I am a little wary of this rule. In part because the example one-sentence summaries they give--- more often summaries of films than of novels--- tend to be missing the point of the story they are summarizing.
Task two tends to be to expand that one-sentence summary to a paragraph summary. This can be an easier task to learn because anyone who owns books has a good supply of examples of these one-paragraph summaries--- the book blurbs on the back (or the dust jacket) of novels we already own.
These book summaries are written by professionals for marketing purposes about books that have already been written, so that's a little different from what the novelist is asked to do in the one-sentence or one-paragraph exercise. But reading a bunch of book blurbs is still a good start.
Here is an example, from 'Left Behind' by Jerry B. Jenkins (and that other dude):
"In one cataclysmic moment, millions around the globe disappear.
Vehicles, suddenly unmanned, careen out of control. People are terror stricken as loved ones vanish before their eyes.
In the midst of global chaos, airline captain Rayford Steele must search for his family, for answers, for truth. As devastating as the disappearances have been, the darkest days may lie ahead."
This gives a good idea of the main plotline, and also introduces one of the characters.
Here is another example from Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs:
As a shapeshifter with some unique talents, ace car mechanic Mercy has had to maintain a tenuous harmony between the human and the not so human within the Tri-Cities of Eastern Washington on more than one occasion. But this time she may be in over her head.
Marsilia, the local Vampire Queen, has learned that Mercy crossed her by slaying a member of her clan. Now she's out for blood. But since Mercy is protected from the vampire's direct reprisal by the werewolf pack--- and her close relationship with its sexy Alpha--- it's not Mercy's blood Marsilia is after....
It's her friends'.
Again this gives us some basic plot substance and introduces characters.
At this point in my current writing tasks, I'm not quite sure how to go about reducing my plot ideas to one sentence or even one paragraph. Currently I don't know enough about the major plot elements--- and I know enough backstory on some of my characters to write a trilogy about it! Except for the fact that this backstory, accumulated over many years, contradicts itself and has to be straightened out.
I don't even know if writing these summaries is REALLY the way professional writers take step one in writing down story ideas. I think some writers begin with what-if questions.
For example: What if a young actor, posing as a Fleet cadet, is mistaken for a real cadet and shanghaied onto a starship captained by a man who was involved in the murder of the actor's twin sister?
That's a tiny piece of what I'm working on for the openers of what I am currently calling my 'Psions universe' series. But there are lots of other bits that are also important.... More important? Less important? I'm not sure at this point....
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