This is my novel in under 100 words:

Minnesota, 1877. Greta saves her sister, Annabelle’s, life only to forever wonder if Annabelle would have been better off frozen to death. She is frozen in a sense; her body continues to grow while mentally she remains the three-year-old who wandered outside to follow an angel. Their father, Edgar, is the town founder: powerful, respected, and abusive. Their mother, Maude, suffers neurasthenia and is remote on her best days, incapacitated on her worst. After enduring a non-childhood, nineteen-year-old Greta must determine the fate of her family. In a final act of mercy, she saves Annabelle and condemns her father.

That is actually 99 words. I’m taking a short course on chronology and time management in fiction with author Julie Schumacher. We had to write a synopsis in 20, 50, and 100 words. Here are my other two:

Greta Jacobsen’s father, Edgar, is a monster, and her mother, Maude, is an invalid. It falls on Greta to save her sister, Annabelle’s, life, forcing her into the role of not only savior, but also mother and protector in a nineteenth century household where an innocent is not safe.

Greta struggles to protect her disabled sister from an abusive father and incompetent mother in nineteenth century Minnesota.

I think the 100 word synopsis works well. In fact, reaction in class was quite positive. The two shorter ones, however, don’t do much for me. It’s an interesting exercise to see how much you can convey in how few words. Anyone who writes hates to be asked, “what’s it about?” That one to two sentence summary cannot do justice to all the ideas and themes a writer wants to convey to a reader. In the age of the “elevator speech,” however, this is a useful exercise.

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