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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Synopsis writing—external goals

The key thing an editor will want to know early in the synopsis is each major protagonist’s external goal. This should be obvious within the first 1-3 paragraphs.

The external goal must be concrete and specific, not something vague like “Jane wants to become a successful rock star.”

A good external goal has a definite end to it, where there is a point when the protagonist knows exactly when they’ve succeeded or failed. An external goal is typically something physical that can be touched or held, although not always.

For example, a good external goal for Jane would be “to get my picture on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine” because that’s the point at which she knows she’s become a successful rock star. Then all her actions in the story will be aiming toward that goal of getting her picture there.

The goal is not always specifically stated like this in the manuscript. For example, in your manuscript, you might show Jane fingering Rolling Stone and dreaming about her picture there, vowing to herself she’d make it big and see herself there. However, the external goal must be specifically worded for the synopsis so that the editor knows what your protagonist is aiming for: “Jane wants to get her picture on the cover of Rolling Stone because then she knows she’s finally made it.”

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