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The Backward OX
02-15-2012, 07:47 AM
Many people seem to have difficulty writing a synopsis.

Could the entire process be revolutionised for everyone by writing them in a journalist’s "inverted pyramid" style?

Maxinquaye
02-15-2012, 08:10 AM
No, because reporting does not do the same job as fiction. In this time of writing you start with a bang, and then work toward the whimper. This in order for editors to be able to trim your text. What is at the bottom is the very least important in your story. The closer the writing is to the top, the more important it is.

The inverted pyramid is simply a technique to quickly feed the most relevant information to the reader. It is to quickly inform about a cause, and then fill it out with the effects.

Fiction on the other hand works completely opposite, and require you to start with the causes for the effect.

The Backward OX
02-15-2012, 08:48 AM
No....The closer the writing is to the top, the more important it is.

The inverted pyramid is simply a technique to quickly feed the most relevant information to the reader. It is to quickly inform about a cause, and then fill it out with the effects.



Considering that I said “synopsis” not “novel”, I think that if you use the words “publisher’s agent” in place of the word “reader”, your “No” might suddenly become a “Yes”.

Jamesaritchie
02-15-2012, 08:50 AM
Interesting question. One of my majors was journalism, and I actually learned more about writing good fiction in various journalism classes than in English Lit., or in creative writing classes.

Aside from most straight news pieces, much of what journalism teaches is right along the lines of writing fiction. But can the inverted pyramid style be used for a synopsis?

In thinking back over synopses I've written, I have to say most of them bear some resemblance to an inverted pyramid, at least in the sense that the first sentence is the most important one I'll write, and the last sentence is the least important.

Any agent or an editor reads only until you give a reason to stop. When you put up a stop sign, the agent or editor dutifully obeys it, and stops right there. Neither will keep reading in hopes that things will get better.

But I think the answer is a qualified probably. I do want a first sentence that's good, that grabs and holds interest, that forces a reader to read the next sentence, and I want more than just good writing, I want good information in that sentence.

By contrast, the last sentence of a synopsis is most often a summing up, and assurance that all ends well.

I've never really thought about using the inverted pyramid in a synopsis, but in a very real way, I guess I do. Well, it isn't the only habit I learned through journalism that has helped with fiction.

Chase
02-15-2012, 09:42 AM
Interesting question. One of my majors was journalism, and I actually learned more about writing good fiction in various journalism classes than in English Lit., or in creative writing classes.

1. When I attended college and grad school, a journalism major in an elective upper division English class was as rare as chicken lips.

2. When I taught literature and creative writing, there wasn't one "journey" who lasted past the drop/add deadline of any class over a thirteen-year span.

3. All of which is a huge surprise to me, because most of the writers in our local papers seem to excel at fiction.

Maxinquaye
02-15-2012, 11:05 AM
Considering that I said “synopsis” not “novel”, I think that if you use the words “publisher’s agent” in place of the word “reader”, your “No” might suddenly become a “Yes”.

Your job in the synopsis is to summarize the story in 2-4 pages, not to start with the climax and then move toward the setup. Like, you start with the capture of the murderer in the inverted pyramid, and then you end with the actual murder in the last paragraph.

Jamesaritchie
02-15-2012, 09:02 PM
1.

2. When I taught literature and creative writing, there wasn't one "journey" who lasted past the drop/add deadline of any class over a thirteen-year span.

.

I think I can explain this. If you had also taught Journalism, I think you would have seen the other side of the coin. I attended one of the top Journalism schools in the country, at the time, and Journalism majors seldom did well in English Lit./creative writing there, either, but English Lit./creative writing majors usually did extremely well in Journalism.

We had a bunch of students in journalism who were English Lit./creatrive writing majors first, and Journalism majors second.

That was my case. My first love was writing fiction, and I majored in English Lit./creative writing, but I took a second major in Journalism. I actually signed up for five majors because we were encouraged to take several, and drop the ones we found unpleasant before the first month was out. I dropped three, but kept English Lit/creative writing and Journalism as majors. So did a great many other students.

Anyway, our first Journalism 101 class was taught by a seasoned reporter who worked for The New York Times, and one of the first things he told us was to forget everything we learned in English class. It was good advice, but some took it too literally. Namely, those whose first love was Journalism, who really wanted to be news reporters. and those students seldom did well in any English and creative writing courses they took.

But those of us who were English Lit./creative writing majors first knew what to take and what to leave, and it helped.

First year Journalism teaches little that helps with fiction, and this, too, explains why straight Journalism majors generally do poorly in English and creative writing.

But if you're already good at writing fiction, if your first love is fiction, Journalism takes hold about half way through year two. That's when we got into writing human interest pieces, humor columns, etc. These pieces told a story, and bore almost no resemblance to straight news reporting. I still use the techniques I learned in those classes to write short stories, and it works very well.

But, yeah, Journalism majors in an elective upper division English class were just as rare when and where I was, but English Lit./creative writing majors who also took Journalism classes were a different story.

A telling point is that those of use who were English Lit./creative writing majors first generally were less than stellar at straight news reporting. The inverted pyramid/just the facts, ma'am style of writing is pretty constraining to a fiction writer, but we excelled at human interest, humor columns, etc., places where telling a story about people came first.

Devil Ledbetter
02-15-2012, 09:21 PM
2. When I taught literature and creative writing, there wasn't one "journey" who lasted past the drop/add deadline of any class over a thirteen-year span.


"Journey." :Wha: Cripe, Chase. Small wonder the journalism students were fleeing your courses. Your entire post drips contempt for journalists.

Jamesaritchie
02-15-2012, 09:25 PM
Your job in the synopsis is to summarize the story in 2-4 pages, not to start with the climax and then move toward the setup. Like, you start with the capture of the murderer in the inverted pyramid, and then you end with the actual murder in the last paragraph.

No, not really. What you're talking about is a Journalism 101 inverted pyramid, used for straight, factual news pieces. Its purpose is to allow an editor to snip paragraphs from the end to shorten it without harming its integrity.

But the inverted pyramid has other uses, takes varying forms, and is used in other types of writing, even in journalism, where snipping for length isn't an issue.

When I wrote columns, length wasn't an issue. Half column or column, the length was set in stone, and I had to come in at that length. And even though I used the inverted pyramid, the last sentence of a column was most often the one that made the piece, that gave the reader the point of the whole piece. It couldn't be snipped, or all integrity would be lost.

We were still taught to use the inverted pyramid to write there pieces.

I still used a form of the inverted pyramid to tell a tale, and I to write many of the short stories I've sold.

For that matter, some short stories are written so that the climax does come first , and the actual murder last.

There's often a huge difference between events, importance, and facts, and just because one thing happens before another does not make the first event the most important, or the last event the least important.

It's only in straight, factual, usually unimaginative news articles that the inverted pyramid is so rigid.

CaroGirl
02-15-2012, 09:37 PM
I have a BAH in English literature and a diploma in Journalism and I've never thought of using the inverted pyramid for a synopsis. My instinct is that it wouldn't work.

I think of a synopsis (either the longer 2-5 pager or the 3 paragraphs in the query letter) as a retelling of my story. In order to get an agent/editor interested, you have to tell a compelling story, much like the longer, novel version.

Granted, there are stories that would probably work within this "news article" style, like maybe a mystery or thriller, but many more stories, I think, would not work. For example, my stories.

Chase
02-15-2012, 10:34 PM
"Journey." :Wha: Cripe, Chase. Small wonder the journalism students were fleeing your courses. Your entire post drips contempt for journalists.

Contempt must drip from the eye of the beholder in this case.

"Journey" was a tag pre-journalism majors proudly hung on their own toes, and for seven of those thirteen years I sneaked under the publish or perish wire by writing bi-weekly columns in two, then three newspapers.

It was pretty much thought I was a journey, as well. Sorry to be such a devil of a disappointment.

Devil Ledbetter
02-15-2012, 11:16 PM
"Journey" was a tag pre-journalism majors proudly hung on their own toes, Ack. It's worse than "foodie."

Jamesaritchie
02-15-2012, 11:17 PM
Granted, there are stories that would probably work within this "news article" style, like maybe a mystery or thriller, but many more stories, I think, would not work. For example, my stories.

With a diploma in Journalism, you must have used the inverted pyramid in ways other than a straight news article style? We sure did.

Straight news articles may be the backbone of Journalism, but the ribs reach out in directions that have little to nothing to do with news. So, too, does the inverted pyramid.

Though I will admit that when I use the inverted pyramid for writing an actual story, it usually is a mystery.

But a synopsis is not an actual story, and can be written in many ways.

Devil Ledbetter
02-15-2012, 11:20 PM
With a diploma in Journalism, you must have used the inverted pyramid in ways other than a straight news article style? We sure did.

Straight news articles may be the backbone of Journalism, but the ribs reach out in directions that have little to nothing to do with news. So, too, does the inverted pyramid.

Though I will admit that when I use the inverted pyramid for writing an actual story, it usually is a mystery.

But a synopsis is not an actual story, and can be written in many ways.I agree. The inverted pyramid is journalism 101, week one, right along with who, what, when, when, where, how, why and learning the standard copy editing marks.

CaroGirl
02-15-2012, 11:33 PM
With a diploma in Journalism, you must have used the inverted pyramid in ways other than a straight news article style? We sure did.

Straight news articles may be the backbone of Journalism, but the ribs reach out in directions that have little to nothing to do with news. So, too, does the inverted pyramid.

Though I will admit that when I use the inverted pyramid for writing an actual story, it usually is a mystery.

But a synopsis is not an actual story, and can be written in many ways.
By "news article" style I don't necessarily mean straight news. I also mean human interest stories, most magazine articles, some op-ed pieces, and so on. I intended that phrase to encompass items that typically use the inverted pyramid.

While a synopsis is not a story in and of itself, I think the best synopses are an intriguing read all on their own.

gothicangel
02-16-2012, 12:46 AM
Many people seem to have difficulty writing a synopsis.

Could the entire process be revolutionised for everyone by writing them in a journalist’s "inverted pyramid" style?

I found a much simpler way that revolutionized synopsis writing for me, Nicola Morgan's ebook Write A Great Synopsis.

And this fantastic post by LadyDae:



I think I'll put my two cents in this. You're right. It's hard to convey voice in a synopsis because it really is a play by play of the plot, but something that would help is if you imagine your MC recalling and summing up everything that happens in the novel using all the language and terms the MC would use. It's an easy way to get voice in.

As an exercise one day, try experimenting with different voices. Use your MC one day (that's the one you'll probably send to agents) and another character one day. If you get really into it, try writing it in the voice of one of those narrators on nature shows. It seems pointless, but it will give you a good idea on how the 'sound' of something changes depending on who's telling it.

Small things like words with change and emphasis on different events give voice away, so pay attention to those little nuances. You'll be surprised how changing and switching out a couple of words can change voice.

amrose
02-16-2012, 02:16 AM
And this fantastic post by LadyDae:



Yes!! Thank you for reposting this!