Writing a good summary – for any story, fanfiction or not – is pretty much one of the only ways to get people interested in it (the other being Title – see below). Note: this article is also good for advice for original fictional stories.
Now, a summary is telling you, in a few short sentences, what your story is about. If it’s a one shot – well, good for you, you only have a few hundred words, perhaps a thousand or two, in your story, so that’s easy. Just pick a basic line to sum it up. For example, for my story ‘Fireworks’ (Harry Potter), which is a oneshot, my summary is, ‘James loves Lily but she refuses to say yes. How does he finally convince her?’ See: easy.
If it’s longer, it’s a bit harder. This applies for original fictional stories, too. So, for a story I’ve written, titled ‘The Bermuda Triangle’ (Doctor Who), my summary is: ‘When Amy and Rory decide to stay at home instead of travel with him, the Doctor is left confused as to what to do; that is, until he gets a May-Day message on his Psychic Paper from the HMAS Bellatrix. When he arrives on the vessel, he discovers that not all is at it seems, and that a young Seaman may be the ship’s last hope.’ I haven’t updated this in yonks, but I have a fair idea of where it’s going. I think.
To get a good summary, you just have to summarise the story. Yeah, I know, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Just pick the most important things. For example, in the one above, the point that gets the Doctor into the meat of the story is receiving a May-Day message on his Psychic Paper. So this gets the ball rolling, as it were. Saying that Amy and Rory don’t want to travel at him makes fans think, ‘Well well well, what’s goin’ on ‘ere then?’ (Though, they might all not be policemen.) So they’re interested. And, finally, the last hook – saying ‘it’s not all as it seems and that a young Seaman may be the ship’s last hope.’ This gets the readers really interested. They want to find out what’s wrong, and why this particular Seaman can help.
So that’s basically it: if you’re really stuck, pick out the three most important things: a hook at the start, a bit of meat that gets the ball rolling, and a final hook at the end if they’re not completely convinced. Remember, you have about 5 seconds when you’re reader clicks on the story to get their attention, so make sure your first line is equally as good as your summary is! Otherwise that little ‘back’ button at the top will become very appetizing to your readers.
I don’t know why I’m making readers sound like fish, but we’ll go with it.
So yes, and this applies for original fictional stories, too.
Questions, thoughts, queries? Shoot. 🙂
Others in the ‘series’: