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Good day fellow writers,

I'm looking for feedback on this plot summary for my book. I'm patterning it after the one on page 19 of Bingham's book about Pride and Prejudice): (mine is about 35 words)

Magen Khent is a perfectionist who wants to be happy. For the past 30 years, she has tried myriad therapies to no real avail. She finally discovers the power of self-compassion and self-care.

REVISED (thanks to Emmaloo and Rick and the magic of time)

Magen Khent's struggle with depression and anxiety has come to a head: either keep trying myriad therapies as she has for the past thirty years or choose to end her life. 

1. Is the shape / structure clear?

2. Is anything missing (to make it clearer)?

3. How could I make it more concise? (p. 20 - Harry talks about this)

4. Any constructive feedback is welcome.

  • Hi Kelly.

    There's a lot to unpack here in a mere 35 words. And I'm not going to try to answer your four questions as asked. Instead, I'm going to give you my impressions (and it is no more than that) of it, sequentially:

    Magen Khent is a perfectionist who wants to be happy.

    This is pretty strong. It gives us a protagonist (Magen Khent) and tells us something about her personality (perfectionist). It also provides a desire (wants to be happy). All good, so far.


    I'm going two out of three on this. The reason is that "wants to be happy" is generic. Bland. It doesn't tell us anything. Who doesn't want to be happy? What I need to know is that she's "been searching her entire life for the secret of happiness" or "in search of the elusive happiness she sees in others" or… Well, anything, really. Tell me what shape this goal has in her mind, and the term of proactivity that describes how she's been approaching it.

    Yes. This will add a few words. We can compensate in the next sentence.

    For the past 30 years, she has tried myriad therapies to no real avail.

    Again, you've structured this sentence to tell us multiple things about Magen: she's in her mid-to-late 40's (or older), she's tried "everything," and, so far, she's come up… well, empty-handed.

    This time, I'll suggest simply cutting words.

    For 30 years, she's tried myriad therapies. To no avail.

    The split of the results to a second sentence may just be a foible of mine. I think it gives an extra kick.

    She finally discovers the power of self-compassion and self-care. 

    OK. We have an outcome. But… For me, at least, this sentence kills the pitch. The reason is that you've laid the result out and said "it works, no questions." It tells me that the book is going to be a preachy self-help book disguised as a novel. (Which I hope is not your intention.)

    There's no room in this sentence for Magen's voyage of discovery, her try-fail cycles as she seeks to master these concepts.

    Again, I would make it longer. Something along the lines of: "Now, she sees a glimmer of hope as she begins to unpick the true meaning of self-compassion and self-care." That puts her feet on a path that has twists and turns. That she's bound to fall off (because haven't we all?) It leaves mystery - maybe she'll make it, maybe not. Or maybe she'll learn something even deeper…

    I hope there's something in there that helps.

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    • That certainly adds punch, Kelly.

      Merging fact and interest deosn't need to be complicated. I think you've done well with that latest iteration. Though you've left a lot of room for tightening with your word structure.

      "Either" and "choose to are implicit, so can be dropped.

      You can also move the thirty years into the struggle, saving another half dozen words.

      "Trying" is a little weak, in my opinion, so change to "experimenting" which gives a feel of more wiggle room.

      And, lastly, use one of those saved words to re-apply her personality.

      Giving (at 23 words):

      Magen Khent's thirty-year perfectionist struggle with depression and anxiety has come to a head: keep experimenting with myriad therapies or end her life.

      (I would add a grammatically questionable comma before "or" to force the reader to take a breath, enhancing the gut punch. But… personal.)

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      • Thank you so much Rick! It's such a challenge to get the image in my head onto the page in a comprehensible yet powerful way.

        Magen Khent's thirty-year perfectionistic struggle with depression and anxiety has come to a head: keep experimenting with myriad therapies or end her life. 

        I love the edits. My perfectionism is telling me that I should've come up with that on my own. Part of my recovery is accepting that I don't have all the answers and that doesn't mean I'm worthless. Thank you so much for taking the time to really help me hone this sentence which pretty much sums up my journey. I LOVE IT.

        I will look for some of your writing to give you feedback because I want to pay it forward!!



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        • Don't beat yourself up over it, Kelly. It's far easier to see the tweaks that can be made in another's work than in our own; we're inherently invested in what we've done. We beleive it is the best we can do, so the obvious next steps become invisible.

          As to having a look at my writing… do you read fantasy?

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        • Hi Kelly,

          Agree with everything Rick said so helpfully and succinctly above.

          I would add that this summary tells us who the MC is, what she wants, how long she's been trying to get it, and that she eventually gets it.... But has not hinted at the obstacles or challenges she faces and overcomes en route - and these things are the nuts and bolts of the story itself.

          You could say something pretty ambiguous and/or generic like, "It proves to be so much tougher than she'd anticipated", or you could throw in an intriguing wild card like, "It might have been easy had it not been for that unexpectedly dangerous game of bingo" - either way, you need some reference, I feel, to the 'journey'.

          Hope that makes sense :-)

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