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How to Write a Synopsis of a Book, Story, or a Movie: Examples

The work on the book is finished: the plot has been edited and brought to perfection, and the material is completely ready to be sent to the publisher. Only one detail is missing – the synopsis. But how to write a synopsis of the whole book on one sheet of paper?

In this article you’ll learn:

What Is a Synopsis?

A synopsis is a brief summary of the plot of a book, film, play, or story, an overview of its key points.

The synopsis aims to acquaint the literary agent, publisher, or editor with the main points and the meaning of a work. 

What is synopsis definition
What is synopsis of a book, film, novel

The synopsis reveals the main idea of a novel or a film, as well as some of its features and details: the genre, style, characters, storylines, etc.

The synopsis is not comparable to the plan. The objective of the plan is to describe the heroes and to break down the plot into scenes, which are eventually intertwined and connected into one storyline. This is a technical, functional, and voluminous draft material, based on which the story is created. 

A synopsis is not a pitch. A pitch is a verbal or sometimes visual sales presentation of a movie or book. The goal of pitching is to get the audience interested in reading/watching a book, movie, or play. The pitch helps to gain investors and creditors in the new project. Pitch and synopsis are closely related and should work to achieve the same goal – promoting the material.

Read post “How to Write a Book Review: Step by Step and Examples.”

How to Write a Synopsis

What Difficulties Might You Face While Writing It?

Most likely, when you will begin writing the synopsis, you might face the following thoughts:

  1. Everything seems to be important. You have been working on a book for a long time. Perhaps, the work has taken several years of your life. In the book, every scene, every character, and every twist in the plot is significant.
  2. No spoilers! How to decide, take and just tell how the story will end, reveal all the secrets, tell about the interesting twists that await the heroes of the book and the reader himself? But what about the intrigue?
  3. You want your book to be liked. Is a short, laconic, and functional synopsis a good way to do it? 

How to Write a Synopsis: Synopsis Structure

The key to writing a good synopsis is to remember who its recipient is.

You are not writing a synopsis for your reader, you are writing for your literary agent, publisher, or editor, that is, for professionals in their field. They need a synopsis to understand the main idea of the book (film, play, or story), to understand how the end of the plot is combined with its beginning, and to understand will future readers like the book.

Preferably, the synopsis should include 5 parts:

  1. Write about the main character (protagonist). Who is he? In what circumstances and situations is the hero at the beginning of the story? How did these circumstances change and why?
  2. Get to the middle of the story as soon as possible. Lead the reader to the epicenter of events: tell what happened (catastrophe, tragedy, disaster). What changes happened in the life of the hero? Who or what causes these changes: the hero himself or the antagonist? Will the changes happen for the better or for the worse for the protagonist?
  3. What choice did the hero make? Why does it only make things worse? What happens next? What are the new challenges and problems?
  4. Write about the story’s climax: the final battle, the long-awaited meeting, the triumph of justice, the happy ending, etc.
  5. How it all ended? How is the end of the story connected to its beginning?

You should show a chain of consecutive events in the plot, write in such a way that the publisher can follow the sequence of events and understand what it ultimately led to. 

How Long Should a Synopsis Be?

The word count of the synopsis is approximately 500 words, it is one A4 sheet. It turns out, 100 words per paragraph of text. And that’s it. Use your words wisely.

Of course, your book, movie, story, or film is much more interesting and exciting than the synopsis: the plot involves a large number of characters, and each of them has its own interesting story and a separate storyline. But try to choose the main character or some of the most interesting characters and show their development along the classical “hero-problem-overcome” storyline.

What You Need to Do When Writing a Synopsis

How to write synopsis for book, story, movie
How to write a synopsis
  1. Convey the essence of your book. The length of the synopsis (500 words) does not allow you to step outside. Cut to the chase and do not delve into the details. Only the main storyline.
  2. Don’t be afraid of spoilers. The publisher or your agent are professionals in their field. Save their time, get them interested, tell them about the unexpected twist in the plot, and share the most interesting moments of the book.
  3. Choose a storyline. Perhaps your book involves several independent heroes at once, and each of them has an interesting personality and history. But if you write down all the existing storylines in the synopsis, you get a pun. So stop at one. If necessary, you can leave links to other storylines.

What Mistakes Must Be Avoided?

  1. Comment. No need to explain what you meant. No need to praise your creativity, skill, and your work. Let the editor make the decision.
  2. Do not use metaphors, rhetorical devices, figures of speech, and literary tropes. Write simply.

How to Write a Synopsis: Where to Start

  1. Write a draft synopsis as quickly as possible. The more you think and fuss, the harder it will be to start. Write about the most interesting. 
  2. If the draft is 7 sheets long, do not despair. Now take a marker and highlight the most interesting details (describe the main character, tell what problem he faced, why the situation escalated, then write about the climax and end of the story).
  3. Shorten and sift out the excess until you get the right length of the text – one sheet, only 5 paragraphs.
  4. Edit the text, find and correct grammar and spelling mistakes.
  5. Ask someone who has read your book and knows the plot to read the synopsis. With such aggressive editing and removal of unnecessary text, it is important not to overdo it and not lose the main meaning. It is easier for another person to understand whether you have coped with the task: the synopsis reflects the main idea of the book or not.
  6. Make sure the synopsis meets all design requirements. If the text needs to be in Times New Roman font 12 pt. and needs to keep the standard fields, do so. Don’t cheat to write the extra 100 words.

Example of a Book Synopsis

For illustrations purposes and understanding of what a synopsis is and how to write it, below is the example of the synopsis of “The Adventures of Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens

Oliver, an orphan since birth, spends much of his childhood at a “child farm” (orphanage) with too many children and too little food. The farm is located roughly 70 miles outside London. One night, after being served his portion of gruel, Oliver asks for a second helping. This is unacceptable, and Oliver is sent to work as an apprentice to an undertaker.

Eventually, after suffering repeated mistreatment, Oliver runs away and heads for London. He soon finds himself in the presence of the Artful Dodger, who tells him to stay at the house of an “old gentleman” (named Fagin) with a number of other boys. Oliver learns that these boys are trained pickpockets. On an outing, Oliver witnesses the boys take a handkerchief from Mr. Brownlow, an elderly man, which prompts Oliver to run away in fear and confusion. The elderly man mistakes Oliver’s behaviour for guilt and has him arrested. However, after learning more about Oliver, Mr. Brownlow realizes his mistake and offers to take care of him at his home.

Oliver assumes that he is now rid of Fagin and the pickpockets, but his knowledge of their crimes causes them to seek Oliver out. Nancy, a prostitute and mistress of one of Fagin’s men, Bill Sikes, is sent to take Oliver from Mr. Brownlow back to Fagin. She does so successfully, and Oliver is sent on a burglary mission with another member of the group to the countryside around London.

On this errand, Oliver is shot in the arm and then is taken in by the family (the Maylies) that he attempted to rob. While he is there, Fagin and a man named Monks plot to get him back. Rose Maylie, while on a trip to London with her family, meets with Mr. Brownlow to talk with Nancy, who has slipped away from Sikes to explain the plans made by Monks and Fagin to get Oliver back. She describes Monks and tells them when he might most easily be apprehended. Unfortunately for Nancy, news of her betrayal reaches Sikes, and he beats her to death. Sikes accidentally hangs himself soon after.

The Maylies reunite Oliver with Mr. Brownlow, who forces Monks to explain himself. The reader and Oliver are then informed that Monks is Oliver’s half-brother and that Oliver is entitled to a large fortune. He receives his share of the money, Fagin is hung, and the Maylies, Oliver, and Mr. Brownlow move to the countryside where they spend the rest of their days together.


Example of a Movie Synopsis

Synopsis of a movie “Titanic”:

In 1996, aboard the research vessel Akademik Mstislav Keldysh, Brock Lovett and his team search the wreck of RMS Titanic. They recover a safe they hope contains a necklace with a large diamond known as the Heart of the Ocean. Instead, they only find a drawing of a young nude woman wearing the necklace. The sketch is dated April 14, 1912, the same day the Titanic struck the iceberg that caused it to sink. Rose Dawson Calvert, the woman in the drawing, is brought aboard Keldysh. She recounts her experiences aboard Titanic.

In 1912 Southampton, 17-year-old Rose DeWitt Bukater, her wealthy fiancé Caledon “Cal” Hockley, and Rose’s widowed mother, Ruth, board the Titanic. Ruth emphasizes that Rose’s marriage to Cal will resolve the family’s financial problems and maintain their upper-class status. Meanwhile, Jack Dawson, a poor young artist, wins a third-class Titanic ticket in a poker game. After setting sail, Rose, distraught over her loveless engagement, climbs over the stern railing, intending to jump overboard. Jack appears and coaxes her back onto the deck. The two develop a tentative friendship, but when Cal and Ruth strongly object, Rose acquiesces and discourages Jack’s attention. She soon realizes she has feelings for Jack.

Rose brings Jack to her state room and pays him a coin to sketch her nude, wearing only the Heart of the Ocean necklace. They later evade Cal’s servant, Lovejoy, and have sex in an automobile inside the cargo hold. On the forward deck, they witness the ship’s collision with an iceberg and overhear its officers and builder discussing the serious situation. Cal discovers Jack’s sketch and Rose’s insulting note left inside his safe, along with the necklace. When Jack and Rose return to warn the others about the collision, Cal has Lovejoy slip the necklace into Jack’s pocket to frame him for theft. Jack is then confined in the master-at-arms’ office. Cal then puts the necklace into his own overcoat pocket.

With the ship sinking, Rose flees Cal and her mother, who has boarded a lifeboat. Rose finds and frees Jack, and they barely make it back to the boat deck. Cal and Jack urge Rose to board a lifeboat. Having arranged to save himself, Cal falsely claims he can get Jack safely off the ship. As her lifeboat is lowered, Rose, unable to abandon Jack, jumps back on board. Cal grabs Lovejoy’s pistol and chases Rose and Jack into the flooding first-class dining saloon. They get away, and Cal realizes that he gave his coat, and consequently the necklace, to Rose. 

Jack and Rose return to the boat deck. As passengers fall to their deaths, Jack and Rose desperately cling to the stern rail. The upended ship breaks in half. In the freezing water, Jack helps Rose onto a wooden panel buoyant enough for only one person and makes her promise to survive. Jack dies of hypothermia, and Rose is saved by a returning lifeboat, keeping her promise.

The RMS Carpathia rescues the survivors; Rose avoids Cal by hiding among the steerage passengers and gives her name as Rose Dawson. Still wearing Cal’s overcoat, she discovers the necklace tucked inside the pocket. Alone on the stern of Keldysh, Rose takes out the Heart of the Ocean, which has been in her possession all along, and drops it into the sea over the wreck site. While she is seemingly asleep in her bed, her photos on the dresser depict a life of freedom and adventure inspired by her early conversations with Jack. A young Rose reunites with Jack at Titanic’s Grand Staircase, applauded by those who died on the ship.

Source of inspiration and idea:



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