Using One-Line Summaries to Write Better Stories

Sometimes a story, scene, or chapter isn’t working as you wish. Sometimes a completed story doesn’t have the oomph! you want it to have.

Here’s a suggestion for getting your story, scene, or chapter working as it should.

Write a one-line summary that tells your story
Let’s say (for example purposes) we’re working with a completed short story. We recognize the story is flawed but are unsure what the flaw is. We write the one line summary Man with a painful past hopes for a better future.

That’s a start and, if that’s the entirety of the story, the flaw (from a StoryTelling perspective) becomes obvious: it’s cliched.

“Hoping” for a better future but doing nothing to get that future makes a character pitiable (maybe) at best. They are the person who complains about their life but does nothing to change it.

Not interesting (especially if it’s the main character in the story).

Rewrite the one-line summary to include some action on the main character’s part which indicates that character is working towards a better future; Man with a painful past sees opportunity for a better future.

Okay, better but still not much and still cliched. If the character sees an opportunity then the reader must share that experience. But if the character doesn’t act on what is seen, they’re even more pitiable than before, possibly a coward, and probably someone the reader would avoid in real life.

Not good.

Make sure your summary includes the threat/challenge/possible loss to the main character if they don’t change!


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Ruminations Part 2 – Numbers lead to informed decisions

This is my second rumination on writing, the writing business, and how they intersect with my life. I started with Ruminations Part I – “Your eyes are completely healed”.

I almost entitled this part “Can you just tell me the g**d*** f***ing truth?”

A fellow author sent me a link to a zoom meeting a while back. The invitation she received was

If you’re able to make it, just a quick reminder about our first ever Open House for Authors on XXX, being held *today* on Zoom at 3 pm Eastern time at this url: xxx
No need to RSVP, just show up and say hi! We’ll field questions and suggestions from authors — and we have a few questions of our own about how to make our site better so you can sell more books.
Hope to see you there!

More and more fellow authors are sending me solicitations like this (probably due to my background in marketing).

Regarding the above, I listened to their spiel for a while. They kept on asking us to ask them questions. Specifically, “…don’t put your questions in the chat, just unmute yourself and ask away.”

I’d already asked a few questions in the chat which went unanswered.

My questions in such things tend to be business oriented, not author oriented. Especially when someone tells me their service or offering is free.

If you’re good at something, never do it for free. – The Joker
If it’s free, you’re probably the product – David Kelleher

Continue reading “Ruminations Part 2 – Numbers lead to informed decisions”

Search Chapter 9 – Sunday, 13 January 1974

Search is loosely based on a real incident. The incident remains, the story is greatly different.

Enjoy. And remember, it’s still a work in progress. These chapters are rough drafts. I’ve completed thirty chapters so far and it seems I’ll complete the novel this time. We’ll see.

Read Search Chapter 8


Search Chapter 9 – Sunday, 13 January 1974

Gio sat on the cold, bare ground in the Weintraub’s backyard, the exposed grass brittle under him. Jetta sat in front of him. They stared into each others’ eyes. Jetta kept offering to shake.

Sam watched from the den. “How did he get her to do that? I never got her to do that. You bring a Svengali into my house, Daughter?”

Jeri came up beside him, a head shorter, holding a glass of orange juice. Sam put his arm around her, pulled her in, and kissed the top of her head.

“First, Dad, he’s not Jewish. Second, …”


Jeri shook her head and leaned into her father. “I don’t know. There’s a second but I don’t know what it is. I couldn’t imagine him being a Svengali. He spends too much time helping people.”

“Helping them do what?”

“Silly things. Little things. He always knows when I’m going to have my period.”

Sam pulled away from his daughter and looked at her. She snickered. “Don’t worry. I’m on the pill.”

“I’m feeling so much better.”

“He knows where people lost things.”

“I lost money in the stock market.”

“He can find things.”

“Your mother keeps hiding my cigars.”

“He knows when people are sick. Every time somebody in the dorm has bad cramps he just touches them and the cramps go away.”

“He holds stock in Midol?”

Jeri pushed her father away. “I’m serious, Dad.”

Sam rubbed her back. “You like him?”

She looked at Gio and Jetta sitting in the backyard. He rose up and Jetta bounded around him, a puppy with her master. “Yes.”

“So do I.”

Jeri’s brother Steve came through the kitchen. “Pop, there’s no room for my bike in the garage, not with yours and Mom’s cars in there. Okay if I store it in the basement for the winter?”

“Put rags under it. No oil stains. And make sure you drain the tank. Your mother hates the smell of gasoline in the house.”

Steve hurried downstairs. Sam and Jeri heard Jetta barking in the driveway as Steve pulled Sam’s Chrysler out of the garage and pushed his motorcycle in. A stair’s height separated the garage floor from the basement the motorcycle was having none of it.

Gio put his finger to his lips and Jetta quieted. “You need help?”

Steve, breathing hard and red faced, had the front wheel through the door but nothing else. “Love some.”

Gio stood at the bike’s rear. “What can I hold onto that won’t break off when I lift?”

Steve stared at him, shook his head, and snickered. He pointed to the wheel mounts on either side.

“You guide it in when I lift. Ready?”

Steve smiled, nodded, and rested his hands on the handlebars.

Gio squatted, grabbed the wheel mounts, and stood. He held the bike’s rear end a foot off the ground for a minute and stared at Steve. “Any time you’re ready.”

Steve, his eyes bulging, grabbed the handlebars in earnest. “Yeah, right, right. Sorry.” He pulled and Gio walked the bike into the basement.


“Yeah, here’s good.”

Gio put the bike down. “Come on, Jetta. Upstairs.” He took the stairs two at a time, rounded the bend, went up the second story and into the guestroom, Jetta always at his heels.

Steve, sweating, came up and into the kitchen. He poured himself a long drink of water, guzzled it, took another.

Sam cocked his head. “You okay?”

“The man’s fucking strong.”

Sam nodded. Listened overhead to where Gio and Jetta played in the guest room, and nodded again.

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Neither Snow Nor Rain

Turkeys in Winter.

Forget that this post is being published in May. Just go with it.

Ah, turkeys in winter.

A glorious lot of them.

Making a mess in our backyard.

Turkeys, wonderful creatures that they are, have no knowledge of sanitation.

We venture forth, seed offerings in hand, they gather, …

And poop.


We say, “Hey, human walking here.”

And they respond, “Gobble, gobble,” and after a moment’s deliberation, “Gobble!”



Ruminations Part I – “Your eyes are completely healed”

Two weeks and a day ago (as this gets published) my ophthalmologist, after spending half an hour prepping me for observation then another half-hour observing, sat back and said “Your eyes are completely healed.”

For those who don’t know, I was born blind and have had limited eyesight most of my life. Starting four years ago what eyesight I had was diminishing rapidly. I had to get new eyeglass lenses roughly every two months and the lenses had to be specially made due to the complexity of my optics (usually took 4-6 weeks), hence I’d get a pair of lenses and a week later have to order new ones.

We debated surgery. My ophthalmologist reserved it for a final option because, as he said, “Once we cut, we can’t go back.”
Continue reading “Ruminations Part I – “Your eyes are completely healed””