An Unlikely Lesson in Synopsis Writing

This weekend I took my kids to see Madagascar 3. It was silly, and I can’t get the circus song out of my head. My kids liked it, though.

Yesterday, I took them to the bookstore. My kids prowled the childrens’ section, scoping out their next reading selections. My eldest came back with two chapter books. My youngest with two early readers, one of which was…Madagascar 3.


I didn’t want to buy it. Call me a snob, but I don’t typically buy derivative/commercial books. I prefer original stories. But he’s just starting to read and I wanted to get something I knew he’d enjoy. So I bought the book.

As I read it with him, I quickly understood that the book would be a summary of the movie.

And then I realized what it also was: a synopsis.

The entire 80-some minute movie summed up in 43 sentences that touch on every major plot point.

Lately I’ve been working on various-lengthed synopses for my query packages to send to agents.  Reading this derivative, commercial, silly book that my snobbish book-self didn’t want to buy showed me how to boil down a lengthy work into one or two pages, while still making it readable and entertaining.

An unlikely lesson in an unlikely place.

The next time you’re at the bookstore, pick up one of those early reader (level 2 or so) books based on a movie you’re familiar with and see what I mean. It’s eye-opening. It also makes writing a synopsis that much easier.