Welcome to another attempt to write compelling summaries.
I broke down Sea of Shadows and why I absolutely fell in love with the summary.
Browsing Amazon or Barnes & Nobles or your shelves for compelling summaries is both dangerous and fun. Dangerous because I am a few books richer but my wallet is like
Fun for obvious reasons. The summaries are often the reason you bought the book. Or, at the least, it shakes up good memories from the first time you read the book. For a few years, I let the first chapter sell me, not the summary.
And if you've purchased or read books like your novel which, hint! you should have, there's examples of what worked as far as hooks and summaries.
One of the reasons it's so important to pick books similar to what you've already written is because, well, it changes the tune, tone, and expectation of your story if the summaries aren't right.
While I was writing several drafts of queries and sending them to my CPs and TC and betas, no one knew what the story was about. One because I was withholding information.
Two, it was following the wrong elements.
Some drafts, following the flow of contemporary, blindsided some of my CPs making them forget about magic. Then I got asked if I was on magical realism? I wish I was.
Others focused on the two main characters so people thought it was a romance! Hint: it's not.
Every story has its own flow. Not saying every story is the same, but every story has about the same expectations.
Here's what happens if I imitate Sea of Shadows
Eighth graders Vannette and Dalton used to be best friends in first grade, and despite not remembering why they broke up, that's how everyone in their town knows them. Forgetting their violent misadventures and avoiding one another, they lead separate but parallel lives in Weaver Texas's Future America program at their middle school. There, where a few have chosen a career and stuck to preparing for it since Kindergarten, the two have been seats apart and on all out-of-state field trips.
But this year, Dalton's guaranteed absence is unexplainably revoked.
See? I have no idea what that even means. They're forced together and she wants space but she doesn't get it? What am I waiting for? What do I care?
UNLESS I'm writing a middle grade. So cute. Little kid drawings and wild theories on why he's there. Oh my god, let's make it an MG.
I wish this worked because that's 90 words right there.
But because I'm not writing in a fantasy world, this was a bad idea to imitate. It's just the world's best summary.
Let's try with others. And I'm laughing at this next one.
Funny side story on Twilight. It was a hit when I was in high school and the movie was going to be out soon. I tried to pick it up but just by looking at it and scanning a few passages within, I thought it was about drug-taking witch boys in the woods. So I was like, meh, no. I'll pass.
If I'd read the summary, I definitely wouldn't have read it. Not even with peer pressure. Here's the Amazon summary:
Now, this is my problem with this summary. One, she goes by Bella. I think I hear her called Isabella all of once. Like, don't shove someone's full name down their throat. I know, petty, but annoying.
Two, it's so vague on the dangers. Because if Edward can keep a vampire secret in a small community, he's got self-control, right? So what are the dangers? And what desires are they having?
I don't know, vague. And just to be ultra picky, Three: story with bite? omg
This is coming from the girl who owns all the books (except the novella) and all the movies and who wants to watch them at least once a month.
But this summary? It would have kept me from this book, series, movie adaptation.
I didn't watch the movie or read the book on time. It wasn't until Wal-Mart released it's trailer for the DVD release that I really got sold on it. I remember it so clearly because I had to rewatch it immediately on the internets.
I can't even find that commercial anymore. I think whoever put it up took it down long ago.
But just to give you an idea, it dealt with the first chapters of the book. If you've read or watched but can't remember, it's the almost accident.
From the summary above, you'd never know anything of real consequence happened because all you know is that they found each other, she's pretty boring, he's a vampire and he cares about her.
But imitation time!
Vannette Lore's field trip to Gettysburg, a land haunted by the American Civil War, could have been the most boring trip she's ever been on. But once she runs into pale and hesitant Dalton Pierce, Vannette's fate is sealed.
Up until now, Vannette and Dalton have been sworn enemies, but now the imposter who came back from the field trip shields her from a danger she can't see.
Eh. I guess.
The Twilight summary was 73 words. Mine? 70.
As far as less words, we're actually getting closer.
Now, Twilight and my novel have something in common. It's magic in the real world. Unlike Sea of Shadows, there's no magic or danger or anything before the inciting incident.
As a bonus, though, here's the back of the DVD cover:
Way better summary.
I would read the book, I would watch the movie, I would stand in the rain to buy the DVD all over again if it had just started with this.
Copycat Bonus Round:
Vannette Lore doesn't expect much when she goes on the annual field trip, until she runs into pale and nervous Dalton Pierce--her former best friend who's hiding a dark secret: he's not the person she grew up with. As their private worlds and true intentions blur the lines of right and wrong, Vannette must battle the bloodlust raging within her as well as the darkness Dalton's imposter has brought them.
Theirs: 65. Mine: 70.
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
I'm not. But that's what a serial killer would say.
I watched the movie before I read the book. Sue me. I was sick, it was on Netflix, I watched it.
In retrospect, all the regrets.
The movie was awful. I wonder if the book...? But now I want less to do with the book than before.
But anyway, this is Amazon's summary:
I picked this one for obvious reasons. One, I've been dropping killer hints in the other query-tries. Yes, Vannette who seems like a sleepy crybaby coward turns out to be an actress with the same agenda John Wayne Cleaver has: don't become a killer.
And two, if you've read the book or seen the movie, there's a plot twist that isn't really a plot twist in my book.
Now for the copycat.
Vannette Lore is dangerous.
She's spent elementary school working on not living up to her fantasies.
She's obsessed with murders and the constellations they make in her community, but doesn't want to add her own stars. So for her own sake, and the safety of the young things around her, she lives by the rigid rules she's placed for herself, pretending until it almost becomes her first nature to be the helpless quiet girl.
Rage is normal to Vannette. She loves it, actually. It doesn't ask or hesitate or compromise. That's what gives her the upper-hand when, on a school field trip, something unnatural takes the place of her former best friend.
Now, for the first time since she was eight, Vannette has to confront the violence raging inside her, which, as she stands ready to end the imposter, threatens to dismantle the fragile world she's built.
Mine: 148 words. His: 155.
I'm getting better at shortening summaries.
Now this accurately covers the Before the inciting incident. But misses the tone altogether. In the beginning of the story, Vannette's actually miserable. Her mom's died and she has depression she can't shake and is leaking out into nightmares, too much sleep and too little sleep. She's not at the top of her game like this summary would imply.
But it's not wrong.
Here's the movie version of IANASK, just for kicks and giggles:
Literally, I couldn't rewrite this because this is basically what my story is. Isn't that nuts! You can pitch something with the same words and the stories are completely different.
Well, not completely.
THE DARK DIVINE
Fun fact! While I was drafting FLTs, The Dark Divine came on my radar. Yup, years and years ago.
And have you seen its book trailer? Oh my gosh, beautiful.
I went out and bought the hardcover immediately. I really found the writing style refreshing and the fact that there's religion at its heart without being overly preachy was a nice change too.
Amazon's take on TDD:
There are so many reasons to want to read this. First, YA with family involved? Pretty rare in the magical world. I needed to know what would happen when she was trapped between two boys, one who is her brother and the other who is the crush.
Second, as I mentioned, the faith element.
Besides, this, coupled with that amazing book trailer? Sold, sold, sold.
Why I would ever copy it: the cycling person. The person who comes back and ruins things.
Vannette Lore always suspected that something horrible happened the day Dalton Pierce stopped being her best friend, but she has no idea what a truly terrifying chain of events that day started.
The wicked and vaguely magical memories she tried to bury resurface when Dalton unexpectedly shows up on an out-of-state field trip. Despite her paranoia that something's not right with him and her friends' increasingly calm behavior, she can't help but bar him out of her life.
The closer Vannette becomes to figuring the imposter, the more she blurs the safety of her life, and her actions stir a wicked secret the other people in her class have kept since the breakup. Vannette must play the dark and magical game she thought was made up in order to protect the fragile and unsuspecting world she lives in. But she might have to sacrifice the one thing she's trying to protect—her soul.
This sucks. I'd never read this book. It's too wordy.
Hers: 167. Mine: 153.
I'm getting less wordy, though, compared to what I'm copying.
So maybe that's good.
There are so many ways to describe one story.
It is so important to a) obviously get the genre right and b) set the tone.
Some of these stories, they have similar plot points, but not similar launching points or similar moods.
So be careful!
I've got more books to read in hopes of learning the right way to summarize this story. I'll see you for #4 soon!