I saw several one-sentence summaries that I liked. But one of them jumped out at me because it looked extremely professional. It was submitted by Chris and here’s how it goes:
A retired Marine travels to Iraq to begin his own private war against the foreign terrorists that murdered his daughter.
It’s not quite perfect, but it’s awfully close. Here are the things to like about it:
1) “A retired Marine” — this immediately tells us a lot about our character.
2) “travels to Iraq” — tells us the setting right away, and it’s a timely one.
3) “to begin his own private war” — yow! This punches all the right buttons for those who read this kind of novel.
4) “against the foreign terrorists” — good, because everybody hates terrorists. You can lose the word “foreign” since that’s a given.
5) “that murdered his daughter.” — this punches all the right emotional buttons. Now we’ve got a motivation that won’t quit until justice is served. Put Bruce Willis in this part and the movie’ll be a winner. Grammatically, you need to change “that” to “who”.
My suggested version, with minor revisions to punch up the verbs a little and shorten the sentence:
A retired Marine launches his own private war in Iraq against the terrorists who murdered his daughter.
Chris, email me a page of your current work in progress for your free critique.
This one grabbed my attention as well. I’d definitely buy the book. Congrates, Chris.
Nice rewrite, Randy.
Carrie Neuman says
This reminds me of writing haiku. It’s only moderately difficult to say what you saw in a few words. It’s near impossible to say it in a way that the reader feels what you felt.
I agree, a great one sentence summary. Caught my attention and held it. Good job, Chris.
Judith Robl says
Loved Carrie’s the Haiku analogy. It is precisely the same thing — slightly longer form, larger topic.
Sounds like a great book, Chris. Let us know when it’s ready.
Rachel Brown says
Well done, Chris. Great hook.
Randy – I’m learning so much through these challenges, thank you very much.
I’ve read the Snowflake over and over, but I’m seeing so much more by analysing other people’s one liners, and by reading your feedback.
The five points you made about what worked in Chris’s one were very helpful – I can really see how his “retired marine” sets up a character in only two words.
Randy, I do have some question about your five points: what if you have two main characters experiencing two convergent plots that don’t come together until the end? The only thing they have in common is the place and the antagonist. In each plot, the antagonist is trying to achieve different goals, which lead to a greater third goal.
Mary Hake says
I like the one-liner and your version, but I would place the words “against the terrorists” before the setting “in Iraq.” To me that would be more important and grab the reader better.
Joleena Thomas says
Congratulations Chris. I agree with Randy. Your sentence does sound professional.
This was an excellent example of a grabber and the rewrite nails it.
I notice Mary Hake’s eyes are really keen. I agree with her feelings that the words “against the terrorists” should come before the setting in “Iraq”.
Super job on this one!
Paulette Harris says
Congrats, Chris, good job. Let’s keep our eyes and ears open. Those terrorists are every size,shape,and color. They are also not limited to gender and country. So…I agree with Randy, get rid of the word foreign.
Angie Farnworth says
Great choice, Randy and a great job Chris. Like the others said, this one grabbed my attention right away. And great change on the “that/who” fix–one of my personal all time biggest pet peeves…
Great choice, Randy. Well done, Chris, and good luck with the wip.
First off, I’d like to say that I’m flattered that you thought enough to choose my sentence over the other offerings. I only found this site a couple of weeks ago after googling “How to write a novel” and hitting the snowflake method.
The sentence you read was actually developed directly from my attempt to follow the snowflake instructions. (I’m a former soldier and code-monkey, so I can follow instructions pretty well when necessary).
I agree with the point regarding “foreign”. My reasoning behind the use of the adjective was to signify that the terrorists were not Iraqi…(they will probably be Iranian) which means that the actions of the father have a political scope as well. I agree though, for the point of the exercise it’s probably not necessary to indicate that.
Grammar…damn that editor of mine!
Now if only a whole book was as easy as that sentence…
Chris, if the purpose of all this one-sentence-summary work is to hook others on your novel’s premise, then you have succeeded.
Get cracking on that novel. I want to read it.