1. Miranda Ricouta

    Miranda Ricouta New Member

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    I suck at summaries. Can somebody help?

    Discussion in 'Marketing' started by Miranda Ricouta, Feb 7, 2017.

    Hiya! Title is pretty self-explanatory, but I'll elaborate.
    TL;DR: I write fanfiction, can't draw in readers with my summaries, am working on my first original book right now, and would like some advice.

    I'm primarily a fan fiction writer. I've been on FanFiction.net since I was a kid, and writing for years has really helped me to improve. I'm working on my first original series now, which I plan to self-publish.

    Summaries, however, are not my strong point, as I've come to realize from my near complete and utter inability to draw in readers as of late. FF.net has a 384 character limit on summaries, and I often can't get all of my thoughts out with that small of a space. Then when I'm given the freedom to make my summaries longer on sites like Wattpad and AO3, they're way too long winded, and I'm sure most of the people who see them disregard it with a TL;DR.

    I've been experimenting with different kinds of summaries, and few have been successful. Sometimes, when a story has a very basic concept, I can write a short and eye-catching summary that works well to catch the reader's attentions.
    Here's the summary of This is Your Life:

    Sunset Shimmer always wondered what would have happened if she had stayed in Equestria. She never thought she would actually get an answer.
    That story actually got a decent amount of attention.

    I also tried the "pull a quote from the story" approach, and that seemed to work pretty well.
    Here's the summary from It's Obviously 42:

    "Have you ever wondered about the meaning of life?" "Pfft, obviously. I mean, hasn't everybody? But... What were you thinking of?" Star and Janna go on a journey to discover the meaning of life. Life is not the only thing they find the meaning of.

    But that's the thing; both of these stories have really basic concepts that can be easily written into a brief summary and still do the story justice. It's when I get into the more complex concepts that I have trouble with.

    Take Sonic Legacy, for example. It's a Sonic the Hedgehog story with a darker atmosphere, in which I'm trying to test the claim that a dark/"edgy" Sonic story can't be taken seriously. It's got a lot of theme in it about choice and morality, loss, trust, and a bit of bigotry, while also telling a fantastical story that constantly walks the line between slow-paced slice and action/adventure. I couldn't figure out how to convey this in a 384 word summary, so I just abridged the opening paragraph.
    Let it be known that as long as the universe decides to listen, it will never run out of stories to hear, for in truth, every world, land, species, and creature has its own tale that will more than likely be swept away by the sands of time. For the world of Mobius, it begins with a flash of light. For Sonic, the end begins here.
    This didn't work.

    Then there's Device of Life, a Vocaloid story that starts as slice of life and then delves into a mystery/crime/action/thriller overtime. It's been through at least seven summaries, and none of them have worked. This is the current one:
    Miku, Teto, and Neru live in Silicon's Gate. Miku lives the high life with her family at the city's very heart, and while the shadow she casts is hardly enough to dampen Teto's spirits, Neru's got a different perspective. The three are friends, however, and things are, for the most part, good. However, when strange things start to happen, things take a turn for the worst.

    Even worse is REAPER ACADEMY, arguably my most complex story, being an action/adventure with slice elements in a high school setting that balances drama and humor while telling an overarching plot, also being a crossover with a cast of over 120 characters and a parody of shonen manga. This is it's current abysmal summary:
    Four undead teens go to a monster school run by the literal Grim Reaper. Here, they will train to become masters of death, fight scary monsters and deal with overbearing teachers. Freddy finds a friend in the young Spooky, but who is she? Who is Pines? Who is Maka? Ellen? Slenderman? Amaterasu? Doesn't matter; all Freddy wants to do is battle to the top.

    In short, can I get any pointers? Or, like... somebody who can write summaries for me? Either will do, really, though the prior is preferred. I'd like to shape up before I try to publish my first book.
     
  2. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

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    Summaries are hard to write, especially with such a small character limit. Look at books and stories you've read and study their summaries. What about those summaries interested you? Were they accurate? What about them didn't you like?

    When I tried writing my WIP (work in progress) book summary, I picked out the most important elements and wrote a summary from that. It was not easy, and I discovered that I was trying to add too many elements to the summary. On top of that, spoilers were nearly impossible to avoid because so much happens in the story--particularly at the beginning. In the end, I ended up adding one spoiler that happens near the beginning of the book and then I gave the overreaching plot: the MC wants to kill the phoenix to save his race. What I found really helpful was trying to summarize my story in one sentence. It really helped me to figure out what needed to be in the summary and what could be left out. It turns out that one huge part of the story is something that's totally unnecessary to put in the summary.

    Of course, now that I'm much further into the story, I realize that the current summary doesn't work, as it gives a different impression on what the story's main focus is, but you get the idea.


    ****
    Take Sonic Legacy, for example. It's a Sonic the Hedgehog story with a darker atmosphere, in which I'm trying to test the claim that a dark/"edgy" Sonic story can't be taken seriously. It's got a lot of theme in it about choice and morality, loss, trust, and a bit of bigotry, while also telling a fantastical story that constantly walks the line between slow-paced slice and action/adventure. I couldn't figure out how to convey this in a 384 word summary, so I just abridged the opening paragraph.
    Let it be known that as long as the universe decides to listen, it will never run out of stories to hear, for in truth, every world, land, species, and creature has its own tale that will more than likely be swept away by the sands of time. For the world of Mobius, it begins with a flash of light. For Sonic, the end begins here.

    I think the problem with this summary is it doesn't tell us what the story's about. Just about every action story can be about "[MC] life is ending/just beginning," and that's what this summarizes as. Try pinpointing two things this story focuses on, and write a summary from that. You already know the basic ideas (morality, loss, trust, etc.), so you're passed step 1.



    Then there's Device of Life, a Vocaloid story that starts as slice of life and then delves into a mystery/crime/action/thriller overtime. It's been through at least seven summaries, and none of them have worked. This is the current one:
    Miku, Teto, and Neru live in Silicon's Gate. Miku lives the high life with her family at the city's very heart, and while the shadow she casts is hardly enough to dampen Teto's spirits, Neru's got a different perspective. The three are friends, however, and things are, for the most part, good. However, when strange things start to happen, things take a turn for the worst.

    This summary is trying to give more specific information that it needs to while at the same time not giving the right information. This story is basically about three friends who live in different social classes, yes? Does that particular information need to be in the summary, or can it simply be shown in the story? Can you just say their friendship is tested when life takes a turn? "Strange things" is a very abstract idea that can bring to mind anything from romantic troubles to ghosts to aliens and supernatural. Try mentioning one or two of the strange things, or mention the type of strange things, to peak the reader's interest.

    Even worse is REAPER ACADEMY, arguably my most complex story, being an action/adventure with slice elements in a high school setting that balances drama and humor while telling an overarching plot, also being a crossover with a cast of over 120 characters and a parody of shonen manga. This is it's current abysmal summary:
    Four undead teens go to a monster school run by the literal Grim Reaper. Here, they will train to become masters of death, fight scary monsters and deal with overbearing teachers. Freddy finds a friend in the young Spooky, but who is she? Who is Pines? Who is Maka? Ellen? Slenderman? Amaterasu? Doesn't matter; all Freddy wants to do is battle to the top.

    This summary starts with four teens, then focuses on Freddy. You need to keep the focus straight--is it about all the teens or just Freddy? When it does mention Freddy, it asks these questions of, "Who is this random person?" as if Freddy is asking them, then it kind of laughs and says, "Oh, by the way none of that matters, because as it turns out he's not asking those questions!" That is a major turn-off, as basically what it does is it tells the readers not to care, rather than saying Freddy doesn't care. At the end of this summary, I still don't really know what the story's about.

    To fix this, find the central character and focus the summary on that person. I'm assuming this person is Freddy, so focus on what he likes and doesn't like. Try getting into his head and make him write the summary. I have no idea if this is accurate (and it's really not that great), but it might help get your juices going:

    The Grim Reaper runs Freddy's new school, a school where Freddy will become a master of death. All he wants to do is battle to the top (Why? What's driving this motivation? That information can add interest to the summary) and fight monsters, but the overbearing teachers and distracting schoolmates make the quest difficult. At least his new friend Spooky helps keep him focused, but can he really trust her ?

    Notice that my summary has no overreaching plot other than "he wants to battle to the top." That's not enough to get a lot of readers interested, so you need to add some real motivation in there. Also, you don't have to say "the literal" Grim Reaper. You can just say the Grim Reaper, and people will assume it's literal.

    Good luck! Summaries are hard!
     
    Miranda Ricouta likes this.
  3. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I started my writing career creating fanfic, so first off I would like to give a high five to a sister from another mister, so to speak. :)

    My formula for summaries is basically to introduce the general premise of the story as well as the main characters, and for some weird reason I always pose a question to the reader at the very end. Below are the summaries for my four original stories, one published, one accepted for publication, and two WIPs.

    Under the Knife:
    Twelve chefs assemble for the new season of TV’s hottest cooking competition, Under the Knife. Among them are Zachary Kasun, an arrogant, classically trained executive chef from one of New York’s finest French restaurants; and Nate Pasternak, a mellow vocational school graduate who gradually worked his way up to sous chef at Chicago’s premier steak house. Under the critical eye of four expert judges, the two hundred and fifty thousand dollar grand prize is each of theirs to lose. But will they both lose their hearts along the way as well?

    Fatal Kiss:
    Fatal Kiss is the story of two rival assassins, Rob Disoro and Kelan Pratt, who start off as adversaries but eventually team up against a common foe and fall in love along the way. Rob and Kelan are both cold-blooded killers who at the beginning are only concerned with one thing: being the best in the business. After turning up for the same job twice (hired by opposing forces), an attraction develops and eventually circumstances that threaten their own lives have them collaborating on a mission that takes them to a safe house where they're forced to look past appearances and into their hearts. Can they beat the odds and leave their bloody, criminal past behind to start anew?

    Gravity:
    Connor Macklin has spent his entire career getting people on the right path. An up-and-coming personal fitness trainer and nutritionist, Connor has a perfect record so far of helping his clients develop better, healthier lifestyles. But he may have met his match in Jaeden Bartlett, the wild child rhythm guitarist for a chart-topping rock band. Fresh off of a ninety day stint in rehab following a personal tragedy, Jaeden is far from receptive to Connor’s upbeat motivational speeches and hardcore workout regime. But when an attraction develops between them, can they work through the past heartaches and ethical dilemmas, and find in each other that one special person who keeps you tethered to the ground?

    Lifted Spirits:
    When Kishore Cheruvalath finds himself burned out from trying to climb the cutthroat ladder of the pharmaceutical industry, he cuts ties and tries for a new start in an unknown city. The dilapidated house he plans to renovate is a decent enough gamble, and even comes with a welcoming and attractive next door neighbor, Daniel Voigt. But quickly unsettling events occur in Kishore’s new home; without explanation, items relocate through the house, things go bump in the night, and shadowy figures lurk in the corners. Soon Kishore is unable to shake the feeling that his house might be haunted. Can Kishore and Daniel figure things out before it overshadows their burgeoning romance, or might the ghosts of the past be able to ultimately stand in their way?
     
    IHaveNoName likes this.

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