Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Working From A Synopsis

by | December 16, 2013 | 6 comments

I just began work on a new manuscript—the next in my Cotillion Ball series. This is a different approach for me, since I have already done a synopsis for the book and presented it to my publisher. I do have permission to stray from the synopsis as needed during the course of writing the book, but I must remain as close as possible to the story line.

 So, what do you suppose happened within the first chapter? I moseyed away from the synopsis already. I decided my hero should have a background in fencing. It would work beautifully for him, all that jabbing and parrying, since he has a volatile relationship with his father. And with the lovely young woman he eventually falls for. Metaphor in place in my head, I begin to do research on which Ivy League schools had fencing clubs in the late 1850s.

 You guessed it. Fencing didn’t become popular in the United States until after the Civil War. The 1880s, to be exact. My brilliant idea was in jeopardy. This book is part of a series that began in New York City in 1855. There was no way to jump right over the Civil War to satisfy my desire to make Mr. Hero a fencer. I contemplated having my hero placed in a boarding school in England when he was just a lad. Quick research on schools in the United Kingdom gave me two choices—Cambridge and Oxford. A member of the Cambridge Fencing Club returned my email saying she knew they were older than the Oxford club, which wasn’t formed until 1891, but she didn’t know how much older, and she’d have to do some digging. Dead end there.

 I moved on to the Museum of American Fencing. Andy Shaw is the curator there, and replied to my email in an appropriately succinct manner. He said Mr. Hero would have to have traveled to New Orleans, where there were fifty fencing masters in the 1850s. How to work that in?

 Suddenly, instead of my hero being a Brahmin Bostonian, he became part French. Definitely not a mention of that in my synopsis. When his mother died, he was a constant reminder to his father of her, since his dark looks were inherited from his mother. The father couldn’t take it and shipped him off to live in New Orleans with Uncle Jacques, his wife’s brother, when Mr. Hero was just a teenager. He learned to fence as a means to get his aggression towards his father under control.

 This fencing dilemma of mine worked to imbibe my character with multiple layers to explore. His animosity toward his father who he still desperately wants approval from, his love for Uncle Jacques and the French language, his fencing mastery, all work to make Mr. Hero more than a young man trying to please his father. I think it will work, despite the fact my synopsis has no mention of his French background. I only hope my publisher agrees.


  1. ljoramo

    Isn’t it fun how research and creativity can make our characters so three dimensional!

    Great post, Becky!

  2. joanna lloyd

    I loved this post, Becky! I can relate so well to it and I am sure your editor will see the value of this addition to the hero’s background. It works for me! I recently plotted out my wip – scene outlines and characters to take the role of hero and heroine, starting writing the first chapter and another male just jumped into the picture and demanded hero status. What’s a girl to do? Look forward to the next wonderful Cotillion book.

  3. Becky

    Thanks to all of you who helped me get this post up. I’m happy to be here, writing in a genre that I absolutely love. Hopefully, next time, the posting will go a lot easier. Becky Lower.

  4. Elizabeth Meyette

    Becky, I admire your determination! Your writing is so strong that I am sure straying from your synopsis will be no problem once the story is told in your wonderful style. I look forward to this read.

  5. J. Arlene Culiner

    Oh Becky, I love this article. After all the agony of writing a synopsis, research leads us into some unexpected thicket. Or, more confusing still, the whole story might stubbornly head down some alternate trail.
    I do have a sneaking suspicion, however, that publishers don’t even notice the changes… or don’t care… or never do re-read a synopsis. Just as long as the tale works!

  6. Ally Broadfield

    This sounds very familiar, Becky! I like to think of the synopsis as a map to my story, with alternate routes available when needed.



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