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Writing a Synopsis or Summary: Avoiding Plagiarism
A synopsis is a brief summary or general survey of something, an outline of the plot of a book, play, or movie
Oddly enough, some of the most creative writers struggle with writing a synopsis or summary of their own works. Similarly, many students struggle to avoid plagiarizing their sources.
Without going into great neurological detail, one reason for these struggles is that once we read (hear) a sentence, paragraph or story, it can be difficult to un-hear it. And no matter how hard we try to say it or write it differently, our minds keep coming back to the way we first read or heard it.
I first observed this phenomenon with my students. After researching for an essay or paper, some students seemed to struggle putting the research into their own words. They seemed always on the verge of plagiarism. I, myself, also struggled with this in school.
Later, as an author, I observed that it was not uncommon for creative writers to struggle with writing a synopsis or summary of their own books.
Years ago, I developed this fool-proof strategy for writing summaries and helping my students avoid plagiarism. More recently, I found that the same basic strategy was effective for writing a synopsis or summary.
The basic strategy is this. Instead of trying to convert one set of words into another set of word, we’re going to convert the first set of words (the ones stuck in our head) into an imaginary picture or movie.
Yes, it’s ok to jot down a few notes or plot points to make our picture/movie, but the point is we want to take all that auditory/written information and translate it into visual (eidetic) memory.
The picture can be as simple or detailed as we like. We can even create a short series of images or a set of vignettes that encompass the necessary level of detail for our synopsis.
If we create a movie, we want to keep it short. To write a one-page synopsis, we should condense our source material down to a 30-second movie.
Once we have condensed and translated the original story or information into our visual (eidetic) images, we can then pull the important information from our picture/movie and more easily put it into our new words.
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