A week and a half ago, I submitted plays to 3 contests and opportunities. I had a rough time getting my bearings around the process of cover letters, resume, and writing samples together. I used to have a database of theatres and contests with all their information and deadlines and requirements, and I had a whole system of organization on my computer for documenting each submission and creating all those cover letters. I had templates built and everything. I was out of practice and it took me a while for me to get my bearings.
The hardest part for me was creating a synopsis for my play Books & Bridges. I haven't called it "finished" in my mind, so I haven't had a chance to write the synopsis. Or haven't really thought about it. I struggle with writing synopses, so being out of practice exacerbated my struggle.
The struggle comes from trying to get across not just the plot, but the mood of the piece, while making an argument as to why someone should care about the play enough to produce, watch, or even simply read the play. So, I try several opening sentences, trying to create a good "hook" or whatever. My hook used to be: "[Title of Play] is a [adjective] [genre] about [Character name] who is..." That's a winning formula, right?
A good synopsis would have to make you, yourself, want to see your play. With that in mind, I couldn't find a way to describe Books & Bridges. Was I struggling because I didn't know how to get the mood of the play into words or because I didn't really know what it was about? I thought I knew what it was about; I had even charted the main thrust of the play and the character arc for Julia my main character. Deep down, the play is about how a person defines herself. Life, work, school and life have defined who Julia is, but the play moves towards Julia taking ownership of and defining her "self." But that doesn't work in a synopsis. I tried. I started with "Julia doesn't know who she is anymore." But then I couldn't really define the plot of the play. The main concept/character arc didn't really allow for the plot description. At least not in an economical synopsis.
So, I concentrated on the plot of the play. What happens?
Those all happen before the play begins. That's where the play starts and it's crucial for that information to be out there for the rest of the plot to make sense. What happens after those "given circumstances" is what really tripped me up. Every time I started a new sentence, I questioned whether the plot I was describing in my synopsis was truly reflective of what actually happened in the play. The answer was "yes, but..." Yes, the plot was true, but the motivations and the "whys" weren't clear in the play.Writing the synopsis made me realize that I knew what happened in the play, but the motivations weren't well-defined, especially in the relationship of the two main characters. I think I should have tried to write the synopsis earlier, it would've helped me 2 rewrites ago. I feel like I need to scrap it and start over now that I have this fresh understanding.
For those curious, here's the synopsis for Books & Bridges:
"Julia Douglas has made a huge mistake. Her college writing professor, Chuck, has left her his bookstore as he skipped town to the wilderness of Montana. She enlists Dane, the one friend she still has in town to help pick up the pieces and sort through the mess that Chuck left behind. Adding fuel to the fire, the bookstore is being vandalized every day. Who’s to blame? Could it be supporters and customers of the bookstore down the street? Or could it be Betsy Holmes, the owner herself? Either way, Julia wants out. One way or another, she'll get out."