The ideal synopsis is scaled down, fat tree, and low calorie. It is brief, to the point, and free of unnecessary detail. Defined, a synopsis is a narrative summary of the main action of a manuscript.

General Information

  1. Use the format requested by the publisher’s or agent’s guidelines, single or double spaced.
  2. Write in present tense, third person.
  3. Use action verbs instead of adjectives.
  4. Provide important or unusual background material that is necessary to know.
  5. Include the five W’s: who, what, why, when and where.
  6. Show the tone of the manuscript: humorous, sexy, emotional, serious, dangerous, etc.
  7. Weave in the subplot, if there is one.
  8. Avoid clichés.
  9. Do not leave unanswered questions.
  10. Do not include minute details.
  11. Do not use dialogue.
  12. Do not include excerpts from the manuscript.

General Layout


  1. Begin with a sunning narrative hook that establishes the theme of the book and the conflict.
  2. Start where the excitement of the story begins.
  3. Quickly establish who the characters are, the time period, and the setting.
  4. Introduce the main characters with short, vivid sketches that show their goals, motivations, fears, uniqueness, conflicts and goals. Show how their goals clash.
  5. Describes the first meeting of the hero and heroine, in a romance.
  6. Introduce the external conflict and the action that sets it up.

Main Body:

  1. Keep the paragraphs tight and to the high points of the story development.
  2. Relate the formidable obstacles that arise chronologically.
  3. Move the plot forward, expand on the characters’ motivations, and give more insight into the characters.
  4. Each scene revealed must have action, reaction, and a decision made.
  5. Build the tension, including sexual tension.
  6. By the end of this section, either the internal or the external conflict must resurface.
  7. Show the characters’ emotional growth as the complications are or are not resolved.
  8. Reveal events leading up to the black moment.


  1. Reveal the climactic scene where the characters must solve their problems in a simple, tight explanation.
  2. Show the main characters’ reactions.
  3. Tie up all loose ends and show the resolution of complications.
  4. Show the characters’ growth.
  5. In a romance, reveal the happily-ever-after scene.

The Smarts Button

This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.