It is hard to condense the focus and significance of a story or book into one or two sentences, but readers expect a preview to decide whether they would be interested in reading further or not. Readers want a piece to intrigue them enough them to say, “Looks good! I have to read this book.”
The premise or log line describes the main character or idea, the situation or setting, the conflict or risks, and the goal.
Now we can expand our premise to a summary. The premise, log line and summary are essential to marketing your article or novel. You will use them for your query letter, your book cover and promotion pieces.
A novel summary introduces the main character, and identifies what he or she wants to achieve. Followed by a description of the obstacles (first, second, third and ending crisis) that stand in her path for success. The summary will likely be five or six sentences long.
The format for an article or non-fiction work starts with introducing the purpose as the thesis, followed by one sentence for each major supporting point, and a sentence to describe that point. The concluding sentence re-states the thesis in similar words. The summary will be six to eight sentences in length for a three-point thesis.
Study movie or TV show summaries to become acquainted with how they are composed. Most summarize the main story line, crisis, and goal in one paragraph. However, others are laboriously long and are better categorized as a synopsis that covers all from beginning to end.
Deborah Lyn Stanley is a writer, artist, and editor. She is a retired project manager who now devotes her time to writing, art and caregiving mentally impaired seniors. Deborah writes articles, essays and stories. She has published a collection of 24 artists’ interviews entitled the Artists Interview Series. Careful editing preserves each artist’s voice as they share their journey. The series published as monthly articles for an online news network, can also be found on her web-blog: Deborah Lyn Stanley--My Writer's Life . Her “How-To” articles have appeared in magazines.
“Write your best, in your voice, your way!”