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How to Write a Synopsis

First off, what is a synopsis and why write one? Professionals in the film industry those intrigued by
your concept, won't always ask to read your script. Why? They simply do not hae the time so instead,
they ask you to send oer or leae a synopsis or one!sheet. " synopsis hits on all the important beats,
moments, or elements in your screenplay.
The good news is that being able to write a synopsis is crucial when it comes to leaing a one!sheet if
your pitch is successful. #ne!sheets are usually no more than a page in length and hae more than $ust
your synopsis on them but the synopsis part is definitely one of the most important elements contained
on it aside from your contact information.
%nowing how to write a synopsis is part of the trade. " writer definitely limits themseles if they do
not hae this ability. &n fact, consider this 'how!to( as the first step in becoming an e)pert at writing a
synopsis... *ead more articles and e)periment with different techni+ues until you feel both comfortable
and confident that your synopses are doing their $ob. ,ecoming an e)pert comes with practice. " great
e)ercise is to pick a few of your faorite films and write out both a logline and synopsis for them.
" synopsis is really nothing more than a short description of your screenplay. The typical synopsis
consists of a plot summary of the screenplay on one side of a sheet of paper and usually contains no
more than -./ words. &t highlights your main characters and what they go through during your story. "
good synopsis will focus a lot of attention to conflict and resolution.
0any synopses are written after completion of the screenplay but it's often a good idea to write out a
synopsis before you een begin with F"12 &3 on your screenplay especially if you're trying to sell an
idea to a producer ahead of time.
" good synopsis a ery good tool to help writers deelop an idea for a screenplay and eentual moie.
" synopsis does not try to tell the whole story... *ather, it focuses on a few characters and the most
important parts of the story. " good synopsis makes the person who reads it want to see the moie.
2lements to be aware of when writing a good synopsis...
4imit your synopsis to one page or less.
&nclude a sentence or two about your beginning scenes.
1escribe where the story happens and at least the ma$or character.
#ther characters can be introduced, but don5t make the synopsis too detailed.
&nclude the most important conflict or eents in the story.
6se the present tense e)cept for eents that come before the story.
4ink synopsis paragraphs to one another in a logical way so they flow.
Write your synopsis paragraphs so anyone can understand your story.
Try to conince your reader that your story is interesting and would make a great moie.
&nclude a sentence or two about your ending scenes.
4et your oice or style come through in your synopsis.
"lways proofread your synopsis for correct style, grammar, and usage.
The test your synopsis, ask yourself the following +uestions...
1oes my synopsis gie a producer an accurate iew of my story?
,ased on my synopsis, could a producer easily pitch my screenplay to others?
7an my synopsis be easily understood or is it too complicated of a read?
&s my synopsis bogged down with too many unimportant or unnecessary details?
&f your synopsis does not answer each of the aboe +uestions with a definitie '8es,( then it is ery
likely your synopsis needs more work. "lways consider haing your synopsis criti+ued by the same
people you share your script with before going out with it. 9et feedback and tweak as necessary.
,egin your synopsis by e)panding on your logline and actually turning it into a three!act story. &n other
words, tell it as a story and follow the same order as your screenplay if you'e already written it. &f
you're using a synopsis as a screenplay deelopment tool, it would be handy to hae your outline at this
point assuming you use one.
&f so, use your outline to begin telling your story as defined aboe. &f you're using this synopsis as a
way to get people in the business to re+uest your screenplay, stay focused on that aspect as your write it
8ou obiously want your synopsis to demonstrate your mastery of the craft. 9ie the person reading it
a clear idea about what your story is about by proiding them with clearly defined characters and a
solid story that contains a beginning, middle, and end.
8ou don5t hae to gie eerything away, either use this opportunity to paint broad strokes yet at the
same time, teasing your reader into wanting to know more.
7hecklist for Writing a :creenplay :ynopsis if using it to pitch your screenplay...
"t the top of the page, you want your title... 6nderneath your title, it's a good idea to let anyone
reading your synopsis that it is in fact, a synopsis... :o underneath your title, skip a line and on
the ne)t line, type, ':ynopsis by( without the +uotation marks. 3ow skip another line and type
your name and underneath that, your contact information.
4et your reader know what kind of setting your story;screenplay takes place in. 9ie them both
the time and place, along with a little bit of background information.
6se third person to tell your story in three acts i.e., follow the order of your story;screenplay.
6se present tense to write the story in your synopsis.
,riefly describe your main characters as they appear in your story.
,e sure to include any key or important scenes and culminating eents.
1o not include any dialogue from any of your characters unless absolutely necessary.
When reealing your ending, be sure to tie up all loose ends.
,elow is an e)ample synopsis for A FEW GOOD MEN, formatted as outlined aboe.
:ynopsis by
<ohnny :creenwriter
>?@/A ...!@-?B
" plea!bargaining 3ay lawyer risks both career and prison if he e)poses the commanding officer who
ordered the haCing of a screw!up 0arine his two clients are accused of murdering.
4ieutenant <9 1aniel '1anny( %affee, an ine)perienced 6.:. 3ay lawyer, leads the defense in the
court!martial of two 0arines, 4ance 7orporal 1awson, and PF7 1owney. ,oth accused of murdering a
fellow 0arine, PF7 William :antiago, at the 9uantanamo ,ay 3aal ,ase, which is under the
command of 7olonel 3athan *. <essup.
:antiago is a screw!up. De goes outside the chain to bargain for a transfer in e)change for blowing the
whistle on 1awson for firing an illegal shot towards 7uba. :antiago's commanding officer, 4t. <onathan
%endrick asserts to both <essup and <essup's e)ecutie officer, 4t. 7olonel 0atthew "ndrew 0arkinson
that he can handle :antiago.
When 1awson and 1owney are arrested for :antiago's murder, 3aal inestigator and lawyer
4ieutenant 7ommander <oanne 9alloway suspects they were carrying out a 'code red,( a euphemism
for e)tra$udicial punishment. :he re+uests to defend them but command turns the case oer to %affee.
%affee meets the defendants and finds them to be a little too gung!ho. De tries to both plea!bargain the
case, then step down as lead counsel, realiCing he was assigned this case due to his reputation for plea!
bargaining, indicating someone high up didn't want the case to go to trial and because of that
reelation, he proceeds to trial. 1uring trial, it's established code reds are standard at 9itmo, as a means
of getting screw!ups to get it together.
2entually 9alloway coninces %affee to call <essup as a witness at great risk to his career. "fter
+uestioning <essup about his trael habits and comparing those to :antiago's, he accuses <essup of
ordering a code red on :antiago. ,oth prosecution and the $udge ob$ect, but <essup is caught in a lie. De
stated :antiago was to be transferred off base for his safety in case other 0arines sought retribution,
but also stated 0arines are honorable and always follow orders. %affee argues if other 0arines were
ordered to leae :antiago alone and always follow orders, :antiago would hae been in no danger and
thus, <essup's argument that :antiago was to be transferred was a lie. 6nder pressure from %affee,
<essep furiously declares '8ou can't handle the truthE( and dismisses %affee as disrespectful of a
0arine doing his duty, at which point he admits to ordering the code red. "s <essup angrily $ustifies his
actions on the basis of national security, *oss arrests him, and the defendents are found not guilty of
&rregardless, the two 0arines are dishonorably discharged for causing :antiago's death through their
'conduct unbecoming a 6nited :tates 0arine.( 1owney does not understand why they are gien
dishonorable discharges, but 1awson accepts the erdict, and e)plains to 1owney they failed to stand
up for those too weak to stand up for themseles. "s the two prepare to leae, %affee tells 1awson he
doesn't need a patch on his arm to hae honor. 1awson, who had preiously been reluctant to respect
%affee as an officer, barks 'There's an officer on deckE( and salutes %affee.
Writing Successful Loglines, Query Letters, and One-Sheets
#n 1emand Webinar with 1anny 0anus
At a Glance
OnDemand webinar on how to easily construct tight loglines and engaging query letters for your ro!ect that grab attention
and sell"
#he $eys to great, %isual one-sheets and why you need them"
What e&ecuti%es are loo$ing for in a logline and what not to include"
'()*+AS, -OW