C. A. Pack

Musings & Brainstorms & Rants

January 2013

Grand Old Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Station is going to be one hundred years old this year. The terminal officially opened on February 2, 1913, and according to the New York Times, it cost the equivalent of $2 billion to build in today dollars.

Sam Roberts and Vijai Singh of the NYT produced the following video about some of the wonderful secrets of Grand Central Terminal.

If you want to know more about this New York landmark, Roberts has a new book out, aptly entitled, Grand Central.

The Dread Synopsis

TITLE: The Dread Synopsis
GENRE: Writing, How-to
AUTHOR: C. A. Pack

I was once told by an editor that my manuscript was well-written, which surprised him, because he said my synopsis was “awful.” It’s not that I didn’t try to make that synopsis as professional as possible. It’s just that boiling down an 88,000 word novel into a one-page summary “that reads in the same style as the book” apparently lurks outside my field of expertise. You would think that regurgitating news as 90-second summaries for most of my life would have prepared me for this, but apparently not.

Of course, I now need to include a one-page synopsis in an agent query for another book, but the one I’ve written is long and boring, so I did a little research.

FictionWriters.com (FW) says a synopsis should be a narrative summary of a book with feeling. I can shorten my synopsis, but it will still probably be boring. Or I can imbue it with feeling, but then a lot of the basic story will have to be omitted to keep it down to one page.

FW: The first paragraph should include the hook. At least I did that.

FW: A synopsis should be written in the present tense. Hooray! I think I did that. Hmmm… I’d better check.

Meanwhile, WritersDigest.com (WD) says the synopsis should be written in active voice. Shouldn’t everything?

FW: It should introduce the main characters. Score one for me. I think it would be pretty difficult to write a synopsis without listing your main characters.

Vivian Beck.com (VB) says I need to include each character’s motive, conflict and goals. I don’t think I was that specific.

WD: Include the character’s feelings and emotions to advance the story. Uhhh…

FW: Their conflicts should be woven in. Oops. I’ve been so busy writing the action, I don’t know if I’ve included each character’s conflicts, of which there are many.

FW: A synopsis should be written in the third person. That, I’m sure I did, because I always write in the third person. Even my emails are in the third person… just kidding.

FW: Characters should be sympathetic. Yikes. How am I supposed to include this all on one page? The reader must relate to them and worry about them. Double yikes!!

VB: Each scene needs an action, a reaction, and a decision. I’m starting to feel a little depressed.

WD: A synopsis must convey the narrative arc. I seem to remember that from somewhere…

FW: The synopsis should be written in the same style as the book. Woe is me! This is where I seem to lose it, because my synopsis sounds like a laundry list, devoid of style and grace.

FW: It should not include every character, scene and plot point. Score one for the Capper!

WD: It should have a unique point of view.

FW: You must put in the conclusion of the novel. I would think that’s a given.

FW: Avoid all grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. Lord knows, I try.

WD: Write clearly. I’m starting to wonder if that’s possible?

VB: Rewrite it until every sentence is perfect. Are any of us perfect?

Then, FictionWriter.com says to SINGLE-SPACE the synopsis if it’s less than a page, but to DOUBLE-SPACE it if it’s more than a page. So a one-page synopsis would be a one-page synopsis, but a two page synopsis would turn into a 4-page synopsis? Do I have that right?

Apparently, I have to go back to the drawing board. I’m starting to think I should forget about looking for a traditional publisher, and instead, independently publish every one of my books. Then I wouldn’t have to bother writing a synopsis for each of them. That would be great, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s much easier to write an 85,000 word novel than it is to write a one-page synopsis.

On Her Own

I finally saw Les Misérables and I loved it - from the opening scene until the final image - but something about it bothered me.


The weather would be perfectly dry until Eponine had a song that mentioned rain. “In the rain the pavement shines like silver.” “A little fall of rain can hardly hurt me now.” Poor Samantha Barks, who is absolutely wonderful as Eponine, was forced to sing in the rain for her two big songs. That wouldn’t have been so bad if the weather had been threatening in the scenes leading up to her songs, but it only starts to rain when she starts to sing those two songs. Now, I know the songs were written decades ago and it would have seemed dumb for them to mention weather conditions that didn’t exist in the film, but a little preliminary thunder or a sprinkle in the previous scene would have been a nice lead-in.

I wanted to love this movie with all my heart, but couldn’t, because of the sudden weather changes. So I’d be forced to only give it four out of five stars.