The original version of the winning one-sentence summary by Chris was as follows:
A retired Marine travels to Iraq to begin his own private war against the foreign terrorists that murdered his daughter.
I made minor revisions to this as follows:
A retired Marine launches his own private war in Iraq against the terrorists who murdered his daughter.
Mary pointed out that the word “terrorists” carries more emotive punch than “Iraq” so it would make sense to switch the order and say “against the terrorists in Iraq”.
This is a good point, and I’m almost persuaded, but not quite. What we have here is a sentence with rising emotive force, with the most punch at the end with the phrase “murdered his daughter.”
I think it makes sense in this case to leave the order as I wrote it, so that we go from “Iraq” to “terrorists” to “murder” to “daughter” in a rising crescendo. A sentence like this would be enough to get some serious attention at a writing conference, if given to the right sort of editor. (Editors looking for the next “Pride And Prejudice in Palooka” are not the right sort of editor for this story. Editors looking for the next “Die Hard” or “Rambo” are gonna eat this kind of thing up.) Of course, it would need to be accompanied by three strong sample chapters.
The analogy to haiku is quite apt. It’s very hard to write a one-sentence summary, but it’s really worthwhile.
One comment today asked if it’s possible to write a one-sentence summary about a story that’s told in first person POV. The answer is yes. Do the one-sentence summary in third person. Then write the sample chapters in first person.
I would love to critique another one-sentence summary tonight, but I’ve got a cameraman coming to the house tomorrow to shoot some video for possible inclusion in a documentary. I need to get ready for that. More details later.