Article

Important Facts About Writing A Synopsis Or Treatment

Written by: David S. Freeman
Published: Feb 11, 2009
 

WHAT IS A TREATMENT, AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM A SYNOPSIS?

Often, in selling an idea to Hollywood, circumstances require that you write a "treatment" -- an engaging synopsis of your idea or story. The difference is length. Usually, anything longer than 2 ½ - 3 pages is called a treatment. What's required here at InkTip is a synopsis of 1 page or shorter. You can write a treatment as well, but that is optional.

WHAT DOES ONE AIM FOR IN A TREATMENT OR SYNOPSIS?

Treatments and synopses are selling tools. To the degree possible, you want to:

1) Relay the plot and make it sound fascinating;

2) Make sure the treatment is a "page turner" -- that it's a quick read;

3) Use colorful adjectives and especially verbs. In a treatment, a person doesn't "sit down on a couch" -- they "plop down on the couch."

4) Quickly give the reader a sense of the main characters and their emotional growth as the story progresses;

5) Capture the "feeling" of the film or movie-of-the-week you're trying to sell. That is, a comedy treatment should be funny to read. An action treatment should be exciting to read. A thriller treatment should keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat.

Obviously, the longer the synopsis or treatment, the easier it is to accomplish 1 - 5 above. However, at InkTip, synopses must be no longer than one page. Therefore, rewrite it as many times as needed to accomplish as much of 1 - 5 as you can.

WHAT FONT SHOULD ONE USE?

Once upon a time, treatments were written using 12-point courier font. However, there are no absolutes on this. Just be aware that most other fonts squeeze letters together more tightly, making the treatment a slower read.

Sometimes I'll use Courier or Arial and bold it, sometimes not. Whether to bold it or not might depend on how darkly your printer prints, what version of the fonts you're using, and whether or not you're handing in something on paper or on screen.

Courier especially tends to be so light that I bold it but print it with my printer on the "light" setting.

By the way, if you search for fonts you can purchase online, you can find many places that sell a "Courier Medium." That would be fine if you're printing your synopsis or emailing it as a PDF. If you're emailing it as a Word doc, that wouldn't work because the receiver wouldn't have that font and it would be converted to something else on the receiving end.

CAPITALIZING NAMES

Remember to capitalize the name of a character the first time he or she appears in your treatment. This is similar to what you'd do in a script.

HOW LONG SHOULD A TREATMENT BE?

This last section only applies if, in addition to the synopsis, you also wish to write a treatment.

Probably the biggest mistake people make in writing treatments is that they make them too long. Executives in Hollywood hate to read, for they always have so much reading to do. Don't make your treatment overly detailed.

A treatment can be single spaced if it's 1 to 3 pages (with an extra space between the paragraphs) -

- or up to 7 or 8 pages (although this is on the long side; 4 or 5 pages is much better) if you're using 1 1/2 spaces between lines. (It's still good to insert an extra space between paragraphs).

Not everyone inserts an extra space between paragraphs. However, I think it makes for an easier read.