Squawk Radio

Friday, March 03, 2006

Christina Dodd asks WHAT IS YOUR BOOK ABOUT?

When reporters interview you, they ask WHAT IS YOUR BOOK ABOUT? While editors are deciding whether to read your manuscript, they ask WHAT IS YOUR BOOK ABOUT? Relatives — oh, yes, especially relatives, ask WHAT IS YOUR BOOK ABOUT? (They only do it because they’re nosy and can’t believe little cousin Christina could possibly stop daydreaming enough to write a book.)

But still, there you are, trying to condense a 90,000 word book into one sentence — a sentence which sums up your excitement about the story and the bones of the plot. Of course, you could stammer around like an idiot (I favor this method, in fact I utilized it a couple of times on my recent booktour), or you could look in a video guide and study the way reviewers sum up a movie plot.

These one-sentence synopsizes provide both type of story and plot in the briefest form possible.

For instance, for CASABLANCA — "In a classic romantic tearjerker, a cafe owner helps couple escape from Nazis in Morocco, losing his heart yet gaining self-respect."

For DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE — “Horror holds center stage as a potion frees Victorian London doctor’s bad side.”

For ANNA AND THE KING — "A sweeping historical saga highlights an English widow’s royal romance as she tutors the king’s harem and 67 children."

You define the type of story in the first few words — “classic romantic tearjerker,” “horror,” or “sweeping historical saga.” Then you lay out the plot swiftly and cleanly, using action verbs and hooks that capture a reader’s attention and whet their appetite. This is short-hand, a method to pitch a book in a way everyone comprehends.

For THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS — "Like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS combines thrills and adventure when an exiled princess fights to right a wrong and discovers kidnapping an English nobleman leads to dire peril — and illicit passion."

Easy, right?

Oh, sure!!! You do it!!!

No, I’m serious. You do it. Write a one-line synopsis for a book you recently read — or for the book you’re currently writing. Define the type of story, give a sense of the plot, use action verbs, and whet the reader’s appetite for more.

No, everyone cannot use Lisa Kleypas’s DEVIL IN WINTER! I haven’t got to read it yet and you’re just making me crazy with envy when you talk about it!

Now write that impossible, wonderful, tantalizing sentence. Go for it!
Christina Dodd, 1:41 AM