Today’s question- how does one distill a 70,000-word novel into a single sentence that doesn’t give away everything, but drives people to pick up the book?
It’s a lot harder than you might think.
Step One- Identify the Protagonist.
My story clearly follows Stella Morrigan. But there is more to the protagonist than a name.
What are the most important details about a person? What words or phrases describe the answers to these questions?
Her age? 40-year-old, middle-aged, 4 decades
Her physical appearance? tall, dark, mysterious
Her personality? warm, compassionate, stoic, hurting, confident, scared
Her occupation? mental health counselor
Her relationships? captain’s older sister and best friend, patient of Dr. Mythrah, daughter and sister, friend, counselor
Her religion? Priestess of Atlantia
Her mission? win the war against Rogilia and the Allies, destroy the Allied mining facility, find the key to ending the war
Her secrets? (At least the ones that get revealed early on in the book) Her religion, her relationship to the captain, her fear of Medical, her traumatic past
Her roles? military advisor, captain’s conscience, undercover agent, patient, priestess
Her past? trauma, loss, faith, dedication, war
And… she isn’t some pretty young thing, she’s been in the same place for decades. And that is central to the conflict; will Stella make a change from something she has been doing nearly her whole life?
Step Two- Identify the Call to Action
This starts with understanding the plot of the story. Is it a budding romance, a dangerous mission, a psychological battle, a religious awakening, a fantasy adventure, a dystopian revolution, acceptance of femininity, or something more? What if it is all of the above? How do you pinpoint the most important thread in an interwoven tapestry?
This was the hardest part of the tag line, because I wasn’t internally clear on which plot lines took precedent. I wrote the book in a flurry of creative inspiration with no real plan or outline. Even re-reading the text months later, the driving force of the action was unclear. And that meant I needed to edit and rewrite until the threads aligned themselves in proper order. (Which, by the way, is still in progress.)
I identified the driving plot as the internal awakening that Stella undergoes throughout the story. From dedicated Consortium soldier to… well, I won’t spoil it for you. But on the surface, that sounds pedantic. Hey, folks, read my book about a character who has a mid-life crisis and considers changing her life.
And yet, a compelling story about being trapped in the past and taking control of her own fate- same plot, new descriptors.
Then, at the last minute, I realized that the fantasy element, Stella’s unique religion, could be utilized to the advantage of the plot. Throw in an ancient prophecy, and suddenly everything gets more mysterious.
Step Three- Tie it All Together
I won’t lie. I spent weeks shifting words and phrases, rearranging the order of things, moving, removing, adding. This is what I came up with. But, until accepted by a publisher, it is always subject to change.
After three decades fighting a war that began long before her birth, Stella Morrigan, ship’s counselor and secret Priestess of Poseidon, is forced to face her traumatic past, rethink her religious beliefs, and make decisions toward a future she never imagined when she finds herself in the center of an ancient prophecy.
So what do you think? Would you want to read more? If not, what about it doesn’t sound enticing? Is there another angle that would be attractive? What sort of books do you like?
And finally, because I loved my work on identifying the plotline, an irrelevant but fun statement about the book itself.
Remnant of Atlantia is a tasteful Sci-Fi Fantasy novel of (number TBD) words and the origin story in a planned series: A budding romance, a dangerous mission, a psychological battle, a religious awakening, a fantasy adventure, a dystopian revolution, an acceptance of femininity, and something more- a tapestry of many threads woven together into an epic tale that is just the beginning of the journey.