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Synopsis Example: “Robocop” (Science Fiction / Cyberpunk)

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Synopsis Writing.

Here’s another example of a fiction summary, which can be used as a guide for writing your novel synopsis. (See all my synopsis examples here.) This time it’s Robocop (1987). I took a crack at this one because my synopsis examples were light on cyberpunk and science fiction stories. Notice how a lot of the action is stripped from this, and the character of Bob Morton is not even mentioned. You have to keep a synopsis moving. But as quickly as it moves, we must see the main character’s arc, and you can see Murphy’s within this text below.

(Hate writing synopses? Here are nuts & bolts pointers for you.)

 

In the near future, Detroit is on the verge of collapse due to unchecked crime. Family man and honest cop ALEX MURPHY gets transferred to the worst precinct in town and finds a new partner in tough ANNE LEWIS. On their first day together, they engage in a highway shootout with a gang of criminals. Murphy and Lewis trail the criminals to a steel mill, but they become separated and Murphy is captured. The criminals torture Murphy, and crime boss BODDICKER personally shoots him through the head. Lewis is too late to help, and finds Murphy dead.

Meanwhile, Detroit mega-corporation O.C.P. enters into a contract with the city to run the police force, effectively privatizing it. Recognizing that human law enforcers are insufficient to stop crime, OCP creates a cyborg “Robocop” program. As Officer Murphy is the most recent cop to die, he “volunteers” to be the prototype, and his body is joined with armor and artificial intelligence. All this infuriates corrupt OCP executive DICK JONES, whose own crime-stopping program was axed in favor of Robocop.

RoboCop is guided by four directives written into his programming, but only three are explained to him: 1) serve the public trust, 2) protect the innocent, and 3) uphold the law. Robocop is able to single-handedly deal with violent crime in the city, causing the rest of the police to talk of a strike in fear of being replaced. Meanwhile, RoboCop, though his mind was supposedly erased, still retains some memories of his life as Murphy, including glimpses of his wife and son. Lewis recognizes Robocop’s mannerisms, and tries to convince him that he is, in fact, Murphy — but Robocop does not understand.

In an effort to understand “Murphy,” Robocop tracks down the criminals responsible for Murphy’s death. When he finds the gang at a cocaine factory and arrests them, a panicked Boddicker reveals that he is in the employment of Dick Jones of OCP. Robocop moves to arrest Jones at OCP headquarters, but discovers that his classified fourth directive is an inability to arrest any OCP executive. Under orders from Jones, Detroit police open fire downstairs on Robocop, almost killing him. Robocop is saved by Lewis, who hides him in the same location of his death — the steel mill.

Lewis tends to RoboCop’s injuries and discovers that there is still some of Murphy’s old self present. Soon after, the police launch their long-threatened strike, sending Detroit into chaos. All criminals are released from jail — and that means Boddicker and his gang are free again. They get orders from Jones to track down and kill Robocop and Lewis. Boddicker’s team converges on the steel mill. RoboCop and Lewis defend themselves and kill the entire gang.

RoboCop returns to OCP headquarters and, crashing a meeting with the OCP president, plays back Jones’s (recorded) confession to murder. Jones grabs a gun and begins making demands. The president tells Jones “You’re fired!” and suddenly Robocop is no longer bound by Directive 4, allowing him to shoot Jones. The president commends RoboCop and asks for his name, to which he replies, “Murphy.”

(How can writers compose an exciting Chapter 1?)

 

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