Episode 068

The Dreaded Synopsis

One of the big boss fights of querying is the synopsis. D.C. and Avery discuss what a synopsis is, why it exists, and our best tips for drafting your own.

Items Mentioned:

Synopsis format:

  • 12pt Times New Roman font, single-spaced, 1-inch margins.
  • When mentioning a character for the first time, write their name in ALL CAPS. Any later mentions of that character will be in standard Proper Noun Case.

Sample Synopsis: The Lion King

This synopsis uses the traditional formatting, capitalizing names on their first appearance. It also fits within one page single-spaced. Note the things that are left out. There’s no mention of Zazu the advisor, or Sarabi, Simba’s mother. Hyenas are not named. Subplots like the romance are mostly left out as well, since they’re incidental to this plot. (In a romance novel, this would be different).

Lion cub SIMBA is the heir to the throne of the Pride Lands, a title currently held by his father, MUFASA. Simba daydreams about his future as king as he plays and runs about with his equally-rambunctious best friend, NALA.

While showing Simba his kingdom from the top of a high ridge, Mufasa tells Simba about the circle of life, the ecosystem that keeps everything in balance. Noticing a shadowed area in the distance, Simba asks about it and is forbidden from going there. The next day, consumed by curiosity, Simba and Nala slip away from their chaperone to explore the shadowy area, which turns out to be an elephant graveyard inhabited by hungry and violent hyenas, who attack the cubs.

Mufasa comes to the rescue, arriving just in time to fend off the hyenas and chastise the cubs as they head home. Meanwhile, it’s revealed that the hyenas work for SCAR, Mufasa’s ambitious and jealous brother. He tells the hyenas of his plot to murder Mufasa and Simba, so that he can inherit the throne.

Scar orchestrates Mufasa’s death in a wildebeest stampede, also expecting Simba’s death, but Simba manages to survive. Since Mufasa was coming to see Simba when he was caught in the stampede, Simba believes it’s his fault that Mufasa died. He flees the Pride Lands in shame.

Simba is found unconscious by the wise-cracking meerkat TIMON and the dim-witted warthog PUMBAA, who take him in. Simba grows to adulthood in the jungle alongside the two, living a life of leisure and forsaking his past.

Then Nala arrives at their location. She’s been searching far and wide for food, and reveals that Scar’s rule has led to mass starvation and tyranny. The lion pride thinks Simba died in the same stampede that killed Mufasa. Timon and Pumbaa are shocked to realize their friend is a long-lost royal. Nala urges Simba to return home, but he refuses out of fear and shame over Mufasa’s death.

To clear his head, Simba goes for a walk and has a vision of his father telling him to go back. He also runs into his father’s old advisor, the baboon RAFIKI, who has caught wind of Simba’s possible survival and is seeking him. Rafiki speaks in riddles that make Simba realize he has to go home and take the throne from Scar to save the Pride Lands. He leaves, while Rafiki goes to tell Timon, Pumbaa, and Nala.

Timon, Pumbaa, and Nala follow Simba, where they meet up and hatch a plan to distract the hyenas so Simba can confront Scar. When Simba faces him, Scar cowers and blames everything on the hyenas. Simba offers him mercy if Scar goes into exile, but Scar attacks when Simba turns his back.

Scar and Simba fight. During the battle, Scar falls from their location down to where the hyenas lurk below. They overheard him blaming everything on them and disparaging them, so they kill him.

Simba ascends to the throne and restores peace to the Pride Lands, while his pride drives out the hyenas who have over-hunted. The famine ends, and he and Nala continue the line of succession with the birth of their own cub.

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