Synopsis Example (Thriller): “Spartan”

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 Spartan (2004), a tightly-wound thriller. As with thrillers, there are lots of twists and turns, and I had to leave a lot out of the synopsis so it would flow quickly. One thing to notice here is that the character of Bobby Scott, who is by far the biggest character in the movie, is not well defined in this synopsis. That’s because Bobby is kind of an enigma in the film, and he is a man who has put his country first above his life and identity. But in your own synopsis, make sure you leak out details about your protagonist.


BOBBY SCOTT is a former Marine who now trains soldiers for American covert operations. He is sent to Boston for an emergency operation: LAURA NEWTON, a Harvard student and daughter of the President, is missing. Scott and other members of his unit are enlisted to find Laura before the media learn of her disappearance.

Scott discovers that Laura went to a bar to possibly prostitute herself, but she was drugged, taken to a brothel, then moved to a beach house. Scott and CURTIS, a young trainee, believe Laura was abducted by a white slavery ring (a group of international sex traffickers unaware of her identity). A local convict named TARIQ is connected to the slavery ring. While in transport for medical attention, Tariq’s police escorts are “killed” by a shotgun-wielding criminal (actually Scott, who is orchestrating the whole ruse). Tariq thanks Scott for freeing him, and promises him a flight to a Dubai safe haven and “many girls in Mascala.” Scott’s plan to infiltrate the slavery ring is working, but Tariq soon notices other cops nearby, and must be killed after he opens fire. The media announces that Laura’s body was discovered off Martha’s Vineyard, apparently the result of drowning. The rescue operation is called off and Scott returns home, where his neighbors believe he is a salesman who is often absent on business trips.

Months later, Scott is approached by the trainee Curtis, who makes a case that Laura is alive. While investigating a beach house, Curtis is killed by a sniper. Scott escapes, and realizes Laura is indeed overseas, and that the government as well as some of his own men lied to cover up the truth. Scott meets a female secret service agent who raised Laura like a daughter. The agent begs Scott to find Laura.

Deprived of the support of his unit, Scott turns to independent contacts for help and supplies. He flies to Dubai and meets an Australian contact. They inspect Mascala that night and, upon seeing Laura outside a house, move in immediately. There is a brief firefight; the Australian is killed, but Scott grabs Laura and gets away. Distraught at the way she has been treated by her father and his people, she at first objects to returning home, but eventually yields.

Scott takes her to his cargo container at the airport so she can fly safely to Geneva. Suddenly, operatives from Scott’s unit arrive, seeking to apprehend them. Scott’s own men confirm Laura’s death was faked, and that she must now be killed the ensure the cover-up is secure. Scott is shot, but he manages to kill the operatives and buy time for Laura, who runs into the open by an airplane hangar and is rescued by Swedish journalists. Laura escapes on their plane. Some time later, Scott, now recuperating in London in secret, watches Laura’s reunion with her father on TV. The media reports that, as a result of what happened, the U.S. government is now committed to end the international traffic in prostitutes.

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One thought on “Synopsis Example (Thriller): “Spartan”

  1. Todd

    Too funny that the movie you pick to show how to write a synopsis is one that I feel is one of the most underrated thrillers of the last decade. "Spartan" is a tremendous story. Good choice!


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