So in trying yet again to hack my synopsis down to one page, I went browsing through my substantial collection of how-to links. By far the most useful in this case was Susan Dennard's How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis
. It uses a property that might just be familiar for an example, and applies a standard set of questions to reduce it to a pithy and short synopsis.
The questions per se didn't work for me, as such questions never do, because one of the first ones is always "Who is the main character and what does she want?" And for HoM, the "what does she want" part pulls the capstone off the Pit of Backstory, which cannot
be explained in one sentence in any way that doesn't sound moronic. And without the backstory, there's no story, so a substantial part of my available wordcount always gets eaten by the stuff that happens before the novel actually starts.
However, the link is still an excellent example in general, and of a particular principle in specific: You don't have to tell the truth in a synopsis.
Oh, you need to be somewhere in general alignment with the truth; you don't, for example, want an explosion-packed action-adventure synopsis for a gentle romance novel. But it's entirely okay to fudge some details, even to the point of outright inaccuracy.
Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland. When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it – a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.
Note the bit about Ben being his friend and mentor
-- which is not true
at that point in the movie. It's been a while since I've watched the source, but if I recall correctly, they'd never even met before then; they certainly didn't have an established trust relationship. (And come to think of it, the princess doesn't ask anyone to deliver the plans; the robot's supposed to do that itself. Double inaccuracy!)
However, the way it's written works fine in the synopsis. It conveys a sequence of events that functions the same way as the actual events; it serves the same dramatic purpose, in a way that's close enough that anyone reading the synopsis is unlikely to be heartbroken when a particular detail turns out to be different. And because Ben does become
Luke's friend and mentor in the course of the story, the technically-inaccurate description doesn't set the synopsis-reader up for disappointment when they get to the real thing. It's not a bait-and-switch.
And that's the key. As long as the synopsis sets the reader up to expect the kind
of things the story provides, it's okay if some of the details don't match up. It is in fact perfectly okay to leave out major secondary-arc developments, and even some primary-arc, as long as you can stitch the other side of the hole together in a coherent manner. And if that means, for example, that the SC decides to embrace a plan instead of being gung-ho for it all along, well, as long as it doesn't cascade-change too much else, that's just fine.
(I noted, in my passionate fit of rewriting, that that last bit could be recast as She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver them to the mysterious hermit, Ben Kenobi.
-- which would be both more accurate and
shorter. However, the principle still stands: You can lie in a synopsis.)
So my key phrase for the next time I go synopsizing is his friend and mentor, Ben.
Because that's not the story that's told, but nobody who bought the story based on that would be upset if what they got was Star Wars