Your Story In One Sentence


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Thread: Your Story In One Sentence

  1. #1
    WF Veteran InkwellMachine's Avatar
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    Your Story In One Sentence

    It's occurred to me on several occasions that this is a rather necessary thing to determine at some point or other during the development of whatever story you're working on, especially if you plan to do anything commercial with it.

    So, create a one-line summary of your story and post it here. Feel free to articulate your feelings about the sentence you post, but don't add any more to the sentence. Shoot for fewer than 20 words. This is an exercise in exposing things efficiently, not poetically (although you should also feel free to use whatever poetic language you'd like). Expect some good critiques from other members.

    These should be left relatively vague so that on-lookers who know nothing about your book (or even the genre, in some cases) can get an idea in the broadest sense of what your story is about.

    A couple examples:
    -"An ancient order battles an intergalactic empire for political supremacy." -- Star Wars
    -"After the world ends, the survivors rally together for the final stand-off between the forces of good and evil." -- The Stand, by Stephen King
    -"The Christian tale of creation, decimation, and everything in between." -- King James Bible
    -"Following in the footprints of his deceased granduncle, a young man discovers the ancient horror that sleeps beneath our seas." -- The Call of Cthulu, by H.P. Lovecraft
    Good luck, and happy headaches. It's harder than it looks.
    Last edited by InkwellMachine; February 11th, 2014 at 08:26 AM.
    "Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised." --John Steinbeck

  2. #2
    Drafted to fight unknown attackers, Markus must face the true nature of both his allies and enemies while confronting his own morals and sense of human worth.
    "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

    "I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story." - Tom Clancy

  3. #3
    WF Veteran InkwellMachine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamer_2k4 View Post
    Drafted to fight unknown attackers, Markus must face the true nature of both his allies and enemies while confronting his own morals and sense of human worth.
    I really feel that internal struggles are generally part of the package. Any intelligent reader will assume that, under such difficult circumstances, a person will undergo some kind of inner turmoil. This doesn't tell us much about the story, just that some guy named Markus apparently fights some people and has some emotional struggles. Imagine if the summary for Star Wars was written that way: "Some Jedi knights do battle with the Sith and are forced to confront the true nature of this dark menace as well as that of their own brethren." Compared to the one in the OP, that summary uses more words and actually tells us less about the story.

    So I think you could pare it down a bit while exposing more of the main conflict/plot arc. It could really be advantageous to shoot for under twenty words. Don't feel discouraged if it takes a while--mine took about a month, and I'm still not entirely satisfied with it.

    But these are just my two cents. If you're happy with this one-sentence summary, by all means, use it.
    "Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised." --John Steinbeck

  4. #4
    Good point. And regarding the word count, I have a "summary" document with a sentence, a paragraph, and a half page summaries. I didn't bother to check the word count for the sentence, but I might rework it and see what happens.
    "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

    "I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story." - Tom Clancy

  5. #5
    • A psychic shizophrenic rescues her sister from a dying fantasy world, and enjoys it way too much.
    • An orphaned girl is adopted by an evil wizard, but forced to and must choose between to either join the forces of good and or accept her new home.
    • During a diplomatic mission, a former sex-bot is stranded on a planet about to be destroyed by eldritch monstrosities.
    • After humanity is nearly annihilated by insect storms, three survivors struggle to fight off wave after wave of spiders. In a post-apocalyptic world where only children can see the monsters, a teenager on the brink of puberty must pretend he's still a kid.
    • An electrician who finds herself trapped in a haunted hotel must rely on its crazed residents to escape.
    Last edited by Staff Deployment; February 11th, 2014 at 06:47 AM. Reason: some revisions

  6. #6
    Yanked from his world to face an ancestor in another, Brian Radik faces tough decisions, and a tougher fight.


    *Damn. 21 words*

    *WOOHOO!!! 19 words!*
    Last edited by T.S.Bowman; February 11th, 2014 at 08:09 AM.
    “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” -Carl Sagan

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  7. #7
    A pirate lord, branded a heretic by a corrupt church, fights to protect the only peace he has ever known.
    Four teenagers, scattered across a fantasy world, unbalance a delicate peace and tip the scales toward all out war.
    A young woman turns her enemy's own power against them, but unravels a mystery that will cost her her sanity.
    Exchanging his soul for power with a god of war, a magician becomes nothing but a weapon to be unleashed.
    Last edited by popsprocket; February 11th, 2014 at 06:07 AM.
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  8. #8
    Creative Area Specialist (Fiction) Blade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T.S.Bpwman View Post
    Yanked from his own world to face an ancient ancestor in another, Brian Radik faces tough decisions, and a tougher fight.


    *Damn. 21 words*
    You could remove 'own' and/or 'ancient'.
    I was fighting with temptation but I didn't want to win.
    A man like me don't like to see temptation caving in.
    Leonard Cohen

  9. #9
    Cool thread.

    And yes, regarding Gamer's line, usually the pitch is meant to refer to the external conflict, not the internal arc. A good way to think about it is "visual". The logline should describe what anyone watching your story would be able to see happening. If it's an internal arc, it's "invisible", and thus, shouldn't be part of the logline. At least, that's how I like to simplify it.

    That doesn't mean internal arcs are unimportant! They're tremendously important. They just usually aren't part of the pitch.

    The logline for the novel I'm working on:

    A young airship captain must deliver a prisoner cross-country during a war.

  10. #10
    So, you all realize that this is akin to a pitch for a story, right? That means genre, main character, and central conflict.

    Quote Originally Posted by popsprocket View Post
    A young woman turns her enemy's own power against them, but unravels a mystery that will cost her her sanity.
    For example, using this pitch, I can't place the genre. The main character is ... a young woman, with a mystery? The conflict is ..... what's the conflict? Is it turning the enemy's power against them? That seems to be resolved already, so it must be the mystery. But what's the mystery? What sort of dilemma does that bring, beyond "do I look into this mystery or not"?

    This isn't a very good story pitch because there isn't really a hook or a central conceit behind all the vague and mysterious terms. You shouldn't be afraid to smack someone over the head with your story! Unnecessarily pulling back details like this just shows that you're not confident in your own storytelling.

    Quote Originally Posted by KyleColorado View Post
    A young airship captain must deliver a prisoner cross-country during a war.
    This one is really good! It's a classic "parcel" story like 3:10 to Yuma (or alt-history like Oppel's Airborne), the main character is the airship captain, and the conflict comes with whether or not they can make the hazardous journey (and likely, whether they'll want to in the end, just theorizing). I like this one.

    (sorry for using you as a bad example pops )

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