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Halrloprillalar

You can call me Hal.

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Fanfic summaries
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prillalar
I hate writing summaries for my fanfic. They are usually short and often cryptic. I have a feeling this might cost me readers but I hate hate hate giving away anything about the story beyond general flavour. And pairing, if any.

When I read a summary, I would rather it gave me some idea of the general tone of the story and the wit of the author than an actual précis of the content. Actually, the title is more of a draw for me than the summary.

There are, however, certain words that will cause me to avoid a story. If the summary contains "ponder", "muse", "reflect", or other synonyms thereof, I will not venture in.

Over to you:

When you're reading fanfic, is the summary crucial in getting you to read a particular story? What kind of summary do you like?

When you're writing a fic summary, what info do you like to include? Are you cryptic or verbose? And do you actually write the kind of summaries you like other people to use?

Are there summary keywords (not talking about warnings here) that will make you click away ASAP?


Also: Every fandom should have its badfic Truth or Dare stories. But get the rules right! Am I misremembering, or aren't you supposed to ask the question first and then the person gets to decide whether to answer it or do a dare? I keep finding stories where you have to decide between truth or dare before you even know what they're going to ask you.

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I think my favourite summaries are the one's that are basically a line of text from the fic - they're the most likely to "hook" me and make me want to click on the link.

And that's how we always played truth or dare - you had to pick first, so that you wouldn't be able to evade the question or get out of the dare. You took your chances.

That's how I always knew truth or dare, too. Then if you didn't answer the question or do the dare, you had to pay a penalty. Or drink, in the drinking game version.

If the summary contains "ponder", "muse", "reflect", or other synonyms thereof, I will not venture in.

[giggle] Good plan.

I'm with you -- I want the summary to give me a sense of the story's (and the author's) sensibilities. I don't have any warning words, but a summary with a question in it usually means 'approach with caution,' and I rarely open a story whose summary says, "I suck at summaries."

In my childhood Truth or Dare games, you had to decide first, before the question was asked. (It may have been kid cowardice, though; the other way is much more revealing.)

As a reader, I'm with you. I like summaries that don't summarize *content*, but more the tone of the fic. Ones that could almost be opening or closing lines, or that expand the title. I really dislike desperately tantalizing summaries: "A new girl's in town. What does this mean for Faith's baby? And will Tara ever stop mending the socks?" Just...*blech*.

As a writer, I *loathe* writing them. I tend to wimp out and use quotations, from essays or poetry or whatever. Definitely cryptic, usually two sentences or shorter.

Keywords I avoid - um. More like punctuation marks I avoid - the question mark, the exclamation point, and the ellipsis. All tell me that it's not a fic I want to read.

I always played Truth or Dare by having to choose a question or a dare *first*.

Am I misremembering, or aren't you supposed to ask the question first and then the person gets to decide whether to answer it or do a dare? I keep finding stories where you have to decide between truth or dare before you even know what they're going to ask you.

Huh, that's not how we played at all. The player is asked "Truth or Dare?" And then chooses either Truth or Dare. They then either must answer a question truthfully or carry out a dare. If they choose not to (which really, you were LAME if you did that), you were penalized or ostracized or basically made fun of for days, in public.

That's how I knew the game, too.

As for summaries, a line from the story is usually a good choice.

Summaries are crucial, at least as far as I'm concerned. Elitist that I am, I use them as much to form an opinion of the writer's overall skill and literacy as anything else.

I hate: coy summaries; summaries that apologize in advance for things I otherwise might not have bothered to notice; summaries that beg for or demand feedback; summaries that contain (or even warn for/advertise) character-bashing; summaries that contain references to Episode Whatever or Season Something-or-Other "the way it should have been." Usually, I find these to be the warning signs of an immature or amateurish-in-the-bad-sense writer. It's not always the case -- sometimes you get a good fic writer who just happens to suck at writing summaries -- but as a rough first-pass filter, it does pretty well.

It's entirely possible that the rules for Truth or Dare are subject to regional or even generational variation.

I can live without a summary if the story is written by a writer I like and there are some indications in the part 0 of what to expect. I'm fairly choosy about what I'll read, in terms of content. If there's a baby involved, though, I have to know. I will hunt you down and do terrible things to you if you trick me into reading a story with a baby in it.

I've never written anything with a plot to speak of-- by this I mean I meander considerably, not that I write PWP in the traditional sense-- so my summaries have been equally meaningless, mostly.


I like the "one line from the story" approach myself. Or an apt quote (a line from a poem usually, but sometimes from fiction or essays).

I also like it when the summaries are amusing. Like I saw one tonight that said something like, "Dan, Casey, Casey's lesbian girlfriend, and some melon balls." I will go back and read that story when I have a moment, because I want to know what that's all about.

When you're reading fanfic, is the summary crucial in getting you to read a particular story? What kind of summary do you like?

I've never really been that invested. *However*, if the summary is particularly clever/amusing (or picks a really clever quote from the story itself) I may be more likely to read *immediately*.

This can backfire. If the quote seems stupid or if it seems like the author picked something JUST to be amusing, a story may get tabled.

When you're writing a fic summary, what info do you like to include? Are you cryptic or verbose? And do you actually write the kind of summaries you like other people to use?

Cryptic as hell. Though I've started using quotes/paraphrases from the story itself if I can find one which sums up the 'theme' well. sharpest_rose is really quite good at this, and I'm totally copying her.

Are there summary keywords (not talking about warnings here) that will make you click away ASAP?

Teenie/net-speak, man. Emoticons and l33t speak do not belong in the summary. (Author's notes get -- a little -- more slack)

I've heard of truth or dare both ways; I suspect it's just regional variation.

As far as the summaries go, I think they are only crucial for longer stories. I agree with you and ladysorka about the best types of summaries. A sample from the fic is a great way to get the tone and wit that you speak of.

There isn't any specific keyword that will send me running for the hills. I'm game for anything! : D

I think the tone of the story affects the general shape of the summary. If I'm writing humor, the summary is humorous; if it's dramatic or angsty, the summary is usually more atmospheric and (in your words) cryptic. And lemons don't need much summary at all. But in the precisely two fics I've written they were plotty to any degree, I've felt the need to use the summary as a plot description; this is especially true of Damn Tornados, which is pretty damn close to gen for a romance. The only problem is that the summary seems to give the unfortunate impression that the story is R/D, when it's in fact anything but.

As for reading summaries...I like ones that hook me when in combination with the title and other header info. I'm not picky about formatting. But summaries that turn into author's notes (like the immortal plea on ff.net to "plz r/r" or "im not posting any more until i get 10 reviews") put me off, as do ones that seem to present original characters with the same names, physical descriptions and backstories as canon ones. (So anything such as "Draco needs love" or "Harry's being abused" tends to put me right off.) The same goes for the verb "to save" in any form, especially for fics listed as romances--little good can come of it.

*considers* The summary is pretty crucial when I'm browsing an archive. Less so when I'm following a particular author's releases. When I'm browsing, a lot of things will make me veer off: rhetorical questions of any sort; pleas for mercy; more than one of any given punctuation mark at a time; any obvious Mary Sue markers; lack of capitalization or completed sentences; the word 'poem'.

And do you actually write the kind of summaries you like other people to use?

Now that's a very good question. For the most part, I think so. I try to be brief while also naming the main characters and giving some idea of the action or direction. I do find that I write more tongue-in-cheek summaries for my fic journal than I do for the index page where the final versions get linked. But, then, I do like to read those, as long as I'm keeping up with an author.


I always played Truth or Dare question-first style.

I've always played Truth or Dare as you must pick first then either answer or do the dare.

Technically We played Truth, Dare or Consequences, and the Consequences applied if you chickened out of the question or failed the dare.

For summaries, I prefer short and cryptic, but I also want them to have something to do with the actual story. For instance, "Clark always tips his hand too early" is okay with me, while a line of poetry or song quote is not. I think folks like to use those to convey tone or something, but it vastly increases the chances that I don't get the reference and am now depending on the title to make my decision.

Speaking of titles, I violently dislike titles in foreign languages. If I don't speak or read it (Latin is the one that usually pops up), my brain essentially skips over the word, which means that to me your story no longer has a title, and I'll never find it to reread, which is when I do most of my feedbacking.

I absolutely don't write the kind of summaries I like to read. Once, in Due South, I actually wrote a "place-holder" summary, saying real summary content would be put in later...and that's been there in that pathetic form in an archive for years.

::rolls eyes at self::

Honestly, though...all I want for sure is a pairing (or main characters). I don't read warnings, and as for figuring out what te story's about, well...that's what reading's for, as far as I'm concerned.

And Truth or Dare? You absolutely have to pick one or the other *first*...and you can't take the other option if you don't like the question (or the dare). You can refuse, of course, but then you lose (and in my childhood neighborhood, that meant an entire summer of mockery.)

Honestly, though...all I want for sure is a pairing (or main characters). I don't read warnings, and as for figuring out what te story's about, well...that's what reading's for, as far as I'm concerned.

Yes.

(Except I often don't even do the pairing / main characters... I guess because it does seem sometimes to give away the plot, dammit.)

You have to pick truth or dare first, as, for example, in this X-Files classic,Truth or Dare

I like to use a line from the story or a very brief description.

I like brief summaries and am often okay with none.

I like a summary to be another facet of the story that maybe gives a brief different perspective on the story or the author's mindset, without giving the game away of the story itself.

If I see a story summary with spelling or grammar errors, I won't read the story--if the author can't be bothered to proofread one sentence, what will s/he have done to the poor story? A summary should be well-written, too. I also won't click on any story with variously spelled variations of the summary note "plz r/r" or "I suck at summaries/summarys". Unless I'm actively trolling FF.net for badfic to mock.

As a writer, I tend toward more cryptic summaries that touch more on the mood and maybe the characters than the actual plot. I do worry that I end up overly coy and self-indulgent with this.

I hate writing summaries for my fanfic. I'm completely no good at it.

My website looks terribly blank as a result.

Truth or Dare: Nope, we picked first and then the question was asked or the dare was dared. Scarier that way, I think.

Summaries: I like it when I know who the characters are and what's going on. I need a pairing, a rating, and at the very least a "Bob goes for a walk and finds something unexpected" (that's a bloody awful summary, but I'd still read it). I have various issues with the fact that my favourite author tends not to do any of the above. With her I get a title, a file size, and something like "Negotiation is an art form. And a game." *blink* (Well, there was the one time when the summary was "Bruce, Jason, kissing" and I had to look at it for about three minutes before I realised that it wasn't, probably, cryptic.)

Of course, I tend to do things like write "CSI. Nick/Greg. PG." and leave it at that, so I'm actually a horrible hypocrite.

I've played it choice-before-question, or 'pick 'truth' or 'dare' before we tell you what either is because otherwise what fun is it', though I've played it very rarely and never with anyone who was at all good at it.

Summary-wise, if it's a specifically romantic or sexual piece I hate not being given a pairing. Hate it with the passion of a thousand firey suns. If it's gen, I'll live, but it's it's a pairing-piece (with very, very few exceptions that are conveyed in recs as 'the author wishes not to reveal the pairing to preserve the plot', usually really short gut-punch pieces) I need the pairing. It's like the above baby thing. There are certain pairings I want to avoid very, very much and ones that I will never find if no one goes 'hey, look, it's THAT PAIRING! *flashing neon lights*'.

I don't write publicly and therefore my own summaries are mostly things to remind me what's in the .txt file before opening it.

We always played that you had to pick truth or dare first. If you wouldn't answer the question or do the dare, you paid a forfeit.

I hate writing summaries so much. I just started using a line from my fic because I just couldn't do it anymore. ::kicks stupid summaries::

I've heard of it being played both ways, but when we played it was always choose first, then get asked. I think it does make more sense to hear the question first, though... that way the dare is more of a forfeit for not answering. ^_^

As for summaries, I hate hate HATE including pairings in mine. Mostly because it's often not obvious at the beginning of my story who the pairing IS, and I LIKE it that way. If the pairing is obvious I may mention it when posting to an LJ comm or fanfic.net... but not a single one of my summaries on my website explicitly states pairings. (Sometimes it's fairly obviously implied by which two characters are mentioned in the summary, but oh well.)

I tend not to like 'summaries' that consist of nothing but a couple random lines from inside the story. Once in a while the lines are funny enough to catch my interest, but for the most part that turns me off. I'd like to know SOMEthing about the story before I go in. But I wouldn't want to see a point-by-point plot spoiler outline as a summary, either.

i HATE summaries. i never write them and they more often than not put me off reading. i dont want to know what a fic is about before i read it.


xxx

I hate writing summaries mostly because I hate giving away the pairing. Some people do read based on pairing though; I even do that sometimes. The summary doesn't necessarily have to give anything away to draw me in, but I prefer if it's gramatically correct. If someone mispells "yaoi" I refuse to look. (Actually, I refuse to look if it's het, so maybe I'm just bad that way.)

I like to write silly summaries, that don't necessarily have anything to do with the fic. I also like giving them silly alternate titles. It works for humor, but not for angst...

Oh, but summaries can be so much fun. It's your opportunity to use your Ironic Writer voice to give the readers what you want them to understand, before they come play in your brain's work. I love to browse restrictedsection.org, just reading the summaries. They make me giggle in a good way.

Summaries are nice when they give me an idea of the tone of the piece. I don't so much go looking for a pairing but a tone, and running into something that's the wrong tone for my mood is irritating. But not really the author's fault, in my opinion.

Cause there are times I get down to the point of uploading a story/sending it to be archived and say, "Oh, shit, need a summary, um...." and there's not a single brilliant line or anything jumping to mind. But I like to use quotes from the story, if the story is amenable.

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