Q. I've just finished polishing a screenplay for a family drama, and now I'm writing a synopsis. Generally how long should a synopsis for a 120 page screenplay be? Should the format match the formatting of the cover letter or be closer to manuscript format?
First of all, I try very hard to avoid writing synopses. It's very hard to write a synopsis that communicates not only the plot, but the essence of the characters, the tone of the story, etc. ... I mean, I just wrote the damn script with all that stuff in it, and it took 100+ pages to get it all across!
If someone insists I write a synopsis, what I usually write is a pitch. The difference is that a pitch is not really intended to give away the whole story -- why would you want to do that? -- but to get them to read the screenplay. So a pitch tends to be long on setup, increasingly brief throughout the second act, and full of hype and handwaving about the third act. First act: establish characters, tone, theme, etc. Last act: pure sizzle.
How long? I dunno. Couple pages. What I do is write down the story off the top of my head, the way I'd tell it to someone. That usually ends up being about two or three pages long. Again: the point is to get people to read your script. Any more detail than necessary and you're just giving them additional reasons to say no.
Q. But I'm planning to query agents. Won't I need to include a synopsis with my query?
Oh, Lordy, no! Do not even offer a synopsis unless someone asks for it.
Send in your query. If they like your hook, they should ask to read the script. If by some fluke they ask for a synopsis, then send them a pitch.
Labels: Crafty TV Writing