For those of you just joining us, I’ve been critiquing one-sentence summaries of novels that folks have submitted recently. Yesterday, I critiqued one by Alie.
Alie took another shot at her one-sentence summary today and it’s definitely better. Here’s what she wrote:
An award-winning advertiser suspected in two murders spanning a decade races to clear his name.
Now that I understand the story better, let me punch it up a little more. First of all, I would lose the “award-winning” descriptor. I can’t give a clear reason why, other than that it doesn’t do much for me. Second, I’d drop the bit about the decade. Truth is, if the guy’s been a suspect for a decade, then the case against him is weak. Third, I’d add some time pressure. I’m going to guess that if this poor guy is suspected in two murders, maybe a third is on the way? So here’s what I’d try (but bear in mind that I may be guessing things that aren’t in Alie’s story):
An advertising executive, suspected of two murders, must clear his name before the real killer strikes again.
Admittedly, there’s a bit of cliche here. But let’s face it, one-sentence summaries often have cliches in them. Cliches are quite compact ways of saying what you want to say.
Whaddaya think? Are we getting warmer?
Interestingly enough, I toyed with using “advertising executive” myself last night. Guess I should have.
As for a third murder – yep, other lives are being threatened.
I get the feeling this story is too predictable. 🙁
Pam Halter says
This is great. It really helps seeing the process of changing words, eliminating what’s not needed and coming up with a tight, exciting sentence.
Lois Hudson says
Yes, seeing the writers working through Randy’s comments, and seeing the progression and improvement really does help the rest of us. Thanks.
Angie Farnworth says
I don’t know. I think it lost a little bit of the urgency from the second option Alie originally gave. (The one that was too vague.) Although her second option didn’t have enough info, it was very fast-paced. I might humbly suggest working this one a little further to keep the details of Randy’s suggestions, but reinsert the thrill of Alie’s.
Thanks so much for these examples. I now know I’d better ramp up the ending of my one liner before I go to conference next month.
Carly Brown says
Stumbling on your Blog is good luck for me. Very interesting and informative and makes me want to learn more about this writing thing. I can’t wait going on the cruise!!!
My thoughts on Alie’s sentence. The 5th Aveune executive grapples to clear his name of the murders spanning a decade. (15)
Well there is a first time for everything and this is it. Thanks.
Lynetta Smith says
I’ve also enjoyed Randy’s critiques of the one-liners. It really does help to practice this technique, whether it’s for your book or other people’s stories. And I really need the practice!
“Advertising executive” does a lot for the characterization of the protag, but I was wondering, would it be wise to clarify his personality a bit more? For example, Alie mentioned “award winning.” Is he arrogant? Perhaps “advertising hot-shot” would give him some color, rather than a picture of a drab grey suit and a bland tie. (Or, if he is a drab sort, then perhaps it’s best to stick with an adjective that portrays that). Anyway, just a thought.
Tami Meyers says
I like the new ending “before the real killer strikes again”. It creates that sense of urgency that peeks your interest and makes you want to read the book.