Monday, March 12, 2012

One paragraph story summaries

I did a workshop called Prepping for Nano last October. I helped people to understand their stories BEFORE November 1 rolled around so that when the bell went off to start Nano, they were ready.

So, those of you who know me recognize that before we did anything else, I had everybody write their idea in one-paragraph form...Why? Because I believe that if you can't tell your story in one paragraph, then you don't really know it.

But I discovered an interesting thing as I was writing that lesson. There isn't just one way to write a one-paragraph story summary. I know four.

So, we're going to take the next four weeks to talk about the four one-paragraph story summaries. You can try out all four, see which one fits, and work with that for your next book.

Today we'll talk about the "just plain" one-paragraph story summary -- sometimes called a mini-synopsis.


the type of book,
the characters' goals, motivations and conflicts
and a bit of an ending.

Oh, and, you can't ever say...The hero's goal is... The heroine's goal is... Goals, motivations and conflicts should be understood. (Don't groan! It's actually very easy.)

Like this:

The hero and heroine must catch a killer, but she's already been arrested for the crime and he's the DA prosecuting her.

After reading that, do you need somebody to tell you what the characters' goals, motivations and conficts are? She's trying to stay out of prison, maybe even save her life. He's trying to keep the wrong person from being convicted. But...conflict alert...they're on opposite sides in this case. If he's discovered helping her, he's in trouble. And what if he's wrong? What if she really is the murderer, duping him.

Lots of stuff in that one SENTENCE.

But that's a special case.

Your paragraph will probably look something like this:

A bodyguard book about a woman who’s never had family, so she understands its importance, being protected by a hero with a loving family who doesn’t believe he’s capable of settling down. So, when they realize they're sexually attracted, and going to be alone on the road as they run from the mob boss who is trying to kill her before she can testify against him, one of the people the hero’s protecting the heroine from is himself.

Type of book: Bodyguard/romance
External Goal: Keep her safe to testify
Motivations: Heroine: To stay alive (Who doesn't want to live?)
Hero: To put mob boss in jail.
Conflict: External: Mob boss is trying to kill her
Conflict: Internal/Romantic: She is an orphan who realizes the importance of family. If they connect, he will be forced to chose between her and his family. She won't do that to him.
His: He doesn't believe he can settle down and having been deprived of real love all her life, she deserves better than he can give her.
Not only is all of that very clear in my paragraph, but you probably felt a tug of emotion reading it. Because that's what a romance novel is supposed to do. Evoke emotion.
And notice, not once did I say, the hero's goal is, the heroine's goal is, the heroine's conflict is...etc! LOL Yet all of it was right there in that paragraph.
If you can express your story this succinctly, you will not only understand it better so that you can more easily write it. You will also begin to see nuances of the story that you might have missed otherwise. Because what happens when you squeeze something? The juice pops out.
The same thing is true when you condense your story idea. The good stuff pops out.
So think about your story. Try to write it into a one-paragraph story summary so stunning and brilliant that even you are wowed. And then make your book match your story summary!
Next week...core story question.
Happy Monday!

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