It’s not yet midnight, so I won’t announce a winner yet for the best one-sentence summary. I can see one that stands out above the rest, but I won’t tell you who until tomorrow. There are a LOT of very interesting summaries here! I think I’ll critique a number of them over the next few days.
In the meantime, it’s appropriate to congratulate Mary DeMuth (RelevantGirl), whose first novel WATCHING THE TREE LIMBS was named a finalist today for a Christy award in the “First Novel” category. The Christy awards are the “Oscars of Christian fiction” and they have become extremely difficult to win in recent years. Attagirl, RelevantGirl!
To honor Mary, I’m going to critique her one-sentence summary, which has some problems:
Anguished by guilt, 12-year-old Jed tries to right the wrong of refusing to walk Daisy home, by investigating the mystery when she’s gone missing.
Randy sez: The king once said to Mozart, “Too many notes!” With some trepidation, I’ll echo that here: “Too many words!”
The hard part is doing justice to this story in just a few words. I’ve read the first 40 pages, and I think I’m starting to understand the story. I think the first three words, “Anguished by guilt”, are too focused on Jed’s inner conflict. I know that inner conflict is critical to the story, but first things first! A one-sentence summary needs to first summarize the external conflict and then add in internal conflict if there’s room. In Mary’s version, there is no hint that Jed is a horribly abused kid. I may be wrong, but I think that’s important to say, because it gives us immediate sympathy for the character. Here is my best shot at it:
An abused Texas boy takes refuge in a search for his missing best friend Daisy.
Normally, I don’t use names in a one-sentence summary. So I replaced “Jed” by “Texas boy” (I think this story is set in Texas) because I wanted to capture some element of the place. Notice that I broke my rule and used the name “Daisy” here. The reason is simple. I want to make it clear she’s a girl (that puts some romantic puppy-love tension into the sentence). But it’s a little hard to capture the relationship between Jed and Daisy in a few words. She’s 10 and he’s 12, so she’s not exactly a girl-friend. But just calling her “best friend” wouldn’t work.
Mary’s version was 26 words. Mine was 15. I bet one could do better, but that’s the best I can do in 15 minutes of trying. Who wants to improve on it?