One-Sentence Summary of your Book

When someone asks you what your book is about, do you have a one-sentence line to spit out, or do you ramble on for four minutes rehashing the plot before your listener bolts? If you do the four-minute-ramble, I’ve got a great tool for you. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I got it. It’s scrawled on a chunk of paper that floats on my desk, moving from pile to pile as I shift papers looking for whatever it is I’m looking for. Shoot. So I can’t give the original author the applause and recognition he/she deserves. (Note: If you know who came up with this, please share! I hate not knowing. I think it might be Kristen Lamb, but I’m not sure.)

It’s a simple formula. Ready?
Protagonist must do X (goal) in order to stop Antagonist before Super Bad Thing Happens (ticking clock).
It’s that easy. Watch me put it to work. Here’s the one-sentence summary of my romantic suspense Cassandra’s Curse:  Cassandra must discover the killer’s identity and stop him before he shoots Detective Dogan. I’ll admit, it’s not the best one-sentence summary I could have come up with, but it does the job. 
Let me try it again with someone else’s work: Frodo must destroy The One Ring in the fires of Mt. Doom in order to stop Sauron before he takes over the world with his evil hordes.
Here’s another, but I had to alter the formula slightly to get it to work: Katniss Everdeen volunteers to fight in the Hunger Games to save her younger sister from dying in the games. 
Now consider your work-in-progress and fill in the blanks. Share your one-sentence summary in the comments section, please.

4 responses to “One-Sentence Summary of your Book”

  1. Hmm… Interesting formula!

    Jaq must figure out her part in an ancient prophecy before a secret society silences her forever.

    Or it’s easy to rearrange the order to shake things up, as long as it keeps the essential elements:

    Li is striving to make the Mars colony self-sustainable in order to save mankind, but her focus shifts to survival when her fellow colonists turn homicidal.

    1. sonjadhutchinson Avatar

      Nicely done, Aggeloi. I especially like the second one.

  2. Good post: Here’s my sentence:

    In the Chains of Time an orphaned farm boy named Amin helps a noble family overcome a plot to enable a ruthless general become king of a land called Setenkar.


    1. sonjadhutchinson Avatar

      Thanks for sharing, Peter. I think you can leave out the name of the book and the name of the country. Also, what are the stakes? Why is it bad if the ruthless general becomes king? I like the orphan/noble part–nice contrast there. Last, maybe you could change “overcome” to “overthrow”?

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