Learn What Is A Synopsis To Help Sell Your Book Or Movie (2022)

Before you can publish a book or sign a contract, you’ll need a synopsis that someone can review. Here, we explain what isa synopsis and how to write one.

In writing, asynopsiscan be a helpful tool to use to state yourmain plotin a brief manner. Yet asynopsisis more detailed than just abrief summaryof the main action of the story.

So what is asynopsis? It is a summary of a larger piece of work, similar to anabridgement, that includes the most importantplot points.

Learning what asynopsisis and how to write one well will give you a tool you can use to advertise your written works.


  • What Is a Synopsis?
  • 4 Steps to Write aShortSynopsis
  • SynopsisExamples
  • The Final Word on What Is a Synopsis
  • FAQs on What Is aSynopsis
  • Author

What Is a Synopsis?

Learn What Is A Synopsis To Help Sell Your Book Or Movie (1)

TheMerriam-Webster dictionarydefines asynopsisas “A condensed statement or outline.” However, when it comes to literature, this is too simplified. Your outline and yoursynopsisare not the same things.

When you write a book or the storyline of a movie, asynopsisis a summary of that composition. It includes the main events and style of the story and some information about themain characters.

The way you write yoursynopsiswill depend on the goal you have for it. If you’re using thesynopsisto proposeyour novelto aliterary agent, it needs quite a bit of detail.

If you are using it to entice readers, such as theblurbon the back of the book, you will leave some details out to make the reader interested in reading it. You might also be interested in our guide on how to determine the reading level of a book.

4 Steps to Write aShortSynopsis

Before writing asynopsis, you will need to check the submission guidelines of theliterary agent. For example, do they want the book synopsis in the third person or the samepoint of viewas the novel? Do they limit you toone page, or can you write more?

Once you know the rules, these steps will help you write your summary.

1. Iron Out the Basics

First, know the basics of your story. You need to know themain plot, ending andplot twistsyou plan to cover in the book. This can start with your basic outline.

Once you have your outline, you are ready to start filling in some details. Some elements to consider include:

  • Narrative arc: Thenarrative arcis the explanation of the problem or plot in the book. It also states the characters and gives the ending.
  • Inciting incident: What sparks the conflict? Make sure you identify this in your summary.
  • Rising action: State what actions happen between theinciting incidentand the story’s climax.
  • Climax: What is the most excitingplot pointin your book?
  • Resolution: Thesynopsisusually tells the ending, because you will use it to entice publishers to look at your work.

2. State Character Motivations

As you write your synopsis, let the reader know what is motivating your characters. For example, if you are writing a synopsis ofHarry Potter, you might say:

  • After living 11 years as an orphan with his uncle and aunt who hate him, Harry is ready for an adventure.

This tells the motivation that drives Harry’s actions throughout the story. As the synopsis unfolds, weave motivations in with the narrative.

3. Use the RightPoint of Viewand Voice

For most synopses, you will write in the third person, present tense point of view. If the literary agent does not specifically state the point of view, this is the default. Remember, this is a summary of the story and writing in this point of view and tense keeps the reader interested.

The voice of the story summary is also important. You need to use a tone that sets the same tone as your work. Choosing your wording carefully is the best way to do this, using the type of wording you would use in your story.

4. Edit and Simplify YourSynopsis

Agoodsynopsisis as short as possible with an idealword countof between 500 and 700 words. After writing, go through it with a fine-tooth comb. Eliminate any unnecessary details orplot pointsthat aren’t essential to the story.

As you edit, make sure every sentence and word is clear. This is not the place to have an opening that hooks the reader but leaves a lot of questions. You need it to be interesting, but simple and to-the-point.

Finally, make sure thenovelsynopsisflows. Have other people read it to ensure it is clear and concise, not choppy orwordy.


One way to learn to write asynopsisis to look at good examples from books you know well. Here are some professionalsynopsesof popular works:

Great ExpectationsSynopsis

The Oxford Companion to English Literature published this synopsis of Great Expectations, the famous novel by Charles Dickens.

“Phillip Pirrip, more commonly known as “Pip,” has been brought up by his tyrannical sister, wife of the gentle Joe Gargery. He is introduced to the house of Miss Havisham who, half-crazed by the desertion of her lover on her bridal night, has brought up the girl Estella to use her beauty as a means of torturing men. Pip falls in love with Estella and aspires to become a gentleman.

Money and expectations of more wealth come to him from a mysterious source, which he believes to be Miss Havisham. He goes to London, and in his new mode of life meanly abandons the devoted Joe Gargery, a humble connection of whom he is now ashamed.

Misfortunes come upon him. His benefactor proves to be an escaped convict, Abel Magwich, whom he as a boy had helped. Pip’s great expectations fade away and he is penniless. Estella meanwhile marries his sulky enemy Bentley Drummle, by whom she is cruelly ill-treated.

In the end, taught by adversity, Pip returns to Joe Gargery and honest labor. He and Estella, who has also learnt her lesson, are finally reunited.”

This is a brief, yetdetailedsynopsisof the work. It tells theinciting incidentand rising action touches on the climax and resolves the story.

Thissynopsisalso tells the motivation of the characters, one specificplot twistof the surprise benefactor and someturning pointsof the story. It is formally and smoothly written and can easily fit on asingle pageif needed.

Hunger Games Synposis

An even shortersynopsisofThe Hunger Gamescomes from Cliff’s Notes.

“In Suzanne Collins’The Hunger Games, the Capitol forces each of Panem’s 12 districts to choose two teenagers to participate in the Hunger Games, a gruesome, televised fight to the death. In the 12th district, Katniss Everdeen steps in for her little sister and enters the Games, where she is torn between her feelings for her hunting partner, Gale Hawthorne, and the district’s other tribute, Peeta Mellark, even as she fights to stay alive. The Hunger Games will change Katniss’ life forever, but her acts of humanity and defiance might just change the Games, too.”

Even though it is a shortblurb, thissynopsishas most of the elements. It tells the motivation of Katniss, to protect her sister and then to stay alive, gives one of theplot twists, her feelings between the two boys, and gives the basic story arc. However, it does not tell the ending, which would make this an incompletesynopsis.

The Final Word on What Is a Synopsis

So what is asynopsis? It is a tool to tell aliterary agentor film studio the basic plot and story arc for your work.Writingsynopseswell increases your chances of getting your work published, so this is a skill worth learning.

Keep in mind that thesynopsishas a specific job to do. It is the tool you use to get someone to notice your work and be willing to pay you for it. Write it carefully, so you can get recognition for your hard work.

FAQs on What Is aSynopsis

What is abooksynopsis?

A book synopsis tells the plot and voice of a book. Writers use these to pitch their book idea to a publisher. They typically fit on one typed page.

What is a movie synopsis?

A moviesynopsistells the plot, characters, and storyline of a movie’s screenplay. It is used to sell the film to industry higher-ups and entice them to read the entire screenplay in the hopes of creating the movie.

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