Manusskriving: Begrepsforklaring

Sometimes the different terms, when talking about screenwriting, can be quite confusing. What is a synopsis, step-out line or treatment? Here are some explanations of the most common used.

What is a synopsis?
A synopsis is almost like the reviews you will find on the back of a book, except it is written before the script and often contains the ending. The great thing about the synopsis is that it is a tool for both the producer and the screenwriter. Basically the synopsis sums up the script in a page or two (for a feature film) and contains most of the following elements: the characters, the story / plot, the setting, the style, descriptions of one or two of the most important scenes and maybe one or two lines of the best dialogue.

There are not many rules to creating a synopsis and there are many variations out there. Your hands are free. The most important things to make sure of are that the synopsis gives a true depiction of the film you want to make and that this turns out thrilling and amusing to read. That means the synopsis has to contain the absolute core of the story with a clear image of the protagonist, but also there has to be some style and variation in the text so it doesn’t get too schematic and people get bored reading it.

Writing a synopsis is all about prioritizing, because it should be short and concise. The shorter the better as long as it doesn’t miss important parts. Actually when you look up the word ”concise” in the dictionary, it says: ”Short and to the point”. That’s exactly what the synopsis should be... besides that it is just like doing an abstract painting. No rules apply!

Here are some short synopsis examples of some well known films (all written by dvoted), to give an idea!

What is a treatment?
Compared to the synopsis a treatment is very simple to explain, because it is basically the script without dialogue. A lot of writers write the text in the treatment in the same way as the text in the synopsis, but  if some cruel producer ever forces you to do a treatment, you will save a whole lot of time by doing the text in the exact same way as in the script. Then you’ll only have to fill in the dialogue to finish the script instead of having to rewrite the entire text of the action.

As opposed to the synopsis, the treatment is separated in scenes just like the script. So it consists of scene headings with the action of each scene and it’s usually about 30-35 pages for a feature film.
The treatment is used as a tool for the producer to have a detailed overview of the script before the actual script. The side effect of the treatment is that it is quite an exhaustive step for the screenwriter to do, since you might as well write the entire script. So it is not a preliminary step for the writer, but it can be a good way to get closer to the final script before you write the dialogue. Then you still have a pretty good overview of the scenes and can more easily move them around and experiment. It’s really all a matter of taste, of how you like to work and what works for you.

What is a step-out line?
This is a very, very useful tool for the writer. Producers can read this, but they tend not to, because it is the writer's document. A tool for plotting, a step-out is an overview of all your scenes. You have the scene heading and some text about what happens in the scene.

It’s a good idea to split up the actual text into three lines. That gives you one line for the status quo, one line for the turning point and one for the ending of the scene. This ensures that your scene will have some sort of development and movement.
It will look something like this:

INT. COFFEE SHOP – DAY

Susan is laughing at Peter’s joke. She puts on some more lipstick.
 
Suddenly Peter tells her that he’s going to the moon tomorrow.
 
Susan leaves the coffee shop. Peter runs after her.

The cool thing about the step-out is that, you can easily print it out, cut the scenes out, arrange them in different ways and remove or add scenes to get an idea of the best flow. Unlike the treatment, the step-out is quite fast to create and probably more useful.

Written by Kim Blidorf