I wanted to sit down and write a synopsis of the sample story from Storycraft for Comics, “Robot Kids.” It goes a little something like this;
Centuries ago, in a galaxy far from earth, a civilization grew whose military revolved around giant manned mechs. Over time nations divided and powerful houses fell. Balance was lost. The world fell into chaos and despair. A horrible world war broke out, rendering most of the planet a wasteland.
Though three noble houses survived, in the aftermath, there was only one winner, the Huryugan clan. In the decades that followed the war, new factions and clans rose up from the wasteland survivors, but none controlled any of the remaining robotic combat goliaths–the mechs. As such they held no influence or say in matters.
The Huryugan took the self-appointed role of peace givers, policing the hospitable and valuable remains of the world. Not wishing further destruction of the already monumentally reduced Earth, the three remaining houses made a pact. They agreed not to compete with each other and made a vow of nonviolence between them.
But the houses had secret plans.
The Yokaru stumbled onto a new type of defense system that gave their remaining mechs armor 100 times superior than any other mech on the battlefield.
The Shoda perfected a toxic refinery system that allowed them to process new foods and gain a tremendous amount of followers.
Though the treaty outlawed weapon advancement and military expansion, the Huryugan developed man-sized autonomous mech systems. In secret, they produced a massive artificially intelligent army.
The stage was set for a new military confrontation, one that would reduce man’s presence on the planet, to a single faction. When the Yokaru founding member’s daughter went missing, all eyes turned to Lord Sechi’s son. A pompous, arrogant, cruel young Huryugan captain, infamous for his methods of torture.
When the missing daughter is found unconscious in the wasteland, by Kai, a factionless farmer and inventor. The young man must take the uncooperative girl across five hundred leagues of dangerous wasteland territory. Deciding along the way which faction he will return her to and whether or not he will start or prevent the planet’s final conflict.
Ok, so now that you’ve read this lengthy synopsis do you feel like you know what Robot Kids is really about?
Cause I actually didn’t tell you. In fact the only thing I actually revealed about the story comes in the last paragraph:
“Robot Kids is a story about a young man who must take an uncooperative girl across five hundred leagues of dangerous wasteland territory. Deciding along the way which faction he will return her to and whether or not he will start or prevent the planet’s final conflict.”
Which, really, isn’t revealing a hell of a lot.
97% of all that stuff I just wrote was bubkiss. It had nothing to do with the active story I plan on telling, but instead was all backstory and world building.
I see this kind of synopsis from new writers all the time. And it’s an instant red flag that the writer’s story structure is Dead On Arrival.
In fact, half the time a synopsis like this reveals that the writer probably doesn’t even know what their story is.
Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic or dramatic here.
In these kind of instances, the writer is often lost in their own creation, believing all the backstory, world building and exposition is the story. It isn’t.
In order to give a proper synopsis of Robot Kids, I’d need to expand that last paragraph into a complete summary—reflecting all the core beats of a full and proper story structure.
So the next time you’re working up a synopsis of your story, be very aware where the line between backstory, world building and active story is drawn. And make sure you’re summarizing the actual story you’re going to tell, not the supporting material that defines the world it lives in.
Coincidentally, as I’ve said elsewhere, this is why I stress loglines so much for all story. When written properly, they give instant insight into the active story. If you’ve got a logline, it’s really hard to flub a synopsis like this. You’ll read the logline, then read the synopsis, see the disconnect and say “wait a second, this synopsis isn’t explaining what’s going on in my logline!”
That’s not actually the synopsis to Robot Kids. I wrote this off the top of my head in about 15 minutes to illustrate the point. I know it was bad and hard to sit through. Kudos to you for training so hard. ▪
About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S. Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.