With an epic series like Pearseus, it can be tough to summarize the multiple themes and PoVs. So, a few days ago, I approached Angela Elliot to take advantage of her experience writing up summaries (find out about more about Angela and her book, The Finish, on Facebook).
Her ideas were so great, that I had to repeat them here (with her permission, of course).
She explained to me that, when summarizing, I should be thinking about these points:
- Characters, Good v. Evil
- Drivers (usually emotional)
- The stakes (what happens if they fail)
To write a great description, she explained, I should consider what my theme is, not what the books are about. She then said something that made my jaw drop in one of those aha moments: each writer, no matter the book, writes about the same theme every time. This is something integral to us as a human being; it’s what drives us. Each story we tell is an investigation into our theme, only told differently each time.
For instance, Angela’s (and, arguably, everyone’s) over-arching theme is survival, and the things people will do to survive. Sometimes, it’s mixed with secrecy – the things we keep secret so that we can survive. It doesn’t matter what she writes, or what style she writes in, or the subject matter; it’s always about survival.
Indeed, most stories are actually about survival in some form or other. Humans are hot-wired to survive in three ways – as individuals, as families and as species. We fight first as individuals – for ourselves. Secondly, we fight for family/tribe/country. Finally, we fight for the species. Knowing this makes it easier to formulate an overview.
There are lots of references to there being 21 kinds of stories, or 30 stories, or 7 stories etc… in the world – and that all stories fall into one of the categories cited. However, in the end, there is actually only one story: the story of the quest. A quest for true love. A quest for treasure. A quest for a new planet. A quest to capture someone. A quest to win the war. A quest to survive in the face of a storm, or ghost, or enemy. It’s always a quest. THE quest.
So, in order to write a summary, what you need to do is expose the quest underneath. You can then be fairly functional and matter of fact in a series outline, e.g. The Pearseus series an epic fantasy/sci-fi story told over four books. You then move on to the quest, for example:
“Following an unspeakable crime, the men and women on the planet realize that they had been brought there to face the remnants of humanity’s ancient past and the consequences of a long-forgotten sin. As their world crumbles all around them, they struggle to live, love and survive.”
As for a single-line description of the series, I have come up with this description of the underlying theme:
Humanity. Rebooted. Then, rebooted again.
What do you think of it?