The thought of writing a synopsis, either for a screenplay that’s about to be developed or an already finished screenplay, makes most screenwriters sick. Even though screenwriters don’t feel good about writing it, they must do it because it’s a movie producer’s best friend. In this post, I’ll try as much as possible to reduce the amount of frustration you feel when it’s time to write one by giving you simple strategies that work, but first, let’s know what a synopsis means.
WHAT IS IT?
We’ll be looking at some dictionary definitions of the word “synopsis,” and at the end of those definitions, we’ll combine all the definitions to get what we need as screenwriters.
1) Wiktionary definition: “a brief summary of the major points of a written work, either as prose or as a table; an abridgement or condensation of a work.”
2) Oxford Languages’ definition: “a brief summary or general survey of something.”
Combining the definitions above to get what we need as screenwriters, we can say that a synopsis is a brief summary of the major points of a screenplay.
WHY IS IT NECESSARY?
From the definitions above, you can see why synopses are loved by movie producers. Instead of reading 70 to 120 pages of a screenplay and, in the end, the movie producer doesn’t like it, the movie producer will only be reading less than or equal to a page or at most two pages because the screenwriter has summarised all the “major” points of the screenplay. In Nigeria, if after reading your synopsis, the movie producer likes what you’ve written, your screenplay is as good as sold.
HOW TO PROFESSIONALLY SUMMARISE USING MICROSOFT WORD:
As a screenwriter, you have only a page or at most two to prove to a movie producer that you have a screenplay that makes sense, so don’t blow up your opportunity. When you submit your synopsis, the first thing a movie producer sees is how professionally structured and written it is before he or she starts reading the content. If it isn’t structured properly, the movie producer might just conclude that there’s no need to waste time reading the content since you couldn’t even structure it properly. For anything you’ve written to be called a synopsis, it must have the following:
1) Title: Yes, a title. You read that right. I don’t know the reason you’ll give as a screenwriter for giving your reader something to read that doesn’t have a name. Your screenplay title should be centred.
2) Submission: Beneath the title, you should let your reader know that what you’ve submitted is a synopsis. You can do this by writing either “Synopsis by” or “A feature screenplay synopsis by,” and this should be centred.
3) Screenwriter: Your reader should know the name of the person whose synopsis he or she is reading. This should be in the centre beneath “Synopsis by”.
4) Contact Details: The sole reason for sending your synopsis to a producer is to be contacted if he or she likes what you’ve written. How can that happen when the producer can’t find your contact details (email address and/or phone number)? There are two ways to write this: either beneath your name (centred) or at the end of your write-up (bottom left).
5) Logline: This one-sentence write-up should appear beneath the contact details (for screenwriters who prefer writing their contact details above) or beneath the name (for screenwriters who prefer writing their contact details at the bottom). This shouldn’t be centred, but written from the left to the right margin of the page.
6) Synopsis: Beneath the logline, write the word “Synopsis:” (left of the page), and then beneath the word “Synopsis:”, start your write-up.
GUIDELINES FOR WRITING YOUR SYNOPSIS:
The write-up of your synopsis needs to look and sound a certain way, so now that we’re done with how to professionally structure your synopsis, let’s jump into the guidelines for writing your synopsis.
1) Introduction: To start writing your synopsis, you’ll have to introduce your protagonist to your reader.
2) The Main Conflict: The main conflict in your story must be highlighted, and then you must show how your protagonist overcomes it.
3) Connection: Make your reader feel emotionally connected to your characters by showing the emotions and motivations of your characters so that the story becomes more relatable and engaging. This should be as brief as possible.
4) Ease: Your synopsis should be simple and easy to understand. Avoid using technical terms that may not be familiar to the reader. You should also avoid using words that will send your reader to the dictionary every minute; that can cause distraction and frustration in the end, which will cause your synopsis to be thrown away.
5) Block Letters: When a name appears for the first time in the write-up, write it in capital letters.
6) Present Tense: Your write-up should be written in the present tense and in the third person singular.
7) Paragraphs: Use paragraphs. It makes your write-up easy to read.
8) Length: The length of synopses shouldn’t be more than a page, at most two pages, because you’re summarising the major points of your screenplay.
9) Font: Using MS Word, your font size should be 12, and your font should either be Arial or Times New Roman because they are easy-to-read fonts. The title can be in a different font, but it should be easy to read.
10) The End: Your synopsis should include the resolution of the story and leave the reader with a sense of closure. “I won’t write how it ended because my work might be stolen,” is what most screenwriters say. If you don’t want to write the end of your synopsis, there’s no need to send it out, because whoever reads it wants to have a sense of how it ends. However, the only thing you can do is creatively withhold the details of how it ended. In other words, say how it ended without giving too many details.