How many characters to include in a synopsis

Question: Hello! I'm new to your site, and I love it! I didn't see a question and answer page for synopsis writing, so I wasn't sure where to post this question. I hope I'm not breaking any rules by posting my question on the novel writing page.

Your page on writing a synopsis is super helpful. One question, though. Aside from minor characters, how does an author decide which characters to include in a synopsis? I have written a paranormal romance with two main characters. Obviously, I should include the lovebirds. But what about the protagonist's best friend and the best friend of the love interest, whom both, at times, play a vital role in the story? Writing a one-page synopsis about four characters, two of whom only play a vital role at specific times, is proving to be a challenge.


No rules broken. Here are a couple of things to consider when writing a short synopsis:

1. Does mentioning a minor character make the synopsis more engaging (both intellectually and emotionally)? Or does it make it boring? If you're just mentioning minor characters for the sake of completion and there's not enough detail to make the reader care about them or their contribution to the story, your synopsis can become tedious.

2. To make a minor character engaging, include their whole arc (setup --> complication --> crisis --> resolution). Who is this person when they enter the story? How are they challenged to grow? What is their crisis? Who or where are they in the end? The arc is what creates engagement. If you don't have space to describe an engaging story for that character, it may be better to omit them.

3. In a romance (paranormal or otherwise) the relationship arc is usually the most important and takes much of the focus. So you are on track to include it. Next in importance is the arc of the main character's inner conflict. Many romances are told from the perspective of both the main
character and the love interest, so the impact character's arc is also important. So are the ways in which these two characters influence each other to change and grow.

4. So what about the minor characters? Often they are part of the overall or external story -- which is about the pursuit of the goal that affects or involves most people in the story world.

In a romance, the overall story may be just a device to get the two lovers to spend time with each other so the romance can happen. It's still important and should have a complete story arc, but you may not devote as much page space to it as the other arcs I mentioned.

So you probably only need to mention minor characters to the extent it is necessary to describe the overall/external story arc in an engaging way. A brief mention may be enough for most of them. Feel free to not mention these characters unless it is absolutely necessary.

Of course, every story is different and there are always exceptions. For instance, maybe the main character's best friend plays an important role in the main character's inner arc, and is worth mentioning for that reason -- but perhaps only mention her in the context of the main character's arc.

5. One page is not a lot of space, so I expect you will need to be disciplined. You may need to omit subplots or minor character arcs. You might even have to omit one or more of the major arcs. For instance, if there isn't enough space to outline the overall throughline, you might say something like, "In this world of dark magic and political intrigue..." and then launch your summary of your main character or relationship arc.

But regardless what you omit, make sure that what you include describes a complete arc. It's that four-part structure that makes the story engaging. In addition, it shows the reader that you can bring your story to a satisfying conclusion.

Hope that helps.

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