Call it a synopsis, a back copy, a blurb, or Satan’s revenge upon writers, the 200 or less words that describe a book always have the power to reduce a writer to tears. Over ten book into the game, I can honestly say I still hate blurbage with a passion. Why? Because being forced to distill a story down to one one-thousandth or less is cruel!
Ask me about my book, and you’ll probably get one of two types of responses:
- “Oh, it’s a fantasy romance. Coming out later this year.”
- “It’s about this guy who’s a king, and he’s succeeding his father on the throne, and has to pick an advisor, but the only one he can choose is a woman, and there’s never been a woman in that role before and… *fast forward three hours* … so in the end it all works out great! Or does it…? There’s a part two I’m working on now…”
The only time my mouth runs without pause until my voice is hoarse and my throat is parched is when I’m talking about my book. I’m a story teller. It’s in my nature to want to tell the story, not sell it. And that’s why blurbs have always been so hard for me: they have to sell the story. They’re a great big neon sign that says YOU WILL WANT TO READ THIS BOOK! and if they don’t say that, the books won’t sell.
The only thing I hate more than condensing stories is a sales pitch.
But what if I shift my thinking and approach the problem from a different angle? I won’t look at blurbs as summaries anymore, but rather very specific flash fiction. Summaries are for college essays and newspaper articles. They’re blah. But flash fiction? That’s exciting! That, I can do. It’s just a different way to tell the story. Quick, catchy, and as with all good fiction, leaves the reader desperate for more…
Beauty Queen Bounty
The sleepy town of Jupiter, Ohio has a secret: a gorgeous half-elf they took in as a child years ago. But the care of a Halfling is very expensive; Jupiter is now on the verge of bankruptcy and Tess is only seventeen years old! When a talent agent rolls into town, everyone’s eager to help Tess win the crown and the five million-dollar prize attached to it. But something about Nathaniel Lodi, Inc. isn’t quite up to snuff. The walking, talking corporation is too sharp, too observant, and asks far too many questions. After a series of unfortunate accidents leave Tess as the de facto competition winner, it becomes clear Mr. Lodi’s interest in the girl goes far sideways of a legitimate “college scholarship.” In the end, it may be up to Tess herself to save the day, and the town that gave her a chance at life.
Would you read that book?
How ’bout this one:
It was only supposed to be a social experiment: put five strangers into close quarters and observe their day-to-day interactions as they solve a series of problems. The participants were carefully selected for their traits: a rebel, an academic, a salesman, a reject, and a priest. But somewhere along the line, someone made a mistake. The dynamics have shifted, and the scientists have broken off contact. Conditions inside continue to worsen, tempers run high, accidents happen… The experiment can be suspended the moment any of the subjects unlocks the door and steps outside. But if they do it before the timer runs down to zero, all five of them forfeit the promised cash payment of undisclosed amount. What will be their final straw? How far will they go for the hope of a reward?
Or maybe this one is more to your liking:
Your world is dead. They killed it. Earth is frozen, and nothing lives on the surface anymore, except them. They look human enough, with their symmetrical faces, and perfect smiles. They sound human, too, with lilting voices and perfect diction. The machines have gone to great lengths to convince us they’re just like us, but they’re not. Those perfect faces hide secrets that spell death for anyone stupid enough to look too closely. Their voices hiss commands that send thousands into slavery and torture. You can’t trust them, not even ERIS. He says he’s here to help, but I’ve seen him without his handsome face. Wake up! Your world is dead. You’re in my world now. And in it, you hide, you run, or you die.
What do they all have in common?
- They’re short. Each one is less than 150 words.
- They’re concise. One smooth block of text, no awkwardly short paragraphs or unnecessary line breaks.
- They tell a story. One paragraph sets the scene for the bigger plot. You know it’s not the whole picture, but you know enough to get the idea.
- They introduce characters as part of the story. Blurbs don’t need character bios. They just need to show where those characters fit in.
- They are dramatic. No la-dee-blah summary of the plot. The focus is on the main conflict, a reason why the story is being told, and why I should read it.
- They have a mystery built into them from the start. What does Mr. Lodi want with Tess? What happened to the scientists? How did machines get so smart, and who is this person telling me about it?
I made all these up from scratch, which might have made it somewhat easier than going the other way, but hey! There’s an idea! What if the blurb always came before the book? Worth a try, right? 😉
Until next time!