How Do I Write A Synopsis?

So you’ve finished your novel, and now you’re faced with the daunting task of condensing it into a brief synopsis. But fear not! In this article, we’ll explore the step-by-step process of writing a captivating synopsis that captures the essence of your story and leaves readers eager to dive into your book. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting your literary journey, we’ve got you covered. By the end of this article, you’ll have all the tools you need to craft a compelling synopsis that showcases the heart of your story in an approachable and engaging way.

What is a Synopsis?

A synopsis is a concise summary that provides an overview of a story, whether it be a novel, screenplay, or any other form of narrative. It condenses the main plot, highlights the key elements, and gives the reader a glimpse into the characters, setting, and conflict. A well-written synopsis aims to capture the essence of the story and entice the audience to explore it further.

Definition of a Synopsis

A synopsis is a brief summary of a narrative work that outlines its main points, plot, and characters. It serves as a snapshot of the story, giving the reader or reviewer a clear understanding of what the work is about.

Purpose of a Synopsis

The primary purpose of a synopsis is to provide enough information to entice readers, agents, or publishers to want to delve into the full story. It acts as a marketing tool, giving a taste of the narrative while leaving enough curiosity to encourage further exploration. It also helps authors and screenwriters organize their thoughts and ensure a cohesive structure for their work.

Understanding the Audience

Identifying the Target Audience

When writing a synopsis, it is crucial to consider who your target audience is. Are you targeting agents and publishers? Do you want to entice readers browsing bookshelves or online retailers? Identifying your audience will help you tailor the tone, language, and emphasis in your synopsis to match their expectations and interests.

Tailoring the Synopsis

Take into account the preferences and expectations of your target audience while crafting your synopsis. If you are targeting agents and publishers, focus on the elements that will capture their attention, such as the unique aspects of your story, marketability, and potential target readership. On the other hand, if you are writing a synopsis for readers, emphasize the aspects that will engage and hook them, such as compelling characters, interesting conflicts, and an enticing setting.

Key Elements of a Synopsis

A well-written synopsis should include several key elements that provide a comprehensive overview of the story.


Start your synopsis with a clear and engaging title. It should capture the essence of your story and pique the reader’s curiosity.


In the introduction, briefly introduce the world of your story, its time period, and any other relevant background information. This sets the stage for the main plot and helps the reader understand the context of the story.

Main Plot

The main plot is the central storyline of your narrative. Summarize the key events, turning points, and major conflicts that drive the story forward. Be concise, but ensure that the reader gets a sense of the overall narrative arc.


If your story includes subplots, briefly mention them in the synopsis. While not as detailed as the main plot, touch on the key elements of each subplot and how they intertwine with the main storyline.

Character Descriptions

Introduce your main characters and provide a brief description of their personalities and motivations. Highlight their roles within the story and how they contribute to the overall narrative.


Describe the setting of your story, including the time period, location, and any other relevant details. The setting helps create the atmosphere and context for the events of the story.


Focus on the central conflict or conflicts that drive the story. Identify the main obstacles your characters face and the consequences of their actions. The conflict adds tension and keeps the reader engaged.


Explain how the conflict is resolved and provide a glimpse of the conclusion of the story. Keep it concise, but ensure that the reader gets a sense of the resolution and the ultimate fate of the characters.


Describe the final moments of your story without revealing too much. Create intrigue and curiosity by hinting at the resolution without spoiling any major twists or surprises.

Length and Format

Determining the Appropriate Length

The length of a synopsis can vary depending on the requirements set by agents, publishers, or submission guidelines. Typically, synopses range from one to five pages, but the best approach is to follow the specific guidelines provided. If there are no specific guidelines, aim for a concise but comprehensive summary that captures the essence of your story.

Formatting Guidelines

When formatting your synopsis, use a clear and legible font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, with a standard font size, such as 12-point. Use double spacing and include a header with your name and the title of your work. Align the text to the left and consider using subheadings for each major section to enhance readability.

Steps to Write a Synopsis

Step 1: Read and Analyze the Story

Before you can write a synopsis, you need a thorough understanding of your own story. Read your manuscript or screenplay carefully, paying attention to the main plot, subplots, characters, and key moments. Take notes on the essential elements that need to be included in your synopsis.

Step 2: Identify the Main Elements

Based on your analysis, identify the main elements of your story, such as the central conflict, key characters, and significant plot points. These elements will form the backbone of your synopsis.

Step 3: Craft a Compelling Summary

Using the key elements you identified, craft a compelling summary that captures the essence of your story. Focus on the main plot, emphasizing the most significant events and conflicts. Keep it concise, engaging, and true to the tone of your story.

Step 4: Edit and Revise

Once you have written the first draft of your synopsis, revise and edit it for clarity, conciseness, and coherence. Check for grammar and spelling errors, and ensure that it flows smoothly from one section to another. Consider seeking feedback from trusted readers or professionals to polish your synopsis further.

Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Synopsis

Do: Focus on the Main Storyline

Keep the focus of your synopsis on the main storyline. Include the most important events and characters that drive the narrative forward.

Do: Include Key Characters

Introduce your key characters and briefly describe their roles and motivations. Show how they contribute to the main conflict and resolution.

Do: Highlight the Conflict and Resolution

Ensure that the central conflict and its resolution are clearly emphasized in your synopsis. This is often the most compelling aspect of a story and will grab the attention of the reader.

Don’t: Include Every Detail

Avoid including every detail and minor subplot in your synopsis. Stick to the main elements that drive the story and keep it concise.

Don’t: Reveal Major Twists or Spoilers

While you want to entice the reader, avoid revealing major twists or spoilers in your synopsis. Keep some surprises for when they dive into the full story.

Examples and Templates

Example of a Fiction Synopsis

Here’s an example of a fiction synopsis for a mystery novel:

Title: “The Missing Key”

Introduction: In the quiet town of Oakville, Detective Sarah Williams investigates a string of mysterious burglaries targeting prominent figures. She soon discovers a baffling pattern that points to a secretive group operating from the shadows.

Main Plot: As Sarah delves further into the case, she uncovers a web of deceit, betrayal, and hidden agendas. Racing against time, she must unmask the true culprits and prevent a catastrophic event that could shatter the town’s peace.

Character Descriptions: Sarah Williams, a dedicated and persistent detective with a troubled past, leads the investigation. John Thompson, Sarah’s partner and confidant, assists her on the case. Ashley Johnson, a key witness with a secret, becomes entangled in the dangerous web.

Setting: The story takes place in the small and close-knit community of Oakville, known for its picturesque landscapes and friendly residents. The town’s idyllic charm contrasts with the sinister activities that threaten to unravel its tranquility.

Conflict: Sarah faces various obstacles, including false leads, internal department politics, and personal doubts. As the burglaries escalate, the stakes rise, and Sarah finds herself facing a formidable enemy willing to do anything to protect their interests.

Resolution: Sarah uncovers the secrets behind the burglaries and exposes the mastermind orchestrating the events. Through her determination and resourcefulness, she saves the town from disaster and finds closure for her own past.

Ending: The story concludes with Sarah reflecting on the lessons learned and the newfound strength she has gained. Oakville remains a symbol of resilience and community, forever changed by the events that unfolded.

Example of a Non-Fiction Synopsis

Here is an example of a non-fiction synopsis for a self-help book:

Title: “The Power of Positivity: Unlocking Your Full Potential”

Introduction: In “The Power of Positivity,” renowned psychologist Dr. Emily Richards explores the transformative effects of positive thinking and provides practical strategies to cultivate a positive mindset.

Main Plot: Drawing upon extensive research and real-life examples, Dr. Richards delves into the science behind positivity and its impact on mental health, relationships, and overall well-being. She reveals how positive thinking can lead to increased resilience, improved performance, and a happier, more fulfilling life.

Subplots: Alongside scientific insights, the book includes personal anecdotes from individuals who have embraced positivity and experienced significant changes in their lives. These stories highlight the power of personal growth, self-reflection, and gratitude in fostering positive change.

Character Descriptions: As a renowned psychologist and expert in positive psychology, Dr. Emily Richards shares her expertise and passion for helping individuals unlock their full potential. Through her engaging and relatable writing style, she guides readers on a transformative journey towards personal growth and happiness.

Setting: “The Power of Positivity” takes place within the realm of self-improvement and mental well-being. While the book does not focus on a specific physical setting, it creates a supportive and encouraging atmosphere for readers to explore the principles of positive thinking.

Conflict: The primary conflict lies within the individual’s mind, as they grapple with negative thought patterns and self-doubt. Throughout the book, Dr. Richards addresses common barriers to positivity and provides strategies to overcome them, empowering readers to break free from negativity.

Resolution: Through practical exercises, thought-provoking prompts, and expert guidance, Dr. Richards helps readers develop a positive mindset and apply it to various aspects of their lives, be it relationships, career, or personal growth. The book aims to equip readers with the tools they need to embrace positivity and lead a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Ending: “The Power of Positivity” concludes by reinforcing the importance of continued practice and self-reflection. Dr. Richards encourages readers to embrace the journey of personal growth, knowing that positivity is a lifelong pursuit that can transform every aspect of one’s life.

Synopsis Templates

If you’re unsure how to structure your synopsis, you can find several templates and examples online. These templates offer a basic framework to follow, allowing you to fill in the details of your specific story. Adapt the templates to suit your needs while ensuring that they include the essential elements of a well-crafted synopsis.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Lack of Clarity and Conciseness

One common mistake in writing a synopsis is failing to communicate the main points clearly and concisely. Avoid excessive detail or unnecessary information that distracts from the essence of the story. Stick to the essential elements and aim for clarity in your writing.

Overcomplicating the Summary

Avoid overcomplicating your summary by including every minor subplot or excessive detail. Focus on the main plot and the most critical elements that drive the story forward. Keep it simple and engaging.

Poorly Structured Synopsis

A poorly structured synopsis can confuse or lose the reader’s interest. Take the time to organize your synopsis in a logical and coherent manner. Consider using subheadings to guide the reader through each section and create a smooth flow.

Ignoring Proofreading and Editing

Just like with any piece of writing, it’s essential to proofread and edit your synopsis for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Pay attention to clarity, cohesiveness, and overall readability. A polished synopsis demonstrates your professionalism and attention to detail.

Importance of a Well-Written Synopsis

Catching the Attention of Agents and Publishers

Agents and publishers often receive numerous submissions, and a well-written synopsis can make yours stand out from the rest. It acts as a teaser, enticing them to read further and consider your work for publication. A compelling synopsis can make a lasting impression and increase your chances of being noticed.

Conveying the Essence of the Story

A well-crafted synopsis conveys the essence of your story in a concise manner. It allows readers, agents, or publishers to grasp the main plot, the central conflicts, and the unique elements that make your work compelling. It gives them a taste of what to expect and leaves them eager to explore the full narrative.

Creating Interest and Hooking Readers

A synopsis serves as a tool to create interest and hook potential readers. It offers a glimpse into your story’s world, characters, and conflicts, leaving them intrigued and wanting to know more. A well-written synopsis can be the gateway to capturing the attention of readers and drawing them into your narrative.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long should a synopsis be?

The length of a synopsis can vary depending on the specific guidelines provided by agents, publishers, or submission requirements. Typically, synopses range from one to five pages, but it’s best to adhere to the guidelines provided to ensure you meet the expectations of the recipient.

Should a synopsis include spoilers?

While a synopsis should provide enough information to entice readers, agents, or publishers, it is essential to avoid including major spoilers. Keep some surprises reserved for the full reading experience and provide enough information to create intrigue without giving away crucial plot twists or surprises.

Can I hire someone to write my synopsis?

If you’re struggling to write your own synopsis or feel that a professional touch may enhance its quality, you can consider hiring a professional editor or writer. They can help you craft a compelling and effective synopsis that captures the essence of your story, but remember that ultimately, the story and its details should come from you.

Should I mention my writing style in the synopsis?

While it is not necessary to explicitly mention your writing style in the synopsis, your writing style should naturally come through in the presentation and tone of your synopsis. Focus on conveying the story and its key elements, and let your writing style shine through in the way you present and describe your narrative.

In conclusion, writing a synopsis is an essential skill for any writer or author. It allows you to summarize and present your story in a concise and engaging manner, capturing the attention of readers, agents, or publishers. By understanding the key elements, tailoring the synopsis to your audience, and following the steps and guidelines outlined, you can create a well-written synopsis that conveys the essence of your story and hooks your audience from the start.

My Writing Pays uses Accessibility Checker to monitor our website's accessibility.