tamela_j (tamela_j) wrote,

Blog: So, what's it about?

Augh! Why are summaries so hard?

So, now that people know that I have written, finished and am having a book published, after their "YAY! That's awesome!" is the question that stops me cold. "So, what's it about?"





And it's not that I don't know what it's about, I just have a hard time gauging just how much the person asking really wants to know. You see, I've been to a lot of writers' events. I've seen people's eyes glaze over when they very innocently (and a bit n00bishly) ask, "What's it about?" and are then subjected to a 15 minute description of this person's book. I've seen that "Save Me" look so many times. I've given that "Save Me" look so many times. It's not that I didn't want to know and was only being polite (okay, sometimes that's EXACTLY what it is) but there's a difference between "What's it about?" and "Tell me every detail of your latest book, including what influenced it and if there will be sequels."

So, I find myself doing the opposite by giving too little information. I find I'm okay with this usually, but there have been times when people look at me with the "And then what?" look. This look is still preferable to the "Kill Me Now" look, but there has to be a happy medium.

The major problem as I see it, besides that I am overly sensitive to looks people give, is that it is much harder to swiftly articulate the summary of a character based story then a plot based story. Again, not implying that my story has no plot. It's sick with plot, but just not easily explained plot. It's all about the characters and how the plot effects them, defines them and ultimately changes them. That's the part that's hard to describe without glossing over or giving too much away.

So, I could really use your help. I will give you a few options of the answer to the question (hopefully without giving too much of the plot away) and you can tell me which one sounds adequate without glazing over your eyes and causing you to scan for the exits.

Option One:
It is a story about a brother and sister trying to find themselves as they search for each other.

Option Two:
A story about a Native American brother and sister ripped apart by tragedy trying to find their tribe.

Option Three:
Naomi starts her story in a cult recovery facility and tells the story of her family trying to fit in and survive on the reservation. Tim's story is told when he wakes up deep in the forest with no idea who he is or how he got wounded. As each story continues simultaneously we learn more about Tim through his sister and he learns more about himself through the people he meets and how their lives are forever changed in their interactions with him.

Option Four:
Growing up on the Montana reservation was not easy for Naomi who only longed for her mother's love, or for her half-white brother Tim, who only longed for the tribe's acceptance. When their mother, Virginia returns from yet another court-ordered rehab stint a changed woman, it could be their families redemption or their destruction. Virginia moves the family to "The Way" compound were they are marked as special by the charismatic leader Malachi and his followers. When Naomi is told her prophesied role in the family, she knows it is a sacrifice she cannot make and urges her brother to leave with her. He is torn between finally belonging, and being the brother he'd always been to the one person who has loved him unconditionally.

When he wakes up deep in the forest wounded and smelling of smoke he no longer knows who he is, where he is, or where he belongs. The only thing he can remember is survival, the only thing that haunts his dreams is a face, and one word: sister.

Any of those work? A mix perhaps? Want more? Need more? Less?

What do you look for in a summary? What turns you off of a summary? More importantly, please feel free to share any secrets you have about writing them.


As I like to have my toes in as many social waters as possible, this post can also be found on DreamWidth. You can comment here or there...or not at all if you want to make me cry.

Tags: advice would be nice, blog, publishing, summaries are hard
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