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I agreed to do some book reviews in exchange for free books. Part of the review is a plot summary. Question: how much can I summarize the plot before it becomes giving away spoilers? What do you consider a spoiler? Is there a certain point I should leave off summarizing--like 1/2 way through? Are there any criteria or guidelines for this?
I appreciate suggestions.
Are you doing those Enchanted Reviews? Cause I just signed up to do those and I need to start reading my first book.
As far as plot summaries - I think of it as what would I like to read on the back of a book? You have to be a tease. Of course that's not really specific...but I don't have a better way of saying it. Good luck!
What I think is a good rule of thumb is to first use the plot synopsis - usually available on most authors websites or Amazon, and then add to that your general impressions of the book, based on certain criteria most commonly used in book reviews.
If you look at reviews from Romance Reader: http://www.theromancereader.com/newarchive.html
and All About Romance: http://www.likesbooks.com/archivesindex.html
Both pretty solid book review sources, IMO, you should get a pretty good idea of what these are. Look at it like a questionaire that you're writing out freeform. Was the pacing even - that is to say, did the story flow smoothly & naturally, or did you find that it starts off at a certain pace, and then intermittently slows down or speeds up? How did you feel about the main characters in the story? Were you able to indentify with them in some way, understand their motivations, whether you always like them & approved of their actions or not? Or did they seem flat or one-dimensional, and fail to engage you? How about the plot? Complex, simple? Did the storyline make sense? Did the author use commonly used or overused plot devices - the "big misunderstanding", etc. Or if they used a plot you've seen before did they have a different approach or give a new spin to it? How well were traditional elements of fiction writing applied (internal & external conflicts, etc.). If the author does something new & refreshing - something you aren't accustomed to seeing within the genre you're reviewing - how successful were they with it? Is the history or factual information used in the story well-researched or sloppy? How about antagonists & secondary characters? Are they convenient cardboard cutout props, or are they fully dimensional people who piqued your interest or dislike? Did you see any secondary characters that stood out, might be interesting to read about in a future sequel? And finally, the ending; how well does the author close the story? Do they tie the plot up neatly? Too neatly? Does it flow well to a satisfying conclusion, or do you feel that there were loose ends that should have been sewn up? Concentrate as much as you can on giving your general impressions of the book, while giving away as few "spoilers" as possible. Not always easy to do, but if there are elements you have to reveal and you're not sure if you're giving away too much, you can warn your readers not to read past a certain point in a review, and keep all possible spoliers to the end of your review. Anyway, the best advice is to look closely at other reviews that you find very helpful & accurate in selecting books that you want to read. Chances are, whoever wrote them is doing it right.
And last, but not least, here are a couple of resources that I think anyone reviewing romance novels should use and be familiar with:
This is an article series titled Why Stories Work. http://www.writing-world.com/romance/flaws.shtml
Yeah, basically a writer's guide. I think people who critique something should first understand the fundamentals of actually doing it:P
And this: http://www.writing-world.com/romance/flaws.shtml Research Flaws in Romance Novels is a handy guide for helping you figure out if your writer really has done her homework. Not that it's detailed enough to use as a fact-checking reference, but it's an easy reference guide on the most common mistakes and research flaws.
I hope this stuff helps, and best of luck with it. I can't wait to read one of your reviews:)
Last Edited on: 1/21/08 8:38 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
sorry kim, enchanting reviews has you put the plot summary in your own words. actually, most review sites agree on this. :) copying the words from someone else for a review is stealing, plus boring - you can find the back book blurb anywhere.
and claudia, i think it depends on the story how much you reveal. a very complicated plot and you may not want to reveal any of the twists and turns, or some of them, while being spoilers, are an intergral part of 'hooking' a reader and making them interested. if you would like a couple of specific plot examples from my past reviews, please let me know. :) i would love to help you.
Last Edited on: 1/22/08 11:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Actually, using a plot synopsis as a summary reference for writing a review is not considered stealing by any definition. Were that the case, fantastic fiction and about a hundred other sites I can think of off the top of my head would be shut down by now. I'm not saying you copy & paste the thing. At any rate, covered under fair use of copyrighted material is: "quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment".
Nothing I suggested is "stealing" from anyone.