Lent starts and competitions are entered
We’ve bought the fish and put it in the freezer to replace the chicken. Lent begins today in Greece but, not being Orthodox, I am not sure if we will keep to the no-meat and other restrictions for the next 40 days. It’s Clean Monday today, a traditional; holiday day with barbeques (fish and seafood) and kite flying, families together celebrating at home or out in the countryside. It’s a usual day at the desk for me, at least for the morning.
Over the weekend, I managed to get two submissions together: one for a film festival (screenplay submission) and one for a new novel competition. You always think, ‘I’ll knock that synopsis up in a few minutes, I know the story’, but then, confronted with only one side of A4 and only 600 words max, it all starts to become rather tricky. You want to tell the whole story. You can’t. You want to mention this twist and the subtleties. You can’t. You need to grab the reader and leave things vague enough to invite a reading, but at the same time, you want to make points clear. I do the synopses of my stories usually in four acts, a bit like a film script (standard four-act structure). Things like backstory and the really interesting stuff have to be left out, but the important stuff has to go in.
That’s why it’s always useful to start your writing of a novel with a ‘logline’, another film term. You keep this to yourself, but it helps focus you on what exactly you are writing. You can then develop it into the synopsis and later the whole story. You may change it as you go, but if what you end up with has no relation to what you first summarised your story as, then you’ve strayed from the path. Or, as Sondheim/Lapine say in ‘Into the Woods’, “The path has strayed from you.” The one or two sentence logline sums the whole thing up. Probably the most difficult thing to do, these are the things you see for films, and I guess books. Here are a few, for fun. See if you can guess the films. [Answers below.]
The ageing patriarch of an organised crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.
Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
Fun, isn’t it? No, it took me all Sunday morning to do, and I already had a logline and synopsis. Still, both things, a script and the first three chapters of a novel, have been sent off to two competitions, just to see what happens. Meanwhile, it’s back to Symi, back to Greece and Lent. See you tomorrow!
[Answers: The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, the Silence of the Lambs, The Shawshank Redemption.]