Friday, September 30, 2011

Fictionpress Friday

Tip #3: Have a summary that hooks your readers.

I know, it's pretty much like the Tip #2, right?


You could have a spiffy title but if the reader doesn't care what your story is about, they won't read it. Your summary sells your story - it's what gets people to click on the link to read your story.

Summaries are relatively easy for me. Here's what I've found works and what doesn't:

DO use dialogue between two characters (usually the hero and heroine), especially if there's a hate-love relationship and your good with dialogue.

Example: "And just so you know, love, my words are not the only pretty things in this room." "I am sure you are referring to yourself?" Oh, pirates and their pick-up lines. (From The Dead Man's Tale) You can already tell the characters are going to be flirtatious and witty, characters I'm particularly drawn to and want to read more about. (Yes, I'm bias.)

DON'T use song lyrics. Your title doesn't have to really talk about what the story is specifically about. Your summary, on the other hand, needs to give a general feel for what you plan to be writing about. Are the characters going to be antagonistic toward each other? What's your main character's obstacle? Song lyrics don't convey what a reader needs to know.

DO use only three sentences maximum for your summary. If you can, only use one. All you need is your two characters - your couple, if there will be romance - and the tension between them or the obstacles they will face.

Example: "He left his mark on her, not because he wanted to, but because he couldn't control himself when he was around her. She was his; that was all there was to it, whether he actually liked her or not. Well, they always did say love was blind" (from Losing Yourself in Me) and "Despite the fact that he was Onyx's most notorious criminal and a merciless madman, she believed that he was human. That was probably her biggest mistake" (from Fatal Attraction). You have the two characters - though who they are isn't known - and the tension between them.

DON'T use your summary to tell your readers a better one is inside. I know I'm not going to waste my time hoping to see if there is one. Your readers won't either. In fact, they may be completely turned off because you don't even know how to sell your story. And normally, the longer, "better" summary can be reduced to three sentences and tells too much of the story.

If you've won an award for your story, DO add that to your summary. An award means somebody liked your story enough to reward you. It definitely helps in generating buzz for your story (usually your story will be linked on another website, generating more advertisement for it) and, if the award is from a place people trust (SKoW, for example), they're more likely to give your story a chance, regardless of reviews.

DON'T use bad grammar and/or spelling. Common sense, right? But I've seen it, and it has completely turned me off. Bad grammar and spelling tells me that the writer is a noob and that they don't take writing seriously. If I want to use my precious time in reading someone's story, they better well have a good grasp of whatever language they're writing in. You're not texting your friends, people. You're selling your story. And, if the writer can't even write a summary with good grammar and spelling, I know there story sure as heck won't have those components and I will not waste my time trying to sift through that, regardless of compelling characters and plot.

In conclusion, a quick, snappy summary is all that's needed. It should be specific - where readers know the general plot and/or characters of the story - but vague enough where they're interested in seeing where the story goes.

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