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Let’s make one thing clear about writing a screenplay synopsis; it’s not the synopsis you write as a guide for yourself before you begin writing the actual screenplay. The screenplay synopsis we will be talking about here is the screenplay synopsis you would be writing after completing your screenplay. It’s the synopsis you would be enclosing when you’re submitting a query letter to a screenwriting agent.
The whole idea of a screenplay synopsis is to "titillate" the agent to lead him or her to ask you for the full screenplay. You may have written a great screenplay, but if you can’t project the potential of your screenplay via your synopsis, you may never get an agent interested in reading your screenplay and all your hard work will go to waste.
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You must be prepared for the possibility that a screenplay synopsis may be more difficult to write compared to writing a full screenplay. The reason behind this is you would have to distill the essence of your screenplay that took months to write into a single page. You may need several drafts before you end up with a screenplay synopsis that’s workable.
So, let’s look at some tips on how to write a screenplay synopsis that will help you create something that will make an agent sit up and take notice.
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If you’re having difficulty grasping the idea of a screenplay synopsis, think of it as a novel blurb, only that it’s a little longer. The idea you should have in mind is it’s a story hook.
As such, it should contain the details of the main character – who she is and what she’s after, what’s preventing her from getting it and the main conflict she would have to contend with.
You could also throw in some dramatic highlights of the story, without giving away the juicy parts. One way to interest the agent is to end the synopsis with a cliff hanger. A suitable cliff hanger would be a crucial problem the character has to overcome in Act 3 of the screenplay to achieve his or her goal.
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Some believe that you should reveal the ending to make the agent interested in your screenplay. However, if you believe you have a strong, surprise ending which you don’t want to give away, you should limit yourself to providing a hint. One good way to do this would be to pose disturbing questions which could only be answered by reading the screenplay.
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The whole idea here is to make the agent demand to read the full screenplay to learn how it’s all going to end. Just like the blurb of a novel will determine whether a reader would buy the book, a screenplay synopsis should convince the agent that you have a workable screenplay in hand.
More than trying to tell the agent the full story, you should aim to sell the agent your story. You screenplay will tell the story and your screenplay synopsis should act as the sales tool.