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A synopsis is a brief summary of your story. Depending on whom you talk to, the length of a synopsis might range from a single paragraph to two or three pages, so if you're asked for a synopsis, clarify exactly what the person is looking for. For our purposes here, we'll discuss a very brief synopsis of three to five short paragraphs that you can include in query letters.
A synopsis is a selling tool. "Telling your story is different from selling your story," says producer Hal Croasmun. "Take off the 'screenwriting' hat and put on the 'marketing' hat. Your objective is to hook producers into demanding your script."
Here are some tips for writing a persuasive synopsis:
Place your logline at the top of the page. Then skip a line or two and begin the synopsis.
Be brief. Limit yourself to a line or two of introduction, one paragraph of three to five lines per act, and one line of conclusion.
Find the hook. What makes your story different? Build your synopsis around the most original aspect of your story.
Tell your story chronologically from start to finish. Define the protagonist, the problem, the antagonist, and hint at a conclusion. Skip any details that don't directly contribute to the central conflict, but include all major characters and events, important twists, and the ending.
Lead with a catchy or provocative opening. The same principles that apply to screenwriting apply here as well: Grab 'em early. And keep grabbing 'em every step of the way.
Echo the genre and tone of your script. Don't tell us "This is a comedy about…," or "In this action-packed thriller… ." Instead, write the synopsis itself in a way that is funny or thrilling. A synopsis reflects your ability as a writer. Take the opportunity to impress the reader with your writing style.
Write visually. Use image-specific words ("hut" instead of "house"). Help the reader see the movie as you see it.
Use present tense, strong verbs and nouns, and limit your adjectives and adverbs.
Be precise. Don't confuse lack of clarity with mystique. Instead of writing "John discovers something that will change his life forever," tell us "John discovers the time-travel machine." Precision keeps the reader involved.
Get feedback on your synopsis from friends and especially other writers. Write as many drafts as you need to until you get it right. A cohesive, well-written synopsis will get your script requested. A mediocre one will only land in the garbage.