Writing Summaries ? dang that can be hard sometimes, eh?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by PresidentKang, Oct 16, 2004.

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  1. PresidentKang

    PresidentKang Jedi Youngling star 1

    Jun 23, 2004
    I think its all in trying to condence as much information as possible down to a few short sentences. Write too much and people's eyes glaze over and skip to the next story. Short & sweet.

    But condencing it all down into 2 or 3 sentences can be murder. You don't want to give it away but you want to tease it along to get them interested.

    Case in point: I've been trying to write this summary off-and-on for 20 minutes or so. and I just kept cutting it down, cutting it down, cutting it down.

    Right now I got:
    Anakin Skywalker finds himself battered and alone during the Clone Wars teetering dangerously close to the Dark Side. But the consequences could be more horrific than he?d ever imagined.

    I still don't think I got it all in there, something in there is telling me A) write something about the horrors of war cuz that's what the theme of the story is and B) keep it short and sweet. and big one is C) am I giving too much away? The story, Fell From the Sky, doesn't have Anakin going crazy until the midway point. And he does some very bad stuff. The problem is that's really the point of the whole story, do I want to say that in the teaser?

    Usually I just punch out semi-sarcastic summaries. My original summary on the saga fic board was just "Anakin Skywalker has a really bad day" but I'm submitting it to the fan fic archive and I want it to pop. But trying to really write a good one can be a pain.

    Anyone else ever go a little nutso writin a summary? Am I not alone here? Can this not be brain-bendingly hard?

    Post some of your summaries to boot!
  2. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    You're not alone. I hate writing summaries. Hate it, hate it, hate it, with a passion. Coming up with a summary I'm satisfied with is harder than writing the story itself. [face_frustrated] (Though I like yours. :) )

    EDIT: Argh, post some of them? :eek: *sighs* Okay, one. For my Tangled Paths: Reflections on what is and what could have been.

    I think that's the only summary I've ever written that I actually like. :p
  3. obaona

    obaona Jedi Master star 4

    Jun 18, 2002
    Ugh! - that is me and summaries. :p You're right about them being too long, I have that problem at times. [face_blush] I actually like your summary, but I definitely know what you mean. A lot of the time I don't bother with a summary for a story when I post it here, on the boards. (I also got a reader to write me my summary once when I submitted the story to the Archive, hehe.)

    When I am forced into a summary, though, I try to do two things within those two or three sentences - give a general sense of what the story is about, and then some specific example early in the story. :) For example, The Obi-Wan of Ep. III lands in an alternate universe - to find Qui-Gon, Anakin, and others alive and un-turned, and to find himself, well, rather dead. You learn about the alternate Obi-Wan being dead pretty early in the story, so that's not a problem, but it doesn't give away that the other Obi-Wan was also a Dark Jedi and went on a lil' murdering spree before he kicked it. :p

    A real summary? My latest was A strange little story with Obi-Wan and Siri. :p I hate summaries. They're too hard. :p
  4. VadersMistress

    VadersMistress Jedi Knight star 6

    Apr 7, 2004
    Okay, summaries suck. I don't know why we must do them. Okay, I know why, but I don't like to do them. I get too wordy and include information that I don't need. :D Whoops.
  5. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    I hate writing summaries for trilogies or long stories. What can you say in summary?

    Ish kills and tortures, but it all turns out right.

    Everyone turns to the Dark Side, we're not sure how, but it means everyone gets to die anyway!
  6. Jara_Dax

    Jara_Dax Jedi Youngling star 1

    Oct 6, 2004
    I have the tendency to just pick a sentence I like from my fic and use that as summary instead ;)
  7. flowerbee

    flowerbee Jedi Knight star 5

    Apr 29, 2004
    *sobs* I despise summaries! I can't ever decide how much of the plot to reveal.
  8. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 9, 2000
    I just pretend I'm writing a blurb for the back of the paperback bestseller! Reveal enough to intrigue the reader, but don't give it all away. That's what a summary is for, really... catch the interest of someone enough for them to check out the rest of the fic.
  9. spiritgurl

    spiritgurl Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jul 6, 2003
    I know exactly what you mean. I have so much going on in my stories it's hard to condense it, and then sometimes I worry that I'm giving too much away since there's a lot of mystery in these stories as well.

    I recently was trying to do a whole series summary for The Force That Binds (which I'm only up to Episode II with) and just sat staring at the keyboard. I know where it's going and what's going to happen but I hate to give things away by boiling it down so much. :(

    examples, since you asked:

    [link=]Episode I Knightshift[/link]

    PREFACE: Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are on Coruscant investigating the disappeance of a Senator's daughter when a disturbing vision draws Obi-Wan into a nightclub.

    Now this is correct for the beginning of the story, but then a WHOLE lot goes on after that initial meeting and I couldn't bring myself to reveal what all up front.

    Then there's [link=]Episode II The Brood[/link]

    PREFACE: Now a Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan must learn to deal with his new responsibility, padawan Anakin Skywalker, as well as his feelings for Nahlia - all while working on a mission to take down Coruscant crime boss Daemun Sevario.

    so it's pretty clear something big has gone on during the first Episode if Obi-Wan now has "feelings" for this girl. And he is on a mission to get this crime boss dude, but again there's a lot more going on that I'd love to put in there, but I can't because it'd be either giving away too much or prattling on about the story when I'd rather the reader gets to reading. ;)

    I think the above examples work well enough though since I don't think it's a good idea to give away too much or go on too long.


  10. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Force Ghost star 4

    Jun 3, 2002
    Generally speaking, I hate writing summaries. It is easier with viggies for obvious reasons--they're shorter. But for long stories, it can get a bit hard to summarize a piece that has so much going on. I try and stick with the general point of the story.

    Since you asked--here's some examples.

    [link=]Finding a Father in a Memory[/link]

    Summary:~Separated from one another when the child was an infant, a father has come to reclaim his son from the Jedi.

    It's pretty clear just from the summary what the central idea of the fic. Plus, it is only one sentence--short, sweet and to the point.

    [link=]Through the Eyes of a Master[/link]

    Summary:~One man who was there recounts the story of two infants turned Jedi Knights that were supposed to save the galaxy.

    Again, the central issure of the story is told in the summary, plus in this one there is a little foreshadowing. Notice that is says supposed to save the galaxy--not that they did save the galaxy.

    Anyway, as spiritgurl said above, summaries shouldn't be too long or give away too much.

  11. NYCitygurl

    NYCitygurl Manager Emeritus star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jul 20, 2002
    I hate it!! I always end up putting too much info. in.
  12. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Mar 1, 2002
    I also hate writing summaries. They always sound so lame. You either give away the whole plot or not enough for any interest. I'm more careful with my summaries for the archives but I still have tons of trouble with them. Sometimes, just describing it aloud to someone else is helpful.
  13. VadersMistress

    VadersMistress Jedi Knight star 6

    Apr 7, 2004
    Why would one need to write a summary, except for the Archives?
  14. spiritgurl

    spiritgurl Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jul 6, 2003
    I've noticed that not everyone writes them but I think they're a good idea to have in stories posted on the board. Especially with longer fics, it lets the reader know quickly what is going on and who's involved in the story so they can see if the story will interest them or not.

  15. PresidentKang

    PresidentKang Jedi Youngling star 1

    Jun 23, 2004
    I think summmaries are generally good. if you get someone to click on your story then you should give them an indication of what's going on / what they're in for.

    It can be a fun exercise, though (if you like torturing yourself, that is). I did one that was about 4 sentences long and one that was about 2 sentences long and I liked the 2 sentence one alot better.
  16. vader_incarnate

    vader_incarnate Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 29, 2002
    I think summaries are generally a good idea -- not really for politeness' sake, but for something closely akin to that. Personally, I just like giving the readers an idea of what to expect. *shrugs*

    I tend to suscribe to the theory that the vaguer a summary is, the better. :p If nothing else, the ambiguity makes it sound tempting and mysterious ... even if it's not. ;)

    Example -- Ten years after the Alliance loses at Endor, a man who should have been a hero finds something he thought had been lost forever.

    It's difficult, at least for me, to condense plot and character development and everything else that comes into a story -- even a short story -- into a few lines. The ambiguity generally releases me from the obligation. ;)
  17. Alethia

    Alethia Jedi Master star 5

    Feb 13, 2005
    There is an absolutely brilliant writer's challenge that many 'real' (published) authors recommend-

    Summarize your plot in fifteen words or less.

    The reason it is brilliant is because it forces you to find the heart of the story. Sure, stories, especially epic novels, can be full of different plot lines and characters and all in all, somewhat of a jumbled, thrown together mess. But in forcing yourself to describe that 10,000+ word fic in fifteen words, you have to delve deep inside that tangled mess and find the center of it all.

    As for normal summaries... yes, they can also be a pain. I usually allow myself a paragraph, no matter how long the fic/novel stands to be. A paragraph or two is all you get for a published book, so it's practice for that.

    But you do have to find a certain balance- writing enough so it draws the reader into your story, but leaving enough out so that nothing is spoiled.

    Sometimes I find myself writing summaries just for fun. They're not always for books that I plan to write, just plot bunnies, really. But they help me get down an idea and start to formulate it, without really having to plan it out.

    And I love that fifteen word challenge. An excellent excercise. On that note, can yna of you sum up your fic in fifteen words or less?

    I'd love to see what you come up with...

    And hyphenated words count as two words, so no cheating...
  18. VaderLVR64

    VaderLVR64 Manager Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Feb 5, 2004
    My summaries tend to be one sentence long because I'm always afraid I'll reveal too much!
  19. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Feb 5, 2005
    Ergh, I think we can all agree that summaries are evil; EVIL I say! Frustrating, too. I have a lot of trouble writing short summaries (check out Slayer for a perfect example of how NOT to write summaries). It's in my nature to write long ones. :p

    EDIT: On a whim, I shortened my summary. :p So never mind checking it out.
  20. agentj

    agentj Jedi Knight star 2

    Dec 3, 2004
    I actually like to write my summaries before I write my story. I have a cut and paste header that I use with a slot for me to write my summary. I do this because I typically have a lot of ideas come to me quickly, and in order to remember the idea when I can come back later and actually write it, I have to write down the major plot short and sweet. Writing summaries for vignettes is easy because it's like a poem--short and to the point. There's only one major plot point, and once you've reached it, you're done.

    However, I typically re-write my summaries before posting them either to shorten them or to prevent revealing too much.

    The one I've had the hardest time with is for [link=]Keep Falling Down[/link]. It started out as:

    [blockquote]After Vader's death, Anakin finds himself back at a new beginning.[/blockquote]
    But people at [link=]ff.n[/link] told me that didn't do the story justice. So now I've re-written it to:

    [blockquote]What would you do if you could live your life over again, starting at the point where you made your biggest mistake? Anakin Skywalker is about to find out.[/blockquote]
    I don't really like that one either, but so far nobody's complained that it's inaccurate or boring, and I still get people wandering by at ff.n even when I haven't updated the story in a long time (

    I really do wish that everybody would use a header of sorts at the top of their stories so when I follow a link to a thread, I can see at a glance what's in store. So many threads start with the story, and if I'm not captured in a paragraph or two, I move on.
  21. Mirax-Jade

    Mirax-Jade Jedi Padawan star 4

    Mar 7, 2003
    Bah, I hate writing summaries...I think my favourite one I wrote was: "What did Han and Leia do to have such a horrible daughter?!"

    Or this one: "Princess Leia strives to be understood, but no one can see past Alderaan's destruction, not even herself, except Han. Maybe he can help warm her up."

    I think the best advice for writing summaries, is try to take the main point of the story and turn into something intriguing. You have to make the reader want to read the story...I don't know how many stories I've passed over because the summary was horrid. {We really are a superficial people aren't we?} :p
  22. SilSolo

    SilSolo Jedi Knight star 5

    Mar 5, 2004
    Here's some of the things I've written for summaries:
    For the Final Battle (when I put up the first post)
    I dunno. I make it up as I write.
    For the Final Battle (YJK indexing)
    Can I write that in when I finish the fic?
  23. MistiWhitesun

    MistiWhitesun Jedi Master star 3

    Aug 16, 2004
    I actually tend to find summaries not that hard to write?when I know what story's about. Sometimes?okay, often?I start without a clear goal in mind, or with an aim and no plot planning. That isn't fun.

    For ones that I already had written when I was trying to find a summary, especially when I knew how people would take it, it wasn't too bad. ([link=]Flashing Night[/link] - Enough time in the dark can break the toughest warrior.)

    But with ones like [link=]"Most can't hear me?"[/link] (if you've read it you understand the problem), it's extremely difficult because there's such a delicate balance of surprise and "original" subject matter (You expect me to believe no one else has done it? Dream on). For that one, I settled for a variation and continuation of the title: "Most can't hear her?but you can." And that was mentally fatiguing.

    So it depends on how well you know your fic and its intended audience. An angst fic, a torture fic, a romance fic, each have their main audiences they cater to. Study the fics that the audience loves; examine their summaries.

    That's how you can figure out what readers want to know. At least, as far as I know. But truth be told, I don't always do it. Because you want to stand out.

    I don't know if "catch lines" can be taught. All I know is they can be figured out by observation. So after you know what your readers want, find the summaries that catch your attention, figure out what the author did to catch it, and improvise. Or, if you can't figure out what he did, mimic. You'd be surprised what you can learn by consciously mimicking another style.

    Everyone has to start somewhere. :)

    But whatever you end up doing, keep writing!
  24. Myri_Antilles

    Myri_Antilles Jedi Padawan star 4

    Aug 3, 2004
    When [link=]X-Wing: Entrapment[/link] got put in the [link=]pilot index[/link], I had to write a summary... all I could come up with was "Cracken takes the Rogues and Wraiths on a simple mission with him, but there's more going on than meets the eye..." which is terribly generic, but... what can I say? I hate to give away plot... :p
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