Due to popular demand, we’ll continue critiquing the one-sentence summaries that many of you have posted here over the last couple of weeks.
Here’s one from Gary:
“You are me, and must kill you.”
Randy sez: I think this is a record for brevity. 7 words, 1 character, 1 plot. Only 22 letters!
The only problem is that I don’t understand the story. So I would say this one needs to be expanded a bit. There are two issues to be expanded. What does “you are me” mean? I could make some guesses, but in a one-sentence summary, you don’t want the reader guessing–you want them to KNOW. Secondly, why must you kill you? There needs to be a reason, some motivation for it. Killing is never interesting in isolation. There has to be a reason. The reason the Jackal wants to kill Charlie DeGaulle in THE DAY OF THE JACKAL is that half a million dollars (in big, fat, juicy 1962 dollars) was waiting for him if he succeeded. And he came THAT close to succeeding.
Robert posted this one:
A swordsmith’s son must save the kingdom of Britain from a mysterious black stone’s enchantment.
Randy sez: This is a good strong one-sentence summary. Can it be stronger? Yes, possibly, on a couple of points:
Point one: I’m going to guess that a swordsmith’s son would also likely be a swordsmith himself. (If not, what is he?) So could we replace “swordsmith’s son” with “_______ swordsmith”? I don’t know what goes in the blank–that depends on what his inner conflict. But there’s no doubt that if he was a one-armed swordsmith (or fibromyalgic or dislexic or WHATEVER), he’d be a more interesting guy.
Point two: What is that black stone’s enchantment doing, exactly? This might be hard to answer, but it seems it could be more specific. Is that stone playing bagpipe music that enslaves those pesky Brits? Does it exude the odor of frying bacon, driving them mad with hunger? Does it emit microwave mind-control messages from Merlin? I’m being a little goofy here, but the question is whether you can be more specfic. Abstraction is great for mathematical physics, but in fiction, concreteness is good.
A research engineer and a Hopewell shaman, separated in time by 1800 years, work together to fight an ancient evil entity.
Randy sez: This sounds quite promising. What kind of “research engineer”? Does it matter which field he’s in? If not, then does it even matter that he’s an engineer? What skills does he bring to this battle with the evil entity? Why must he be an engineer in order for this story to work?
The Hopewell shaman is pretty specific. I’m going to guess he or she is the one who’s living 1800 years ago. I don’t know if it’s possible to say what year the shaman lives in, but it might be worthwhile trying to figure out if the sentence could be rewritten to tell us.
The big questions I have are about the nature of that ancient evil entity. Who is it and what are its powers? What is the nature of the battle? In what way could an engineer help? What is Mr. Evil Entity trying to achieve?
Laura posted this one:
A savy businesswoman dumps it all for aspirations to be a groom on a dude ranch.
Randy sez: OK, maybe it’s time to see what my loyal blog readers have learned in the last couple of weeks. I’ll critique this one tomorrow, but first I’d like to see what you all have to say about it. What would you tell Laura if she came to you with this one-sentence summary?