A screenplay synopsis summarizes a screenplay for an agent, director, or producer. If the reader likes the synopsis, he or she can ask to see the screenplay for themselves. Unlike a treatment, which is a story of everything that happens in a scenario, a synopsis only includes the most important or interesting parts of the story. Your synopsis must summarize the plot, follow the basic guidelines, and get your main point across in order to stand a chance of success.
Part 1 of 3: Summarizing the plot
Step 1. Write the log line
The logline is a maximum of two sentences summarizing your script. State the identity of the protagonists (the main characters/heroes), the challenge(s) they are trying to overcome, and why they must overcome it. If possible, post a paragraph after the log line that describes why your screenplay would be appealing from a filmmaker's point of view.
For example, if it can be shot on a small budget in a limited number of locations near Los Angeles, then your movie could be more appealing than one that requires a distant location, elaborate sets, or a lot of special effects
Step 2. Introduce the main characters and setting
Limit this section to one paragraph. Include the names (who), their occupations (what), where they live and work (where), the time period of the story (when), and the reason you are telling their story (why). Type the characters' names in capital letters the first time they appear. Then type the names of the characters in the usual way.
Characters to include in the synopsis are the main character, the adversary/antagonist (villain), loves and important allies of the main character. Leave out the names of the minor characters
Step 3. Summarize Act I
Limit this summary to about three paragraphs or half a page. Act I is the intent. Introduce the characters and main conflict underlying the story.
Step 4. Handle Act II
Dedicate about a page to Act II. Show all the conflicts your characters face. Show how these conflicts lead to the crisis, or the reversal of fortune, of the characters.
Step 5. Close with Act III
Limit this section to a maximum of three paragraphs (about half a page). Describe how the final conflict ends and what happens to the characters afterwards. Don't worry about spoilers. The reader should know how the plot ends in this case. Tie up all the loose ends with the conclusion of the Act III summary.
Step 6. Think of a title that fits your story
You can try to make the title catchy and interesting, but the film studio director will probably change it, so don't work too hard on it. Put the title at the top of the page.
Part 2 of 3: Following the guidelines
Step 1. Call it a synopsis
This may seem obvious, but it's easy to overlook. In the header of your document, write the word "Synopsis" and the title of your movie. Under the title, inform your reader about the genre of your script (drama, horror, comedy, etc.).
For example, a synopsis for "Star Wars" might have "A science fiction adventure" as its subtitle
Step 2. Add your contact details
At the top of the first page, below the headline, write your name, postal address, phone number, and email address. Include your Writers Guild of America (WGA) registration number.
Always register your complete script and/or treatment with the WGA to record your authorship
Step 3. Keep it short
Make sure your summary is at least two pages long. A one-page synopsis may seem less time-consuming, but your reader will find that it lacks the necessary details. Keep it to no more than three pages at a time. This allows your reader to read the synopsis in about 15 minutes.
Step 4. Write in the present tense
Even if the plot is set in the past or future, you still use the present tense. For example, in a "Star Wars" scenario, you could write "Obi-Wan Kenobi fights Darth Vader." This is because the action happens in your script as you write it, not in the period you place it.
Step 5. Use the third person
Even if you have a narrator doing voiceovers in the script, the camera always takes an all-seeing point of view. Use pronouns like 'he', 'she' and 'she'. For example, you might say, "When little teapot gets all the way up to steam, it screams to tip it over and empty it."
Step 6. Use single-spacing on
Keep each paragraph single-spaced. Place an extra line between individual paragraphs. When you start a new paragraph, do not indent. That way, the reader will be able to absorb the material more efficiently.
Step 7. Keep a standardized letter shape and type
If your reader can't read what's on the page, your synopsis will end up in the trash. For this reason, you should avoid script or handwritten fonts. Stick to defaults like Times New Roman or Arial. Keep your font size at 12 unless the submission guidelines say otherwise.
Part 3 of 3: Making your point clear
Step 1. Avoid extravagant language
Write in clear, concise language that any audience can understand. To sell your screenplay, your reader must first understand what your plot is about. If you use jargon or flowery language, your reader probably won't bother going past the first few paragraphs. If you fill up your synopsis with unnecessary adjectives or adverbs, it is no longer a synopsis. Stay concise, and you're one step closer to your goal.
Step 2. Give your synopsis to other people to proofread
Ask them to look for errors in spelling, grammar, and any information that is not clear to them. This could be a friend, family member or colleague. If they have questions or if something isn't clear, change your synopsis to make the story clearer. If the reader finds something in your synopsis that is unclear or confusing, they will not ask for your full script.
Step 3. Take into account the need to make adjustments
Many organizations where you submit a synopsis have published guidelines. If necessary, change your synopsis to comply with these guidelines. The agent, movie studio, or other reader will likely request changes to meet the set word or page count. Follow these suggestions exactly if you want your synopsis to advance to the next round.