Capture the essence of the story. Is it a drama, a tragedy, a psychological thriller? Tell your audience about the setting, time period and theme of the story. The setting gives context to the story and offers an understanding of where the characters live and where the central conflict exists. You do not need to offer descriptions of every subplot, scene, character, or plot point. Think about this as you write your summary: You want readers to have a clear understanding about storyline, characters, what is at stake for the characters, what they stand to win or lose, and how the story wraps… how it concludes. What is essential for readers to understand the story?
Introduce the reader to your main characters. Don’t list every character in every scene, just those who drive the story. Explain what motivates them. What are their goals? According to writer Donald Miller, “The character has to want something” for the audience to care. What conflicts are in the way of the characters achieving goals? “Conflict fills the story with meaning and beauty. Conflict gives value,” … and without it there is “no character development.” Do the characters have psychological traits, feelings, or emotions that are important to understanding the story? Detailed character descriptions should only be addressed if they provide importance to the story.
Highlight the main points of the story in a linear order. Remember, there is no need to offer every single detail of each scene. You should only address the characters, conflicts, and goals that are meaningful to the reader understanding the story.
Somewhere in your review you may want to address the resolution of character-crisis. Offer an overview of what was changed in the end? Did the character overcome conflicts? OR, did the conflict(s) overcome the character(s)? Did key characters change? If so, how? Why or why not? This may also help you in understanding “the message or the moral” of the film.
Edit your summary until each word, each sentence in written concisely. You want to make sure that every word you write matters. Keep your summary tight; make it understandable; keep it to the point. Make sure your reader isn’t confused by anything within your summary. Write with focus. One sentence should flow seamlessly into the next one. When you switch between ideas, make sure that it feels fluid, natural, and that the transitions are bridges to the next sentence. As you proof your work, you may find that you see confusing events or characters within your summary, if so, find a way to simplify those sections.
Beck, V. (2005, December 26). 5 Steps to Writing A Synopsis. Retrieved from http://www.vivianbeck.com/writing/5_steps_to_writing_a_synopsis.htm
Friedman, J. (2011, October 25). Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis | Jane Friedman. Retrieved from http://janefriedman.com/2011/10/25/novel-synopsis/
Manning II, N. T. (2012, August 12). What is Story? [The Film Critic Lecture notes].
Miller, D. (2015, January 17). How to Tell a Good Story With Your Life – or – The Four Critical Elements of a Meaningful Life. Retrieved from http://storylineblog.com/2012/03/06/how-to-tell-a-good-story-with-your-life/
Shore, J. (2013, August 30). How to Write a Story Summary. Retrieved from http://classroom.synonym.com/write-short-story-summary-3223.html