Personally, I don’t like them. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book based on the summary alone, and but I have turned many books away because of it. Most summaries follow a simple formula; explain character, explain current situation, explain caveat, pose question. There’s a bit of shuffling in the order of these, but for the most part, many summaries follow this template and, personally, I find it boring. “X was just a Y when they actioned Z. Now with addition to situation, can X action the A before B occurs?” Sound familiar? It should, you’ll find that structure on the backs of most fantasy, sci-fi, and even romance, noire, crime, and other fiction stories. The only genre with the biggest departure from the formula I’ve seen has been YA romance/fantasy-romance books, and honestly I wouldn’t start rushing to them for better examples. By definition, summaries are supposed to be short blurbs to hook a reader, but when they’re all so structured, do they really work?
I found that one of the biggest problem with summaries was that they were trying to get you invested in the hook, but not getting you invested in the characters, and thus failing at both. I don’t care about the dark armies of Alcamanzu coming to destroy the kingdom because I have no relation to Moonstabber the dark elf. “Oh,she just wants to live her life.” you say? well that doesn’t mean a lot when I’m deciding whether or not to invest my time into a story.
For some practice, I took a couple stories I had just read and tried to write up some summaries for them to see how they might be different. I found it was actually not easy to stray from the typical formula; trying to avoid “But when X …” or “Then everything changes…” cliches was hard when you have two to three paragraphs to explain the hook, the characters, and the situation. Very little gravitas can be conveyed in such a short frame, so I certainly don’t blame anyone for these generic summaries, but surely we can do better.
What do you guys think? Have you seen any particularly good summaries you could point me at? Any tips? do you even agree, or am I full of fecal matter? (technically I am, but I mean more so than usual)