Younger Son was watching something on Netflix the other day, the plot of which I completely lost, so I went on to Wikipedia to read the film’s summary. In doing so, I realised that a Wikipedia style breakdown could work when writing a book.
Let’s look at the original Star Wars film. The story is encapsulated in just five paragraphs which block out the main plot points in broad strokes. The lack of descriptive details or reliance on emotion is pretty much how a synopsis is written, only considerably shorter.
Let’s look at the second paragraph:
The droids are captured by Jawa traders, who sell them to moisture farmers Owen and Beru Lars and their nephew Luke Skywalker. While cleaning R2-D2, Luke accidentally triggers part of a holographic recording of Leia, in which she requests help from Obi-Wan Kenobi. The only Kenobi whom Luke knows is “Old Ben” Kenobi, an elderly hermit. He asks his uncle if he knows anything, but he curtly drops the subject. The next morning, Luke finds R2-D2 missing, and while searching for him, encounters Old Ben. Ben, who reveals his true name to be Obi-Wan, tells Luke of his days as a Jedi Knight, former peacekeepers of the Galactic Republic who derived their power from an energy field called the Force until they were wiped out by the Galactic Empire. Contrary to what his uncle has told him, Luke learns that his father fought alongside Obi-Wan as a Jedi Knight until Vader, a former pupil of Obi-Wan’s, turned to the dark side of the Force and murdered him. Obi-Wan then presents Luke with his father’s old weapon, a blue-bladed lightsaber.
This is almost all of the first act, wrapped up in a few sentences. There’s enough detail to understand the plot, but it skips Luke being attacked by Sandmen and the full recording from Leia. There’s also background information that would, were this a novel, be an info dump. Here it’s framework that allows you to understand what’s going on.
It’s a style that I’m trying with my latest WIP, currently untitled. It’s let me sketch the plot out without worrying about beats or percentages; things that don’t need to be addressed during a rough draft. It also means I can concentrate on individual scenes while not losing sight of the overall story – great for someone who tends to write out of order!