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ServiceScape Incorporated

An Example Synopsis for Book-Length Fiction

Authors going through the manuscript querying process or entering writing contests must provide a synopsis of their work, along with a portion of the manuscript. After writing a 65,000+ page work, it can be hard to narrow that down to a 1-page synopsis, especially if you've invested a lot of time and emotion into the plot. You might be asking yourself: What's important to note? What should be left out? And most of all, how can I compress a complicated plotline into 1 page of writing?

To help authors through this process, we've provided example synopsis of a popular thriller, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. In this example, you'll see what needs to be included, as well as how to match the style and feel of the manuscript with the synopsis of it.

Dos and don'ts

  • DO write in active voice and show the entire narrative arc.
  • DO write clearly but show your "voice".
  • DO show how major conflicts are resolved in the last paragraph.
  • DO begin with a strong paragraph identifying your protagonist, conflict, and setting.
  • DON'T include too much detail about plot turns and twists.
  • DON'T write a back-cover blurb instead of a synopsis.
  • DON'T mention too many characters or events.
  • DON'T go over 1 page, single-spaced.

The synopsis format

  1. Begin with a strong paragraph identifying your protagonist, problem or conflict, and setting.
  2. The next paragraph should convey any major plot turns or conflicts necessary and any characters that should be mentioned in order for your book summary to make sense to whoever is reading it.
  3. Indicate how major conflicts are resolved in the last paragraph. This ensures a clear presentation of your book or novel and doesn't leave the reader confused.

Example synopsis

Investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist, from Stockholm, Sweden, wants to clear his name from a libel conviction over a story he wrote about a powerful man named Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Following his trial, Blomkvist is focused on clearing his name when he receives a mysterious phone call from a lawyer representing Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of Vanger Corporation, requesting Blomkvist's presence. In that meeting, Vanger reveals details of the mysterious disappearance of his 16-year-old grand-niece, Harriet Vanger. Vanger then requests that Blomkvist solve the puzzle, with generous financial compensation along with the necessary documentation Blomkvist needs to prove that Wennerstrom is indeed a criminal.

Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander, a 24-year-old hacker, is tasked with investigating Blomkvist as a private investigator for Milton Securities—a job she was able to secure through the help of her guardian, Holger Palmgren. It is revealed that she came from a troubled childhood and her lack of cooperation caused her to be declared mentally incompetent as a young girl. Her life is further threatened when her guardian has a stroke and she is placed under the guardianship of Nils Bjurman, a sadistic man who rapes her repeatedly. Salandar blackmails her guardian to get control over her own finances and is offered a chance to join Blomkvist in his investigation of Harriet's disappearance.

Salandar and Blomkvist discover that Harriet was not killed, but she had connected murders of women across Sweden in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s to Bible verses from Leviticus. They eventually learn that Harriet suspected her father, Gottfried Vanger, and her brother, Martin Vanger (the CEO of Vanger Corporation) were the murderers and fled to escape her brother who (like his father) violently raped her. Salandar and Blomkvist confront Martin, resulting in his suicide, and then find Harriet in Australia to tell her he is dead and reunite her with her uncle (Henrik).

Blomkvist is then given the information on Wennerstrom but is disappointed to learn that it is too old to be used in court. Salandar then informs Blomkvist that she has copied Wennerstrom's computer onto her servers and he can access it all to write the article. Blomkvist then writes the article, as well as an extensive report on Wennerstrom's corruption, as Salander siphons millions of dollars from Wennerstrom's accounts into accounts of her own.

Realizing her attraction and love for Blomkvist, Salandar decides to tell him but backs out as she sees him enter his apartment with another woman.

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