redsliver

How does one write a good summary?

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"She had been worshipped, and she had loved all who came to her altar. Now torn from her home in a wake of violence and atrocity, three men and four women fight to claim her."

Is what I'm using as my story summary for From the Looking Glass, but I feel its missing a thousand things (I know its only a summary and it can't have it all.) I'm curious to know what everyone thinks makes an enticing summary, and how I can make mine better.

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Guest Big Samurai

Your first line of defense, IMO, is not to overload your summary with those little acronyms that AFF uses. Too often, it comes out like this:

"Snow White fucks Grumpy. M/F, Anal, Oral, HJ, Racist, Furs, BDSM, PWP, Language, Het, Lemon, CBT, CD, Exhib, Fist, Fet, Humil, MPreg, etc., etc."

A little says a lot. Be clear, but concise.

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Guest Knorg

I understood we were required to include all relevent story codes to post a story? The main story code FAQ states it's mandatory to label stories properly, while one of the other FAQs even says it may be necessary to shortern the summary to fit in missed codes?

As for a good summary... I'm not expert, but: I probably have as much trouble with them as with titles sometimes... and sometimes I have a good summary or title without a story.

I guess what I try to do is very simply describe a story while hinting at more. I think my best version of this is:

Dead Travel Second Class

A young backpacking Englishman catches a night train across Romania, and finds some of the old stories are more than just stories.

The title is a play on the old Dead Travel Fast line, and works with the summary which gives the reader the protagonist and the setting and - even if it wasn't in the vampire section - indicates what's in store in what I like to think is an enticing way.

Same technique for my 'Worth it, after all?' story and summary.

I think this makes a much better summary than simply stating "max/joe sex" or similar, yet those summaries work best for people who just want to see max joe sex and don't care about the plot.

So there's type of story and type of summary variation as well.

I need to think about this more.

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Guest Big Samurai
I understood we were required to include all relevent story codes to post a story? The main story code FAQ states it's mandatory to label stories properly, while one of the other FAQs even says it may be necessary to shortern the summary to fit in missed codes?

I somehow knew you were going to do that, o cheeky one.

rolleyes.gif

I should clarify, then. One should include all of the necessary codes, of course, since that's a site rule, but one shouldn't go buck wild to the point where it's almost impossible to include the actual summary.

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Hmm...your summary seems fine to me RedSliver. I mean, while cruising the listings, it would definately catch my eye.

As for the acronyms, I usually only make note (in detail) of things that might specifically squick (or interest) people. I tend to warn a little more on my yaoi fics, so I don't get people freaking out about an explicit blowjob or on, the flip-side, a lack of "buttsecks". Though it's not common, (though I certainly haven't personally run into it) I've heard of lots of yaoi authors ending up with at least one asshole leaving some freaked out review: "Like omg! I hate yaoi! Why wasn't I warned???!!!" or something to that effect.

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My whole problem with summaries is that I will write one for a story I have in mind, but by the end of the first chappie it's changed scope. I try really hard to keep it to one sentence (LOL) but it usually ends up being a run-on. As far as the acronyms go - I'll put in what might show up in my story just to cover the bases. Usually works for me.

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Your summary sounds okay to me, too. Mine usually suck, they're so short and bland. To wit:

"The Malfoy family has a secret, which begets still more, with tragic results" or the equally lame

"Post HBP: Snape's in hiding, Hogwarts is in trouble, and Voldemort has big plans." (Of course, followed by proper codes).

"Snow White fucks Grumpy. M/F, Anal, Oral, HJ, Racist, Furs, BDSM, PWP, Language, Het, Lemon, CBT, CD, Exhib, Fist, Fet, Humil, MPreg, etc., etc."

Thanks Big Sam, I always wanted to know what it felt like to spew ice cold Pepsi out of my nose! laugh.gif

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Actually red, that may be one of the best summaries I have ever read.

There's several types of summaries. There's the type that tells you what the story is about in a brief, simple, and clear manner. Not hard to do and often the best approach. Then there's the tagline. An interesting quote or line that intrigues prospective readers without deceiving them. Your tagline is certainly intriguing and I'm going to have to get around to actually reading your fic.

Being a bit obsessed with rules myself (but nowhere in Knorg's league), I'm fully aware of what the rules are concerning warning tags. Still, there are times when you can get away by omitting a few tags from the summary. If the warning applies to only one brief scene or chapter, you can put it at the top of the chapter (as well as posting a list of warnings by chapter in a note at the beginning if you want to play it real safe) If there's a huge number of warnings, you can add "warnings inside" or something like that, then list all the warnings in the first chapter before the beginning of the story.

The whole point is warning people about the contents of your story before they actually get a chance to read it. That way, they'll steer clear of what they don't like, and if they don't like certain content factors, it's not as if they can claim that they hadn't been warned in advance.

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I've done exactly what you're talking about, Eve. In fact, I've got a chapter coming up and I'm going to put a little AN caution that it's an extremely dark chapter, containing QRSXYZ. People can decide if they want to skip it, or carry on. Always better to be safe than sorry. thumbsup.gif

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Guest Big Samurai
Thanks Big Sam, I always wanted to know what it felt like to spew ice cold Pepsi out of my nose! laugh.gif

Much obliged, Your Scribeness. ... That summary actually makes for a pretty disturbing mental image, doesn't it?

ph34r.gif

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Actually - I used to have a few cartoons that depicted exactly that story - Snow White really looked like she was enjoying herself though. It was something else - bondage and an oral swing... looked like fun - and OMG! Doc - where can I find one?

I hadn't thought about putting warnings at the beginning of my chappies - maybe I should start?

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I hadn't thought about putting warnings at the beginning of my chappies - maybe I should start?

I'd only advise that if something...shocking if going to happen. Like...the story's couple have been pretty vanilla up until that point and then suddenly whip.gif BONDAGE ATTACK! whip.gif

huh.gif Okay, that's a bit of an extreme example, but I think you get the drift. Just you know... if you feel like it's a huge diversion from the story thus far.

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Guest Knorg
Being a bit obsessed with rules myself (but nowhere in Knorg's league)

I am not obsessed with rules. angry.gif

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Guest Adara
I am not obsessed with rules. angry.gif

I think it would be correct to say that Knorg's picky about conflicting and incorrect rules, not obsessed with them. tongue.gif

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Actually red, that may be one of the best summaries I have ever read.

There's several types of summaries. There's the type that tells you what the story is about in a brief, simple, and clear manner. Not hard to do and often the best approach. Then there's the tagline. An interesting quote or line that intrigues prospective readers without deceiving them. Your tagline is certainly intriguing and I'm going to have to get around to actually reading your fic.

Thank you, I'll admit that my tagline does call attention well, but I think the problem I personally have with it is that its horribly misleading (although with how many chapters I currently have written, it doesn't seem like it.) With the way it is now, it centers the plot on the catalyst (Cielle) rather than the reaction (An unintroduced character and Rosalie). (Forgive the chemistry metaphor.)

I like my tagline, and I like that it draws attention, and I even like how its misleading, it just doesn't sit well with me.

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Maybe, imagine that people have to pay a fee to download your story.

They'd be more discriminating in what they chose to read.

Does your summary give them everything they need to know so that they won't feel gypped after reading? And does the story deliver on everything mentioned?

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Guest Yhitzak

Redsliver, I dig your summary, but I think I understand why you're hesitant to use it. It is horribly intrigueing (what a great tag-line!), but doesn't *really* summarize the story (it's so close, I can almost taste it!). Summaries are short descriptions of a thing, usually one or two sentences. When I set down to write a summary, I think about the key point within my post (and I think that this applies to fiction as well as non-fiction), the key characters, the key conflict, etc. Mentioning these key points (integrating it with your tag-line should be quite easy given that you've already alluded to your plot) in your summary will make it much more interesting than just a tag-line on its own.

Using descriptor tags is not (by my estimation of it) as big an issue as many (including the posting instructions) would have you believe; I have found that many of the tags are interchangeable, or at least have the same, basic meaning. It's entirely possible to write a summary without going overboard on the tags. It's the tags, I have found, that have prevented many a writer from creating any sort of accurate or interesting summary.

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I apologize to Knorg. I didn't mean that as an insult. All I know is that he'd be a formidable legal interpreter if he chose it as a career.

I'd have to finish reading the fic in order to see how appropriate the tagline is for the fic. But if Keith thinks it's good after reading the fic, then I'd trust his judgement too.

Speaking of which, welcome back Keith! I'm still trying to finish Lamia.

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i know the feeling you are describing. How to put into so few words the entire gem your story is? I've tried several times to create a really good worm to put onto the hook of my fishing rod, and sometimes I've succeeded, but there's always something more, isn't there?

I've known a few authors who change their summary as they post a new chapter. Maybe that would be more apt to encompass the epic? Or perhaps limiting the work to 16 - 20 chapters, then making a sequel? I've seen all these things done. Just never never never say: "I suck at summaries" Or "pls pls read and review!"

Keith has a good idea there, though. One of my first thoughts when coming up against the wall of "summary" is thinking of the notes on the back cover of any paperback.

Other than that, its a great exercise in clarity of point. What is the story about anyway?

Dead kittens, plenty of m/m action! (eye-catching enough?)

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i know the feeling you are describing. How to put into so few words the entire gem your story is? I've tried several times to create a really good worm to put onto the hook of my fishing rod, and sometimes I've succeeded, but there's always something more, isn't there?

Keith has a good idea there, though. One of my first thoughts when coming up against the wall of "summary" is thinking of the notes on the back cover of any paperback.

Other than that, its a great exercise in clarity of point. What is the story about anyway?

Dead kittens, plenty of m/m action! (eye-catching enough?)

God, you don't know how much effort and tears are put into back covers. In my job, we can argue for days about what to include on back covers (and front covers too).

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Dead kittens, plenty of m/m action!  (eye-catching enough?)

I am disturbed... blink.gif

Has anyone else noticed that the readers enjoy a bit of mystery with a dash of ambiguity thrown into a good summary?

I have changed a summary from a concise and well-described bit of teaser to an ambiguous blob of blathering and saw my hits and reviews nearly double on that particular story. I was rather frustrated by it to say the least.

Just never never never say:  "I suck at summaries"  Or  "pls pls read and review!"

Also, I happen to love when I read a summary with misspelled words, forgotten words, or grammar that makes me cringe (because they couldn't even get it right for one freaking sentence). Summaries like that make me want to click right into that little gem of a story. no.gif

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I've been debating throwing in on this because I'm not very confident when it comes to summaries. Overall, I like it, Red, the only thing that bugs me is the tally of who's after Cielle, '...three men and four women...' just sounds to...I don't know, exact maybe, if that makes any sense at all?

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