(Craft) The One-Sentence Summary

core of storyFocus is essential to the success of any enterprise. In writing, the ability to focus your story idea can mean the difference between the success or failure of your story.

The starting point of focus when writing your story is to summarize it in a single sentence. This is usually called the “one-sentence summary” and is more easily said than done. But a writing mentor of mine introduced me to a wonderful summary statement template created by former agent Nathan Bradsford that has helped me immensely in writing my one-sentence summary.  The template is as follows:

When OPENING CONFLICT happens to CHARACTER, he has to OVERCOME CONFLICT to COMPLETE QUEST.

Let’s take a look at how I used this template in crafting my one-sentence summary for my historical novel set in 19th-century Sicily and entitled The Madonna of Pisano, now being shopped around by my agent: 

When a young woman (CHARACTER) is raped by her parish priest (OPENING CONFLICT), she faces losing her fiancé and
violating the village code of honor in order (OVERCOME CONFLICT) to save her family’s farm (COMPLETE QUEST).

Try using this template with your current WIP or your next story. I think you will find it makes a world of difference in helping you crystallize your core story and, thereby, in helping you write it. 

Please share how you write your one-sentence summary.

P.S. I am preparing a series of short courses on writing fiction. Please tell me what elements of fiction writing are of most interest to you. Thanks!

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