Monday, May 28, 2012

Create a One-sentence Summary of your Novel

In the Snowflake method, your first task is to write a storyline--- a one-sentence summary of your novel. Other writing teachers call the storyline something else. I forget what the something else was. No matter.

This storyline--- which you may revise from time to time--- is useful to focus your story when you are writing, and when you are done, it's useful in marketing. Here is an example storyline of a novel by Randy Ingermanson, creator of the Snowflake method: "A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul."

Isn't that great? It sums the story up and makes me, at least, want to read the book. In Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy, there are a number of example storylines.

Pride and Prejudice: "A young English woman from a peculiar family is pursued by an arrogant and wealthy young man."

The Lovely Bones: "A young girl watches the turmoil in her family from heaven after being raped and murdered by a neighbor."

Contact, by Carl Sagan: "A young female astronomer discovers radio signals from alien beings in a nearby star system."

Perhaps because I have Asperger Syndrome and have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees, I have a hard time writing storylines. And when snowflaking you not only have to write one for your novel, but one for each major character. Like this:

Harry Potter/Lord Voldemort: "A fallen Dark Lord's efforts to regain power are thwarted again and again by a boy wizard and his friends."

For one of my WIPs, which has the exciting title Kirinia Book One at present, I actually came up with three storylines, from the point of view of various characters:

1. A Waypeople cultist girl must choose between her faith and saving her family's life.
2. A noble Kirinian girl loves blood-sports until she falls for a girl condemned to the arena.
3. A Kirinian emperor discovers the demographic threat to his nation posed by the rapidly-growing Waypeople cult.

I picked 1. when I decided who the main protagonist of the story was. Although if I were to pitch the story to a secular publisher, I might go with one of the others.

I'm also working on a second WIP at the moment--- both are in the snowflaking stage. This one actually has a title: Esperanza: Zombie Dawn (or Zek Dawn, I'm not wholly sure I won't switch.) The storyline for this was easier to come up with even though I didn't have that much of a plot planned out, I just knew it was about a militia group fighting Mexican zombies at the border.

Here is the storyline: "A priest and a band of militia men fight against a zombie virus capable of infecting humans and certain drug plants."

If you are a writer or would-be writer, have you ever reduced your novel or short story idea to a storyline? If you haven't, try creating a storyline now. Post it in a comment here, if you like.

If you aren't a writer, one thing that the storyline concept is good for is when you are writing a book review, or perhaps just recommending a book to a friend. Think of the last good book you read. Can you write a storyline for it? Share in a comment, please.


Amanda Borenstadt said...

How about this?

Just short of her high school graduation, a teenage girl finds herself trapped by zombies in her attic.

I'm so frustrated because I want to add detail, but then the sentence would be crazy long.

Nissa Annakindt said...

I think it's pretty good as it. Shorter is usually better with storylines. And any sentence with zombies in it is a good sentence.

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