I’m in Indianapolis this weekend for the joint board meeting of American Christian Fiction Writers (I sit on the advisory board and we’re meeting with the operating board to set the vision for the coming year). We’re in the hotel we’ll be using for our national conference in September. From where I’m sitting in my room, I can see the state capitol building just across the street. I’m really excited to see how the conference is shaping up. More on that in the coming months.
I’ve got a few minutes free right now to critique another one-sentence Storyline — something we’ve been doing here for the last couple of weeks.
Today’s entry is by Rob, who posted this Storyline:
A young father searching for his abducted toddler son becomes the pawn in a terrorist plot to bomb a crowded NASCAR speedway.
Randy sez: I like this. Let’s look at the parts to see what makes this work well:
“A young father” is a strong lead. I constantly hear the comment that “young father” is redundant, since we see shortly that he’s the father of a toddler. My response to that is, “So what?” Redundancy isn’t always a bad thing. My experience is that when you’re describing your lead character, if you haven’t got any other adjectives to make him or her more precise, the word “young” is almost alway a help (if the character actually is young). I’d guess that’s because America is a youth-oriented culture. So I favor keeping it “young father.”
The phrase “searching for his abducted toddler” is very strong, for all kinds of reasons. This pushes the emotional hot buttons for anyone who’s ever been a parent and for most people who haven’t been parents.
The phrase “becomes the pawn in a terrorist plot to bomb a crowded NASCAR speedway” is also strong. It’s a little wordy. It might be possible to shave a word off here or there. But count the emotive words: “pawn” and “terrorist” and “plot” and “bomb” and “crowded”.
The word NASCAR is specific and concrete and it suggests that our author knows something about racing and will put it into the novel. If Rob had said merely “a major sporting event,” that would work less well because it’s less specific. You might imagine that “a major sporting event” would appeal to more readers than “a NASCAR” event. Not really. “A major sporting event” is squishy and out of focus. Rob has this story sharply in focus. This Storyline will appeal to a lot of people just because of the strong thriller element. It will appeal massively to racing fans who like suspense.
Good job, Rob! In 22 words, you’ve shown us both the personal and the public stakes for this novel. If I saw this book on the shelf with this sort of ad copy, I’d open the book to see if I like the writing. That’s the job of a one-sentence Storyline. If you sell this book to a publisher, your editor will know exactly how to position the book and both the Marketing and Sales directors will know how to do their jobs.