or plot outlines, that seem amazing when I jot them down at 3am but when I flick through them after a few weeks/months somehow they’re just not as groundbreaking as I thought they were!

      And I will! Probably next year sometime, I’ve never written something from a child’s perspective though so I can’t say it’ll end up being any good. :D


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