Friday 3 April 2009

Synopses and Plots

I’m currently marking some of my students’ work. They have had to plot a Young Adult novel and then write a synopsis of it. This is slightly artificial as one normally writer the synopsis after the novel is finished. Yet the plot can be key.
Different writers of course spend different amounts of time planning. Some hardly plan at all. Others go into tremendous detail. It is useful to have the bare bones of the plot always visible – it can stop the characters running away with the story. It is remarkable how many of my students have commented that they have realised that.
I’m looking for two things as I mark this work: a well crafted plot and the successful condensing of that plot into a synopsis. I’m seeing two major difficulties: the resolutions in some of the plots come too easily; the plot as presented in the synopsis loses its balance.
Other common problems with the plot have been:
· Too much set-up time
· Inciting incident coming too far in.
· Over-complexity so that we do not know to whom the story belongs.
Pleasingly, all the submissions have been fast-paced and have had a feasible Young Adult protagonist.
Problems in the synopsis have been:
· Going over word length
· Spending too little / too much of the word count on plot / character
· Not showing enough of the emotional life of the characters.
On the whole, though, the students have written fluently.
The amount of reading they have done has been a little disappointing. Lets hope that improves.
I am incredibly pleased with what they have managed to do. They all found it hard, but I think they would all acknowledge that they have grown through it. In every case, I have been impressed by an honest attempt at crafting a plot and with crystallizing that into a competent synopsis.

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