Potions, Snitches and Unlikely Relations
Jan's List of Harry Potter Fanfiction

Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling.

Help with Summaries: What NOT to do

Hiyas! :) After reading hundreds and hundreds of summaries I would like to think that I have a good idea of what makes a good summary and what DOESN'T.

Rule #1: Do not ever, ever, ever put 'I stink at Summaries' or 'Does anyone have a better summary' etc in your summary and especially not in net speak! It makes you look childish and lowers the expectation of the story itself. (Although it does not usually turn out to be the case, when I read something like 'I hate summaries' or 'I need a better summary' I automatically think that the author is a 14 year old middle school student who cannot write.)

When writing your summary think what your story will be about. Who are the main characters?

A note of advice: Even when you want the characters to be a surprise, you will lose a large part of the audience who search for those characters if you don't reveal them near the beginning. At least give a hint in the summary or in a short author note in the first chapter. It would be disappointing to lose some readers (and get flames) because your mysterious main character turned out to be Percey Weasley and not Snape. And when it does turn out to be Snape, the people who love Snape stories won't know that your story is one of them! **The only people who can get away with this are those popular writers who write ONLY for certain characters in every single story… and even then it would be better if they were to specify.

Definition of a summary:

From the Cambridge Dictionary online: a short clear description that gives the main facts or ideas about something.

And the American Dictionary online: A presentation of the substance of a body of material in a condensed form or by reducing it to its main points; an abstract.

A summary is your main and best chance to pull readers in, to snag their curiosity! Use it well! A dry list of what your story is about won't do so well in piquing curiosity but if you can't do better, leave it at that. The worst summaries are the blank ones and those too general to learn anything about the story (examples: "A Harry Potter fic" or "A sixth year fic".) The people who love to read stories about "Harry discovers that Snape is his Dad" will come flocking, even if most other people won't.

I find the most interesting summaries are those that ask questions.
"What if Harry grew up thinking that he was a house elf?”"
"What if Snape never owed James a life debt?"
"Where does Dumbledore go to at night?"
"What if the Dursleys had loved Harry?"
"What if pixie Sticks came in more than four flavours?"

Make sure that your summary tells what is going to happen in your fic! Will it be another 6th year story with a scary DADA professor, a love interest from Beaubaxons, large hairy spiders and lots of horror? Tell us! Strip your fic and pick out the most important events and most notable happenings. :)

You SHOULD specify any major Harry Potter genres. A lot of readers search for these genres or avoid them. Help out and label your stories. The "genres of the Harry Potter world" are mostly unofficial but I will try to assist you by writing out a list of the ones I think are notable based on my observations in reading summaries, looking through C2 groups, bios, favorites etc...

  • AU (Alternate Universe)
  • Severitus CHALLENGE
  • Sevitus (a P&S term; which is a 'Severitus' only in the way that Snape is Harry's father*)
  • Mentor fics
  • Superpower fic
  • Deaged fics
  • Dark fics
  • Death fic (A character death)
  • Disabled fics (Blind, ect)
  • Angst (in the way that it is an EXTREME gut wrenching angst story)
  • Torture
  • Suicide
  • Fluff
  • OOC (That means "out of character")
  • slash or not slash
  • Any parings (usually specified with the initials of the characters first and last names separated by a slash '/'. The names can also be written out. Examples: RW/HG or Ron/Hermione. The slash mark is the widely known symbol for relationships. So HP/SS would be a slash romantic or sexual relationship while HPSS may or may not. Be careful. Fanfiction.net automatically strips slash signs from the summaries so any InitialsInitials listing could be a slash story there.)

    *The Sevitus is my own invention that I hope the Snape and Harry fanfiction community will pick up at large. Severitus should only be used to highlight stories that follow all the rules of the challenge, NOT only to imply that it's a father son story.

Finally, you MUST give warnings of anything people would get offended by in the summary and author notes. Some readers are dense, or don't bother reading notes which were placed for their benefit and then stupidly flame the authors for something they could have avoided. For that reason, it is best to give out multiple warnings for:

Slash, rape, abuse, torture, suicidal or self harm, eating disorders, any other 'disturbing' things.

I hope that this helped or amused you. Feel free to ask me for help if you are still having problems. Don't really fret over your summary as most people won't remember it anyway. Just write down whatever you can- you can always change it later.