Monday, April 9

Writing: The Starburst Method, Part 5: The Expanded Synopsis


In part five of my Starburst Series we are going to expand our synopsis. Now that you know your characters better, go back to the 5 paragraph plot synopsis you created in Step 3 and expand each point into a page.

This part of the Starburst Method builds on the other parts of the series, which can be found here:

The Starburst Method, Part 1: Creating a one sentence summary
The Starburst Method, Part 2: Developing our one sentence summary
The Starburst Method, Part 3: Creating a five paragraph summary
The Starburst Method, Part 4: Developing characters
The Starburst Method, Part 5: Creating a five page summary
The Starburst Method, Part 6: Developing scenes
The Starburst Method, Part 7: The character grid
The Starburst Method, Part 8: The rough draft and narrative drive

The first thing I noticed as I started to develop my characters last week was that they had changed, sometimes drastically. Granted, I didn't have a very clear idea of who many of them were when in Part 1 -- my killer especially -- but even the foggy ideas I did have, in many cases, turned out to be drastically different from what I ended up with.

But that's good! Change, honing your ideas, that's all part of building a first draft.

I like it when writers provide examples, so I'll expand the first part of the five part expanded summary I completed in Part 3.
Mr. Henry Winthrop, passionate architectural historian and the creator of a new TV series, American Stories: The mansions of the 1800, dies of a heart attack after entering The Mohan Mansion. The Mohan Mansion, in addition to being the best preserved mansion of its considerable age, also has a rich and colorful history. The townsfolk swear it is cursed: They believe anyone foolish enough to step inside will die an untimely death. Mr. Winthrop dismisses the stories of a curse and steps boldly across the threshold. Moments later he clutches his chest and falls to the floor, dead.

While Mr. Winthrop's untimely demise causes quite a stir amongst the townsfolk, no one involved with the TV show seems to take talk of a curse seriously. Mr. Winthrop was elderly and, despite repeated claims he didn't believe in curses, he had been in a state of high excitement before he entered the mansion. Not the best thing for a man with a bad heart.

After a day or two life in town begins to return to normal and the producers of American Stories decide to resume filming. The next day Mr. Kevin Reid, one of the men who accompanied Mr. Winthrop into the mansion, as well as the money behind the project, takes ill and dies. Once again, the cause of death is, apparently, natural – a bad case of food poisoning complicated by an allergy to protein. Despite this, many of the townspeople believe the curse is ultimately responsible for the deaths. Mr. Winthrop's widow, on the other hand, is a skeptic. She believes that the cause of the two deaths is all too natural.

But why would anyone have wanted to kill Mr. Winthrop? He was universally liked and his TV series was bringing desperately needed revenue into the town, not to mention setting it up as a future tourist destination. The financier, Mr. Kevin Reid, was less well known, but he didn't seem to have any enemies. Who, after all, would want to sabotage the TV series?

Who indeed. In the next section these questions, and more, will be asked of our supremely intelligent, resourceful and prodigiously immodest detective: Mr. Damien Lane.
Okay, that was about 360 words and since there's around 250 to a double-spaced, single-sided page, we've met and exceeded our word count. Yea!

Now I have to finish expanding the other four parts of my summary, making sure that each part ends in a bit of a cliffhanger, something to raise the tension-level in the story until, at the end, the villain is unmasked. Ah ha!

Well, good luck to all of you who are following me through this series--not that you'll need it! I'll see you in a week for Part Six of the Starburst Method when we go through our expanded summary and begin to develop our scenes.

See you then!

"Karen Woodward: The Starburst Method, Part 5" copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.


  1. I've been enjoying your Starburst blogs quite a bit. I'm in the process of revising my novel and they've helped me to pinpoint a few issues.

  2. Thanks! That's the best feedback I could hope for. I've enjoyed writing them. :-)


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