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Friday, August 19, 2011

Can Poetry Help a Synopsis?

To touch the moon with wings of fire
That’s what daydreams are made of.
Just one kiss is my desire.
Living in the land of mist
Skin to skin
Evil invades.
The night walkers are real.
They rip the skin off your back
And dance around in the black.
They see me
I see them.
They walk among us.
Loves true kiss
Is it real
My mind says no
My heart says yes.
Now I lean in
To get my kiss.
Dear sweet
Tender love
Blood to blood
Mind to mind.
I am not yours.

~~From Night Walkers By Joann H. Buchanan

The use of poetry is one of the most difficult ways to convey emotion. Using the smallest number of words it forces you to analyze each and every cadence and meaning in order to reach the emotion you are seeking. For some this is just natural, while others work their whole lives perfecting the words and streaming them together to form a story. That is what they are. They are the shortest stories ever told and if done right they are keys to the very secrets we keep locked away in our hearts.

Possibly one of the best examples of this is Dante's Divine Comedy.

So bitter is it, death is little more;
  But of the good to treat, which there I found,
  Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

In the short phrase, we know he went on a journey and that the time spent there wasn't all good. The other thing we learn is he is about to tell us a story. We have been prepared for the darkness of the tale in the first few lines of the poem and we know it is going to be told from his view point.

I'm sure my college professor would say please dig deeper. Sorry Mrs. K, but for this purpose that will have to do. The point I'm getting at is this. Poetry is life is words is emotion is preparedness. You can tell the entire story in such a few number of words and you don't have to lose the emotion.

Why would I bring this up you ask. Well it's simple. We, the lowly writers all hate the dreaded synopsis as much as we hate the query letters and waiting for the rejections. We hate knowing that our novel is 360 pages long and full of so much adventure and life, but no one wants to know that. They want the simplest form with emotion that pertains to the novel. Then they will read it; if it peaks their interest. It sucks, I know. It is what it is though.

I devised a simple plan to tackle this very problem. I wrote a poem about my novel that included what it was about. That was it. When I finished the poem, I was able to formulate paragraphs from those and get my entire synopsis finished in a single page. For those who are sitting there wining, "But I don't know how to write poetry," here is what I have to say.

Take a look at each chapter, what is the ultimate feeling you're trying to convey in it? Is it love? Horror? Death? Sorrow? Laughter? Joy? Name the emotion you worked so hard to pull out in that chapter. Now, next to it, write a simple sentence as to why you're sure you conveyed the emotion in that chapter.

Now, do that for each chapter. At the end of 27 chapters, you have 27 lines. Take a look at those lines and see what they have in common. There, somewhere in the middle of that you are going to find your theme. Voila, you have found the synopsis.

Poetry simplifies the entire thing for you. It gives you a chance to convey the emotions, plot, theme and  character traits in all of it. You are analyzing what you have written and now see the whole story in the fewest number of words. What could be more easy than that? No one is going to read the poem you put together accept you. So do with it what you will. This breakdown can also allow the motivation of each character to be laid out in front of you. You can now pick and choose what is and isn't  important for your synopsis.

There is another word for this, it's called an outline. I like to use poetry though because when I'm writing what each chapter is about, I want it to flow like butter on hotcakes. I want it to convey emotion and there in rests my synopsis. It is now living and breathing like the rest of my novel.

The point is simply this, writing poetry can help write a synopsis. It can help breathe life into what we would deem a lifeless adventure and at some point it will become second nature. After all, it's like all the rest of the words we write down. It's practice.

If this helps let me know. For me it has become a valuable tool and has also helped me in my polishing. That is another blog though.


RL.Treadway said...

This is a fantastic idea! I'm one of those who hates writing a synopsis - it's the very last thing I and I tried the "one line per chapter" thing to no avail. The emotional impact angle on poetry, which I tend to write only in a funk, will definitely help though in regards to snagging the drama from every chapter instead of trying to map it out A B C

Joann Hamann-Buchanan said...

Thank you sooo much! I'm glad it helped. Let me know how it turns out. :)

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