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The Playwrights Forum > The Art & Craft of Writing > Synopses and Cover Letters > reveal surprise twist in synopsis - yes or no?

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 Posted: Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 04:57 am
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spiny norman
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Mana: 
i read somewhere (maybe here) that if you have a twist in your play, you should reveal it in your synposis and not just say, "you'll have to read the entire script to find out!"

i have two plays with surprises in them and am reluctant to include them in the synopsis because i want the reader to have the same experience an audience would have when coming to the story for the first time.

after reading these, would you be more inclined to ask to read the whole play to find out what happens or would you be less likely to request the entire script because you think it's a cheap ploy to get your attention?



"Cannibals Alone"

Drama
Full-length, Single Set, 4 Female


The play is set in the very near future when a deadly disease is
ravaging the country.  All citizens are required to submit to periodic
blood tests and those testing positive are immediately taken off to a
"Quarantine Center."  In response, an Underground Railroad-type of
organization has sprung up to help those trying to escape the Medical
Police and flee to Canada.

The action is set in a rented cabin somewhere in the woods of the great
American Northwest.  Rae and Mags, friends since childhood, have become involved with escaping "runners" since Rae's brother George (who was suffering from the disease in hiding) was turned into the government and taken away.  In the course of the play, they receive two visitors - Callie (in Act One) who has just broken out of a
Quarantine Center and Val (in Act Two) who has tested positive but who
has escaped the Medical Police before being taken away.

These two visitors have unknowingly picked the wrong time to come by as
the relationship between Mags and Rae is beginning to fall apart.  Rae,
who is committed to continuing her involvement with runners even to her
death, has just discovered that Mags has been sneaking into a nearby
town to seek the company of others.  Caught, Mags confesses to wanting
to give up their work in order to live a safer, more normal life.
Rather than concentrating on helping their guests, Rae and Mags instead
manipulate them in an attempt to sway each other into going along with
their own desires.

Just when you think you know what's going on, however, there is a
devastating twist that will have you reconsidering all the assumptions
that you have made about the situation and the main characters...




"Red Herrings"

Comedy/Thriller
Full-Length, Single Set, 3 Female, 3 Male

Psychic Madame Lacy Eugenia is using her "gift" to find the kidnapped
grand-baby of a local millionaire despite Sheriff Buckman's belief that
she is a fake and her information comes not from beyond the grave but
from her best client, his mother.  Her efforts are interrupted by the
arrival of her estranged daughter Sophie who is on the run from her
abusive boyfriend Eddie.  When Eddie shows up, things are bound to
get...complicated.  Even the presence of Lacy's long-time companion, a
stage magician and ventriloquist known as "The Amazing Vic" isn't enough
to keep Eddie in line.  Baby, baby, who's got the baby...and who's going
to find her and collect the reward?

This clever thriller follows in the tradition of "Deathtrap" and "The
Sting."



thoughts?

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 Posted: Fri Jan 4th, 2008 09:47 pm
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leon
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Mana: 
hi spiny.  and is that your real name?

the first play sounds interesting, but i would do away with the last paragraph.  i would bring the reader to the point of the big decision, but not tell the reader which choice was made.

 

the second play sounds wonderful.  i'd like to read it someday.  just love the idea of a comedy with fake psychics and mediums.  i think that synopsis is pretty good as is.

 

one thing i would add is i know when writing a synopsis, you'd like to include all the characters.  but sometimes that does make the reading a little confusing.  which is another good question for synopsis writers.  do you try to include all the characters and a little about what each wants, or do you stick with the most intriguing storyline, and try to get your reader's attention, using as few character descriptions as you can?

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 Posted: Sun Jan 6th, 2008 05:46 am
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katoagogo
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Mana: 

Last edited on Sun Nov 8th, 2015 07:18 pm by katoagogo

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 Posted: Mon Jan 7th, 2008 03:22 am
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leon
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Mana: 

"Leon's point about the names of the characters along with descriptions are also extra words. Character descriptions will be covered on the page with the character descriptions."

yes, i agree with pretty much everything kato says.  i got the impression that spiny was trying to give the reader an idea of what each character wants (and tell the theatre age/sex/type for casting) but it detracts from the story.

in screenwriting they teach you to pitch the script.  you have to memorize your pitch and be ruthless as to how brief and powerful you can make it.  you have to make your listener (in less than a minute) say, "I must read that script."

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 Posted: Tue Jan 8th, 2008 03:51 pm
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katoagogo
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Mana: 

Last edited on Sun Nov 8th, 2015 07:18 pm by katoagogo

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 Posted: Tue Jan 8th, 2008 05:15 pm
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katoagogo
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Mana: 
Also -- here is a link to a thread about character descriptions that might be helpful:

http://www.stageplays-forum.com/forum9/1198.html

Last edited on Tue Jan 8th, 2008 05:16 pm by katoagogo

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 Posted: Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 06:26 pm
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Steamboat Chambers
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Mana: 
I agree with Leon. The second one will stand strong as is, I believe. We meet everyone and learn about the plot in a very short amount of space. That plot grabbed my interest. You're on to something good there. I too would love to see that play on the board to read.

I had one question you may like to consider. In the line that follows...

Psychic Madame Lacy Eugenia is using her "gift" to find the kidnapped
grand-baby of a local millionaire despite Sheriff Buckman's belief that
she is a fake and her information comes not from beyond the grave but
from her best client, his mother. 

...I assume the mother is Sheriff Buckman's, not the millionaire's.

Cheers,

S.C.

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 Posted: Tue Feb 26th, 2008 05:54 pm
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IanFraser
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Mana: 
Just my two cents worth - I kind of feel that ones story should stand on its own, when selling it, regardless of the twists and turns contained within the plot.

Being overly concerned about the selling of the 'surprise twists' in the plot, in some ways is to be almost suggesting to companies that your story isn't good enough, in your view and that there are additional 'gimmicks' that you're telling them about, to make it seem 'better' somehow. (Not that surprise twists are 'gimmicks', by any means) - but it almost conveys a sense of not trusting in the value of your story to start with.

If your story/dialog/plot is great, then the additional cherries on the cake (surprise twists etc) will get found by the theatre companies reading the scripts - and don't need to be dangled in front of them, as some kind of additional inducement to read the work..

/my two cents worth :)


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 Posted: Thu Aug 8th, 2013 04:40 pm
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Awfly Wee Eli
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Mana: 
I'm reviving this long-dormant thread to ask a similar (but not identical!) question.

I've written a one-act in which the two main characters are trans*. This isn't an M. Butterfly-esque "shocking revelation"; their status is made clear fairly early on. However, while their being trans* is relevant to the plot, it's perfectly possible (and in fact smoother) to write a synopsis that doesn't mention it at all. Obviously, I would include it in a full plot summary, but in a shorter "teaser" synopsis, I've found no way to include it that doesn't seem clunky or gimmicky.

Should I find a way to include it anyway, or leave it as-is? The question is especially pertinent when I'm submitting to LGBTQIA theaters and festivals. Mentioning it feels tacked-on, but not mentioning it obscures the queer content, which might make a group's script-readers more likely to bypass it, assuming it doesn't fit the criteria.

What's a girl to do?

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 Posted: Thu Aug 8th, 2013 04:49 pm
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Paddy
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Mana: 
Usually you are also required to send a character breakdown, and you can include it in that.

Easy? Too easy?

Paddy

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 Posted: Thu Aug 8th, 2013 05:12 pm
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Awfly Wee Eli
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Mana: 
No, I totally get that, Paddy; that's just good sense. Thank you for reminding me of that option.

I'm running into a lot of folks who want a teaser-type synopsis as part of a cover letter or introductory email and the character breakdown as part of the main material of the submission--that is, they encounter the synopsis right off the bat but the character breakdown is part of the attachment--so if the synopsis doesn't convince them, they might not even make it to the character breakdown. Grr. Juggling this stuff is hard. Waah.

OK, that's it; pity-party over.

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 Posted: Thu Aug 8th, 2013 05:15 pm
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Paddy
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Mana: 
Okay. The thing is to get them to read it. The teaser is more for the audience. Whatever it takes to get them to read it - do it. And breathe.

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 Posted: Fri Oct 4th, 2013 08:17 pm
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shirleyk
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Mana: 
Paddy, I totally agree. Whatever it takes. My own synopses are very short and to the point. Sometimes I reveal twists/surprises and sometimes not, but I always include a character list with very brief information about each character.

Shirley

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