• Maritere Ysern

How to Write a Good Synopsis

Updated: Nov 16


Wether you are pitching a project or promoting your finished product, it is always convenient to be able to summarize your content in a good synopsis. Here are some tips to keep in mind next time you write one.


#1. Know your audience.


It is one thing to inform and another to entice. Always ask yourself who will be reading the synopsis, and why.


If you are writing to inform:


  • Use concise, clear language;

  • Be descriptive of characters, settings, and themes; and

  • Do not leave anything unresolved, including the ending.

If you are writing to entice:


  • Make sure the tone of the synopsis reflects the genre;

  • You can use more elaborate language; and

  • You can leave open ended questions and mysteries, including the ending.


#2. Include the storyline.


A common mistake when writing synopses (yes, that is the plural of synopsis) is to focus too much on the setup instead of on the plot. The setup usually consists of the protagonists’ background and the motivation for their journey, which it is important to include, but we also need to know what happens after. Ask yourself if the three acts (or however many you are using in your structure) are summarized in one or two sentences. If you are writing to inform, also make sure the main settings and characters are present as well.


#3. Have two versions.


It is always handy to work on two versions of the same synopsis, a short one, and a longer one. The short version is convenient for quick pitches and submissions that have a specific word count limitation; it should always be less than one page long. The longer version is convenient for second rounds where people ask to know more, for packaging materials (decks, treatments, etc.) and submissions that have a higher word count requirement.


#4. Always proofread.


Sounds like a silly tip, but you would be surprised at the amount of things I’ve read that have numerous typos and run-on sentences. Your reader should not have to read your material 2-3 times to decipher what you mean. Always do spell checks and have someone else give you feedback on clarity, grammar, and tone.


For questions, comments, or guidance, feel free to reach out at mtysern@sifregroup.com.


Already finished your synopsis? Learn how to protect it here.


 

About the Author


Maritere Ysern

Entertainment Attorney at The Sifre Group


Ms. Ysern has more than 10 years of varied production experience, having worked in commercials, corporate and music videos, short and feature films, and television series, including as writer and director.


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