Writing is all about expressing emotion, especially when it comes to synopsis essays. Editors want to know that you can capture your audience’s interest without revealing any information about your characters appearance or demeanor. What truly matters is their personalities and the sentiments behind them. I call this “the Audition Evaluation.”
When you write your synopsis, you should think of yourself as an actor as well as an author. Imagine that you are in the performing arts and you have been asked to audition for a play, however, as a professional actor, you know that you are forbidden to wear any costumes or use any props in order to help you get the part. You must dress in plain clothing and mesmerize the directors with your voice and actions alone. It is the same with synopsis essays! The general rule of thumb is you can mention your character’s name, age, traits, morals, and even what they are feeling throughout your essay — but leave their physical appearance out of it! This can be tricky, particularly if you are a book author who is used to describing events in great detail, but once you get the hang of it, you will find that leaving out the physical details really saves a lot of time!
Take this example paragraph, for instance:
“Wannabe magician, MAX COLES, is returning home to Toronto after spending two years in London searching for the famous illusionist, PIERCE GREY. He is an impassioned, gawky young man, who has very few friends and spends much of his time worrying about fame and fortune.”
This opening sentence doesn’t really say much about the character’s appearance or even his age, but it still gives enough information to “hook” the potential reader— and that’s all that you need! Of course, there is a lot more to writing a synopsis essay than just relaying character information, but I can help you with that! Learning how to write a synopsis essay is a lot easier than you think. In fact, it can be done in just ten simple steps!
1. Begin with Twelve-point Font
The publishing world has many rules but there is one rule in particular that never wavers, and that is your font size. Manuscripts are always written in twelve-point font. The font style may change depending on house rules (fonts are usually Times New Roman or Courier), but the size is always the same. “Twelve is the titleholder” as I like to say.
2. List Your Title, Genre and Word Count
On the left side of your page, list the name of your synopsis, your genre and word count. A synopsis should be no more than 3000 words, but more than 1500. I find that 2500 is a nice middle. When you put down your word count, always round to the nearest 50. If you have 2,483 words, for example, round up to 2500.
The information should be listed as shown below:
Synopsis Title (Synopsis of____)
3. Record Your Name, Address and Contact Information
Now, on the right side of your page, you need to provide the publishers with your contact information. Use the same listing method as before. You will be required to provide an email address as well as a phone number. When you write your name, make sure that it is your legal first and last name and not a pen name. The opportunity to showcase your alias will come along when you present your completed manuscript. You can include it in your byline.
4. Hit Your Enter Key Four Times and Insert Your Title
Why four times? Because tradition demands it! When you submit any kind of “manuscript”, whether it be a synopsis, short story or book, your titles must always start halfway down the page. The easiest way to ensure that you are midway, is by hitting your enter key four times.
It works for me anyway!
5. Include Your BEST Story Quote
Placing a story quote underneath your title isn’t a mandatory rule, but one that is highly recommended all the same. It is the best way to capture the publisher’s attention. Think about it— when you read the back of a story cover, what is the first thing that captures your attention? Is it the first paragraph or the quote that’s above it? If you have two books in your hands, one with a quote on the back and another without, which one will you be more inclined to read? Everyone is different, but most people will be attracted to the quote first, which will encourage them to read further. So think about your leading characters, what is the best phrase you wrote for them? I find that quoting my antagonist rather than my protagonist is the best way to go. The reader may not realize that it is the antagonist being quoted, but that’s okay. Whichever character you decide to quote, place their name underneath it as you would do if you were starting an article off with a quote from a famous author.
6. Write Your Introductory Paragraph (Make Sure Your Content is Double-spaced!)
Yes, once your quote is complete, you will be required to double-space the rest of your document. I find this frustrating but it’s just the way things are done in the publishing universe. Your opening paragraph should be similar to my “Wannabe magician” paragraph, listed above. Describe what sort of person your leading character is, where they are from, and how old they are. Whenever you write a character’s name for the first time, capitalize it. This only needs to be done once.
7. When You Reach the Next Page, Create a Header Title
As a professional writer, part of your job will be showing the publishers that you know how to lay-out a document. You do this by creating header titles. Header titles are used for everything, including synopsis’. If you are presenting a book manuscript, you will only need to provide titles until you reach your first chapter. For everything else, however, you need to list one on every page. When you write your title, present them in the following order:
Last name/Story title/Synopsis-2
The number at the end should change when you start a new page. The first page of your synopsis does not need a header title. The titles should only always start on page two.
To learn how to accommodate different headers in Word, CLICK HERE.
8. Walk the Audience Through Your Tale in an Even/Flowing Manner
You don’t want to spoil the story, but you still need to provide the highlights! There is no call for mentioning every excruciating little detail, just take the reader from point-A to point-B in the most entertaining and methodical way possible. Think of how articles are written on Wikipedia, basic plot lines are listed out in perfect order, only the writing is not entertaining. It’s just factual. With your synopsis, you want the events of your story to flow flawlessly from start to finish except, unlike Wikipedia, your highlights should be enthralling and not as brief! Give the emotional details. Just remember not to talk about physical appearances.
9. Include One or Two Character Quotes Along the Way!
You’ve already given away your most shocking quote, now it’s time to provide the reader with a few more eye- openers. When you reach an active scene filled with tension or humor, include a short quote from it. As a whole, a synopsis should only have three quotes, this includes your first one. Any more than that is considered “too busy.”Do your best not to quote the same character more than once as well. Round it out a little!
10. End Your Synopsis with Style and Finesse!
Publishers want to see that you know how to end a story well. If you have a great end-twist, make sure you take some extra time describing it. Don’t leave them hanging! A synopsis should never sound unfinished. Publishers don’t want the ending to be a mystery. Tell them exactly what happens, but write it in such a way that they will feel compelled to read the finished manuscript and experience your ending in full detail.
Well, what do you think? Is writing a synopsis simpler than you thought? I hope so! And if not, don’t stress. It takes time to sell your work, so relax, be creative and try to enjoy the ride.
If you would like to do some more research on this subject, however, I recommend checking out “The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel.”