Advice on writing issue breakdowns for proposals
When it comes to writing the synopsis for a series, many publishers ask for an issue by issue breakdown, Dark Horse for example, say, "A synopsis for a series (limited or ongoing) or graphic novel should be about two to five pages. Indicate issue breaks where applicable. A synopsis should say exactly what happens and how, noting plot and character specifics." What I'm struggling with is how much detail is enough or too much. How specific is a character specific? It feels like I'm basically telling the story page by page and providing a commentary of plot as it unfolds, which for a 6-7 issue series is going to surpass the suggested 2-5 pages. I want it to be tight, but am concerned about it being too padded at the same time. Does anyone have any experience or examples of this process they could share? It would be most appreciated.
I think it's sometimes difficult for writers to know when to throttle back, especially when asked to talk about their projects. Seriously, just ask my girlfriend. If I'm working on a new story, the second she walks in the door I'll talk about it for 20 minutes nonstop.
But keep in mind, these publishers (especially the big ones) probably get hundreds of submissions a month. And they more than likely have to read through a lot of crappy proposals and boring ideas to find the gems. So I always feel by keeping your proposal simple and concise - leaving out ANY unnecessary details and frivolous language - and just focusing on getting the information across as plainly and painlessly as possible, it can only help you STAND OUT from the pack of other people writing mini-novels about their comics. I'm sure a well-written 2 page proposal (or 1 page, if you can pull it off) is just as good (if not better) than a 6 page proposal filled with clunky, boring sentences and superflousus details.
Instead of describing the plot page by page, perhaps it'd be better to go scene by scene, and even then, try and cut it down to one to two sentences a scene. Like: SUPERMAN IS IN A RESTAURANT WITH LOIS LANE. THEY ARE ARGUING BECAUSE HIS SUPERPOWERED FARTS KEEP KILLING HER PET CATS. UPSET, SHE LEAVES BEFORE THEIR SALADS ARE EVEN SERVED.
See, now if that were in a comic book, that scene could last for 3 or 4 pages.
Maybe you can post part of your proposal up and we can try and edit it down. Or don't. Whatever.
Thanks for the advice Danger. I empathise with your first statement...or rather my girlfriend does! I'm halfway through the first issue breakdown so I'll post it once it's done.
Here's the first half of my breakdown for issue 1. I know it's way too long. Where I'm struggling is with the plot turns that are essential to the understanding of what's going on, and whether leaving things out can damage the pitch.
Issue 1 – The story opens in the American Frontier town of Grey Hill in 1863. A creature is being chased by three armed men. The creature is basically human in appearance but with unusual facial mutilations. The three men corner the creature and tell it that they have killed everyone who colluded with the creature and will no longer allow their town to be ruled by his kind. The creature threatens the men, telling them that their children will suffer for their actions and that they will never find a home with ordinary people. The creature is killed, and the men discuss the fact that it's eyes need to be cut out and burned. The three men agree that they must flee Grey Hill.
The story moves to 1984. In Portland, a woman gives birth at home. Her husband and midwife are there to support her. Her baby is born after an agonising labour. She looks up to see that the midwife is dead, her body an emaciated husk. Her husband looks on in shock. This baby is JAKE, one of the children of Grey Hill and one of two protagonists in the story.
The story shifts to present day Seattle where Jake lives a desperate existence working in a convencince store. Before storming out of the store, a female customer makes him angry. Moments later she crashes her car and is killed. Jake is able to inflict death upon people at will. Knowinjg what he has done, he quits his job and walks away. As he leaves, a man is seen on his cellphone saying “I've found one.”
First off, intriguing idea. But that's irrelevent right now.
I think you'll be fine if you just cut back on your syntax. Especially in the first paragraph. You don't need to say things like "then the story shifts to..." I did a quick edit of what you posted here, cutting out some unnecessary details and wordiness. Here:
Issue 1 – .American Frontier. Grey Hill. 1863. A humanlike creature is being chased by three men. They corner the creature and tell it that they have killed everyone who colluded with it. The creature tells the men that their children will suffer for their actions. The creature is killed. The men discuss the fact that it's eyes need to be cut out and burned. The three men agree that they must flee Grey Hill.
1984. Portland. A woman gives birth at home. Her husband and midwife are there to support her. After the delivery, she looks up to see that the midwife is dead, her body an emaciated husk. The baby is JAKE, one of the children of Grey Hill and one of two protagonists in the story.
Present day. Seattle. Jake lives a desperate existence working in a convencince store. A female customer makes him angry. Moments later she crashes her car and is killed. Jake is telekenetic [note: or whatever] and has the ablity to inflict death upon people at will. As he leaves work, a man is seen on his cellphone saying “I've found one.”
I'm not telling you to do exactly what I just did here. You can do whatever you like. I'm just saying that this conveys exactly what you typed above and does so a lot quicker and simpler. That's how I feel, at least.
Did they want an issue by issue breakdown like this or just a summary of each issue? Because for a summary even this would probably be too much.
Although I haven't had something published by the big boys yet, I have written up the docs necessary for my sub to Image... So had the cover letter, 1 page synopsis, script summery and script for #1. And it was a 4 issue mini-series, so it can be done...
And as for your sub - I'm with Danger_Slater and I'd err on the side of brevity - so 1 to 2 pages for the synopsis. Anything more & the subs editor's eyes just glaze over...
And as he suggested - post your breakdowns here if you want? Scalpels ready!
Thanks for the advice and info chaps. Danger - you're edit of my breakdown works really well. Cutting down the syntax is probably the best idea. This is a 7 issue story arc so getting it on to 2 pages may be tricky, though perhaps not impossible! The issue by issue breakdown is a request of Dark Horse specifically, but I figured I'd complete it and use it for more general submissions unless they state otherwise. I shall continue to work on this over the coming days and take advantage of your help if that's cool. Once again, cheers fellas.
I don't think getting 7 issues into 2 pages is tough if you're willing to be brief. For example you could summarize the first issue as follows;
One hundred fifty years ago three settlers from an American frontier town kill a strange monster plaguing their village, despite dire predictions of the curse it would bring upon their kin. And in the present day one of those descendants, Jake, muddles through life, working at a record store in Seattle, WA. After a female patron sends him into a fit of rage she dies in a car accident, one which Jake is certain he 'willed' to occur. As Jake realizes the terrible potential of this power a shadowy figure is watching and reporting back to unseen forces.
That's like four sentences. One short, concise paragraph. String seven of those together and you should be well within two pages. The trick is to know which information is important and which can be omitted. For example, I cut the bit about the midwife becoming a husk because it was hard to picture and seemed extraneous. Only you as the writer know where that is going but if you don't absolutely need stuff like that, I'd cut it.
Sounds like an interesting story, best of luck with submissions!
Thanks a lot Shaun, that's a brilliant way of putting it. What I posted is only half the first issue but the way you've gone about it makes complete sense. Again, many thanks.
I think the difficulty comes from having to cut things that are really cool, and that you know readers will like... but possibly unnecessary to the story. Now, I've never written one of these out, but it seems like the general idea is to find the middle ground between writing a back of the book(or inner book sleeve) synopsis and the story itself.
I'll be keeping a close eye on this thread, thanks to all involved! haha.