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When writing an episode synopsis, a number of things should be taken into consideration to promote consistency amongst the large number of other synopses from other episodes and seasons.
- Opening Statement
- Realtime (separation of realtime in some cases i.e. "On Hydra Island" - "On Main Island")
- Recurring themes
- Cultural references
- Other areas (such as literary techniques, production notes, goofs)
- Unanswered questions
At the start of an episode article, the format of the following episode should be followed:
"Maternity Leave" is the fifteenth episode of Season 2 of Lost. When Claire suspects Aaron might be sick, she sets out on a mission to find a vaccine, and on the way begins to unravel the mysteries of her past memories whilst kidnapped by Ethan on the Island. Unlike in other episodes, the flashback sequences take place on the Island.
The episode title is first given, as is its number and Season. Next, a very brief open-ended synopsis is given about what the episode entails, giving as little in spoilers as possible about what is learnt, whilst still giving a summary of what the episode will centre around. Finally, any specific details can be given if there is anything unusual about this episode, such as that it follows on from the previous one, or that all events in this episode occur in just one night, etc.
Note: these opening statements are generally very similar in form to the press release summaries of the episodes from ABCmedianet.com.
Narrative should not be written from a neutral first-person perspective, i.e. sentences should not include "we", e.g. "Kate arrived," rather than, "we then see Kate arrive." Similarly, the story itself should not be the active topic, e.g., "Jack headed back to the building to continue his search," rather than, "the next flashback shows/showed Jack head to the building to continue his search..." Continuous prose should also be used throughout.
Unlike other Lostpedia articles, the synopsis for an episode should primarily be written in present tense. This is because synopses are introducing events in a narrative fashion, as they occur, using a technique called the "historical present"; in contrast, analysis and commentary is written in the past tense because it is after-the-fact, relying on previous knowledge of the episode events. Lead sections and captions should also generally be in the present tense.
- synopsis: "Rose remarks that the sounds reminded her of where she used to live—The Bronx, New York."
- analysis: "Rose remarked that the sounds reminded her of the Bronx because some of the sound effects were borrowed from New York City taxi cabs and the like."
Flashback and Realtime
Furthermore, flashback and realtime events are separated by subheadings, so an opening line of "In flashback..." is redundant. Also flashbacks should not be numbered, but separated appropriately. If the second flashback scene follows on exactly from the first, a new paragraph is not needed. However, like in realtime events, if the next flashback takes place a day later or at a different location, then a paragraph break might be appropriate.
Essential and Non-essential Detail
As a general rule, the synopses should not follow the presentation of the transcript, for example stage direction, back-and-forth dialog paraphrasing, direct quotes, and other minor details. Many details will be left out in a synopsis; the synopsis should not be written as a twin to the transcript.
- When accounting a scene, the main conclusion of the conversation should be noted, but stage directions such as "Charlie picked up Aaron as he talked..." and the development of the dialog is not necessary. A good episode synopsis writer should try to look upon the scene from the original writer/director's point of view, noting topic and consequences to the development of the episode, rather than the minor developments from moment to moment.
- Storylines which are fairly contiguous in time should be presented in a contiguous fashion (i.e, in the same paragraph), even if the episode presented these contiguous events in separate scenes (for example, 1) minor commercial-break-cliffhanger 2) unrelated flashback, 3) continuation from cliffhanger.)
Depth of Analysis
Finally, a high level of analysis should be kept for trivia, recurring theme, cultural reference, or theory sections. Examples.
- Whilst perhaps a little analysis can be made about certain events, going into depth about some issues is not needed. A good example of something that could be mentioned is Sun looking back at Kate bathing in the Pilot. A little mention could be made about the purpose of this scene to explain why it was used (though in the confine of narrative) - e.g. Kate nodded, and with a half smile, Sun left, still in awe of Kate’s freedom to remove her layers of clothing to cool herself. This mention was necessary as Sun had only been in one other scene previously in the episode, where Jin ordered her to button up her blouse and cover herself. Thus the point is very valid as Sun would otherwise not have been in the episode at all if not for this small character arc, setting up for a later episode where she would shed her confined self.
- However, the following would be too much analysis bordering on speculation: Henry Gale instantly recited the numbers to John, suggesting that he somehow knew them. How he could have known this is so far unknown. The speculation in this scene could have been covered in theories, whilst the latter sentence is completely subjective.
Trivia sections are where more in-depth analysis takes place, with "easter eggs" and other important clues not directly relevant to the episode's progression are addressed (rather than in the synopsis). Trivia also serves as a section to assess recurring themes and connections. However, what classes as "trivia" at times can be subjective. As a rule of thumb, most interesting comments class as trivia, but under sections such as cultural references, the connections must be direct. For instance, adding that a scene from the show resembles a similar scene from popular culture should be deleted, as it is not a direct inspiration. However, if a character is wearing a movie T-shirt, that is a direct recognition and so is acceptable. Note that if there is citation for a more obscure reference (e.g. it is stated on the Official Lost podcast), then the reference shall be allowed as long as the source is added.
Recurring themes also play a main part of Lostpedia's trivia section. However, like cultural references, we ask that they are concise and generally seen by the community as intentional. For example, a digital clock saying "8:23" is quite obviously a purposefully placed reference to the Numbers. However, stating that, for instance, "4 survivors took part in the mission" is obviously a little over-analysis and probably not what the writers were thinking about when they scripted the episode. Good judgement is needed in deciding whether examples are specific enough for pages, and it's always a good idea to post in the talk page if in any doubt.
Trivia sections can vary depending on the episode. The usual format is general, recurring themes, cultural references. However, other subsections where appropriate can include parallels, production notes, continuity errors, goofs, literary techniques.
The unanswered questions section is designed to point out all mysteries that still remain to be resolved. Once a question has been answered in a later episode, we tend to go back and remove the original question as it has since been addressed. Thus, unanswered questions from Season 1 episode articles should only be ones that are still mysteries today. This is done to keep pages shorter and more concise.
With regards to the kinds of questions included, edits must be of direct relevance. For example, a question arising from "The Man Behind the Curtain" "How can only Ben see Jacob?", is acceptable as it is clearly something which has not yet been answered. However, the question "Is Ben the Monster?", would be deleted as it is a leading question and theory - and so belongs under the article's theory tab. Likewise, a question where part is leading will be deleted, such as "Why is Jacob invisible, is this connected to the Island being invisible?" (i.e. the latter clause is leading). Finally, questions about what might happen in future episodes, like "Will anyone return to the Arrow station?", should be deleted as they are hypothetical and do not relate directly to the subject as it currently stands.
Other examples of bad questions might be:
- Is Ben connected to the Adam and Eve skeletons?
- Why did Locke stop Sayid from contacting help? Is it because he believes the Island is sacred?
- Will the black rocks hold any significance to the mysteries of the Island?
- Does actor name portray character name? (In regards to voices heard before actors appear on screen)