I’ve been in the process of writing and polishing the back cover description for my upcoming novella. And I’ll tell you the truth – it’s not fun at all. I keep wanting to shout, “But I’m a book writer, not a blurb writer! I’m good at unraveling my story over the long haul, not condensing all of it into a tight little space!”
I think it comes down to a few specific things that should be included. Here’s my very amateur go at it. Ready?
Setting: Things need to be mentioned in the blurb that give the reader an idea of where this story takes place and what they are walking into. Whatever these end up being – certain qualities/people/creatures/props – they should be given a nod in order to create a sense of setting. Many of these depend on the genre. Fantasy more so than most, I think.
Characters: Ok, no-brainer. The main character has to be introduced, along with any other character who is important to the plot as a whole. Maybe even the antagonist. After all, books are about people first and foremost, right?
Goals: More than just mentioning the main character, we have to know what she desires. What is the crux of her journey, whether it’s a physical, spiritual or emotional one? I want to know up front that this girl has something driving her forward. Otherwise I’ll suspect that I’m in for a yawn-worthy read.
Complication: Is there a person or circumstance that is thwarting her from her goal? Well, we need to know about that too. A little bit. Don’t give too much away, though. The reader will want to hear about it, certainly; otherwise, why open the book at all? But I personally have difficulty with this one. How much to tell without giving too much away and ruining important surprises, but making it enough that it creates curiosity in the reader? It’s a very fine line, my friend.
Stakes: What is at risk if the main character doesn’t (or perhaps does!) obtain what she wants? Will she lose her life? Her family? Her self-respect? Her cat? All of the above? Whatever the stakes are, a blurb-reader wants to know them up front. Or at least I always do. It puts that extra fire in me that says, “I just have to know what happens!!”
Hope: So the poor main character has been given an ultimatum, a timeframe to achieve something, a roadblock that is seemingly impassable. What now? Well again, a simple blurb can’t give too much away. But we at least need to see that glimmer – that small flash of hope that tells us things might be … could be … all right.
Brevity: Ah, brevity, my bane. It’s like trying to fit my post-baby self into the size 4 jeans I wore a few short years ago. Not likely. I need a serious word diet to get the 25,000 words of my novella into a 200-word blurb. It’s painful, I’m not gonna lie. It takes lots of trimmings and re-writes. Lots.
So …. aaallll these things need to fit into a blurb? Yep. Ok, well, most of them. Some of them can be accomplished with a few very choice words. Some of them, such as setting, can be almost implied between the lines without ever mentioning directly at all.
Yep, I’ve got my work cut out for me.
So what are the things that draw you in when you read a book blurb? What is most likely to get you to pick up a book and say, “I have to take this home and read it right now!”