Does anyone have a strong idea of how to write a synopsis for a mystery novel? Here's my issue: Writing the synopsis to follow the plot feels unnecessarily confusing; the clearest way to write it would be to reveal the identity of the killer up front rather than describe Gumshoe chasing down clues. However, this would give away all the twists. Is it better to give an overall summary of the story or summarize chronologically the protagonist's journey? Make sense? Any thoughts are appreciated!
Read the back cover of some popular mysteries. That's what a good synopsis sounds like. Hook the reader, but tell them nothing about the twists or ending.
What is the synopsis for? if it's for the cover/teaser copy, Jack has it nailed. If it's for a submission (Provide a one/two/three-page synopsis), what has worked for me is to chart each chapter. (Index cards, dry erase board, table or spreadsheet), find the few the description can't live without, and, one by one, eliminate everything that is not essential to get from one to the next. The agent/editor wants to see the story's progression without the extra stuff that makes an outline a book, so distill it as cleanly as you can.
For readers, as jack said, just give them enough to tease them. Not too much. I'm tired of reading cover copy that gives away whatever it is that gets the story moving. I'd mush rather know in vague terms what the story is about than know anything that happens. On the other hand, that's just me.
Thanks. Yeah, this is a formal synopsis for the agent, not a teaser. The draft I've been working reads a lot like you've described with note cards. With most mysteries, as is the case with mine, the story doesn't start until after the murder. The details leading up to the murder (including the perp, murder weapon and which room of Clue Mansion) are discovered at the end. The twists are evident. However, it seems like it would give a better overall summary of the story if I could just start with: "After Colonial Mustard killed Ms. Peacock in the study with a wrench..." even though the protagonist doesn't learn this until the end of the story. Maybe I'm overthinking it....Thanks!
I haven't done a synopsis since the eighties, though I recall being terrified. Any summary of a novel tends to read awkward. I'm with Dana. I think he's got the best approach to the monster. My guess is that you will start with a crime and then trace the investigation to its end. It shouldn't be necessary to reveal the killer right away.
Make it one page -- present tense, the first paragraph introduces the main character(s) and major conflict, the second paragraph touches on the main conflicts encountered and their emotional impact, and the third paragraph tells how the novel wraps up.