1. Gurari
    Offline

    Gurari Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2009
    Messages:
    95
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Boston, MA

    How to answer: "What is your story about?"

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Gurari, Oct 16, 2009.

    A friend and I are in an ongoing discussion about a comic book story that we're working on. I'm the writer and he's the artist, but we're developing the story together.

    We have the story idea, but I'm finding it difficult to describe the story in a tangible and real way. While outlining, I've laid down story themes, initial plotting, etc., but I still feel as though I'm missing the ability to give the one punch description. If you were to ask me "What is your story about?" I'd need at least 6-10 sentences to tell you.

    So, three items for discussion here:

    1. If you are currently working on a story, answer the question, "What is your story about?"

    2. Name a story that you can think of, after hearing "what the story is about", that you would immediately read because of the story description. Not because of hype that you'd heard previously or anything like that, but because the story description sounds interesting.

    For example, if someone were to tell me what the Harry Potter Series is about, I imagine that the one punch description would be something like this: "An orphaned boy discovers that he has magical powers, goes to wizard school, and learns that he is the 'chosen one' in a battle against evil."

    My own personal take after hearing this story description would be...meh, sounds mildly interesting, but has been done before.

    Another example would be the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum. The story description I imagine would be something like this: "An undercover government agent that was sent to draw out the world's premiere assassin loses his memory and must discover who and what he is while trying to survive."

    My own personal take after hearing this story description would be...whoa! that sounds like a fun and original read...

    3. What methods do you use to isolate and define your story description?

    I've tried to combine theme and idea into our story description. Here's what I've got so far (I still think it's too many sentences):

    "Two men bonded by their service in the military return home from war and find that they can no longer be a part of mainstream society. As outsiders, they forge new identities by doing whatever it takes to survive. Each compromise they make in order to survive comes with sacrifices. As the sacrifices come with greater costs, the men are forced to a crossroads and a climactic confrontation."
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    If you reduce a story that much, it won't convey much. You've compressed a JPEG to a featureless blob of colors.

    You need to define the audience for your story summary. What about the story is most important to convey to that audience? About how many words are appropriate for that audience?
     
  3. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    If you must reduce it to just one sentence, I think the answer is found in your own description. Just stop in time:

    That's it, isn't it? The rest of your description didn't really say much that I can't imagine myself, when reading this one line.
     
  4. Fox Favinger
    Offline

    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Messages:
    211
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think HorusEye hits the nail on the head, but I also gotta say this.

    Have someone else describe it for you. As far as I know authors often have someone else summarize and describe their story to help sell it.
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    You still have to define the purpose of the description. For instance, if you are trying to sell someone on reading the story, you describe the core conflict but not the resolution. If you are sunmarizing the story for a submissions editor, you describe the overall storyline. If you are writing a book report, you summarize the theme and how it relates to your thesis.

    And in each of these cases, the quantity of detail needs to be sufficient to cover the essentials, but concise enough for the amount of time the target audience will commit to reading your summary.
     
  6. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    to screenwriters and the film industry, this is called a 'logline' and ideally consists of 25 words or less that encapsulate the 'premise' of a script...

    it's a vital part of 'selling' your screenplay, as it's the first thing agents and producers will see and consider, in deciding if your work warrants further attention... it makes good sense in re scripts, since the sparity and clarity of word use is of paramount importance, when you have only 110 pages in which to lay out all that happens in an hour-and-half-long movie...

    when writing prose, however, you can use as many words as you want, having many times over that number to play with, for the average novel, so it's not that important to write that lean and clean, though it's good practice, imo, to keep novelists from being too over-wordy... you won't be required to reduce your story to that small a 'blurb' though, in order to sell it...

    more important in writing novels, is the summary paragraph you must include in your query letter to agents and/or publishers... there is where you have to hook the reader into requesting sample chapters, or the full ms, so there is where your writing must shine... if it's not good enough to interest the readers of your query, they'll most likely assume your ms isn't any better and give it a pass...

    though the style used there is similar to what you'd read on a book jacket flap, agents and publishers don't want to be teased and need to have a rundown of all the major plot elements, including how the story ends, so they can tell if it's something they may want to take on...
     
  7. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    Two men return from war to find they don't fit into society. To survive, they compromise with great sacrifice, which leads them to a crossroads and confrontation.

    You could reduce what you've written.

    I'm not sure how comic books get published, so I don't know if you need a log line or a blurb or what. Nonetheless, I think we should be able to sum up our novel in one sentence or two.

    A young elf with lightning powers is forced on a journey where she encounters strange creatures, a journy to stop the mindlessness that is infecting all species in the land of Camalia.

    shorter if I must: A young elf with lightning powers must stop the mindlessness that is infecting all species in the land of Camalia.

    Stories I wanted to read after hearing what they are about: Dune, Vampire Academy, It, Ender's Game, Shopaholic.
     
  8. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    To me, this sentence is just nonsense. It's so abstract that it tells me nothing. I'd get rid of it or try to be more specific (which would require to know the story of course).
     
  9. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    Horus, right, I couldn't get more detailed because I don't know the details.
     

Share This Page