How to Use Your Three Act Structure to Write Your Synopsis

The plot diagram I work with using post it notes.

As I work on my mystery, I’ve realized that at some point I will have to write a synopsis.  In all reality, while I don’t love writing a synopsis, it isn’t the worst thing every and it just got easier.  Last week, I read this post on using your story beats to create a 1 page synopsis.

The way I was taught to use the term, a beat is a unit of action.  Think about the 3 Little Pigs.

  1. Wolf knocks on door and calls, “Little pig, little pig let me in.”
  2. The pig replies, “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin.”
  3. The wolf responds, “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down.
  4. Wolf huffs.
  5. Wolf puffs.
  6. Wolf blows said house down.
  7. Pigs run.

As you can see, that’s going to be a lot of beats. How can that possibly make it easier to write a one page synopsis?

Read the original post and you’ll realize that what she calls a beat, many of us were taught to call a turning point.  That greatly reduces the number of things you have to include.

Act 1.

  • The hook that pulls your reader into the story.
  • The inciting incident that sets the story in motion.
  • The event that forces the protagonist to take action.
  • The turning point or tipping point during whicn your character crosses the point of no return.

Act 2.

  • Character’s reaction to the tipping point.
  • First pinch point or stress point.  The antagonist does something that narrows the protagonist’s options.  And see what this does?  It brings the antagonist into the synopsis!
  • Turning point at the middle of the story. This is where your protagonist quits reacting and takes charge.  This is marked by a strong action of some kind.
  • Another stress or point point.
  • The dark moment.  This leads to the climax and we wonder if all is lost.

Act 3:

  • Your character regroups and makes a new plan.
  • Climax – the big battle scene/final confrontation/maximum drama.
  • Wrap up.

Come up with these points for your novel and you will find that your synopsis will be much easier to write.  Try doing it for a favorite book or movie and see how quickly it comes together.