Every story has a skeleton. When we write the story, we put flesh on that skeleton. When we write the blurb? We dissect down to that skeleton again so that we can then get a reader interested in reading the story. Before chiseling away to reveal the blurb, let’s take a look at the story’s skeleton.
Essential “Bare Bones” of the Story
1 ~ Character
2 ~ Character’s desire (need or want)
3 ~ Inciting problem – What’s at stake? What needs to be overcome to give the character what they desire?
4 ~ Opposing force – Nature? Another character? What prevents the character from getting what he/she wants?
5 ~ The struggle – the fight – the plot. How does the character work toward getting what he wants?
6 ~ Success or Failure.
Most of these are needed also in our blurb, although carved into something that entices. When writing the blurb, we need to know these bare bones and then give the reader an enhanced x-ray of our story to pique their interest. We expose the character, his/her desire, the problem facing that want, and then the opposing force. Go ahead. Hack away and expose them all for the reader. Then give them just a small taste of the struggle so that the reader will want to know whether the character succeeds or fails.
Do create a tagline – Open with a bang that grabs the reader’s attention – one statement or sentence that encompasses the drive of your story.
Do open with your character’s full name – Just like with any other introduction. Readers don’t want to hang out with a stranger.
Do introduce your character with a special trait – What makes your John Smith different from any other John Smith?
Do let the reader know what’s at stake and the obstacles – What stands in the way of the character getting everything he/she wants?
Do leave the reader wanting to know what will happen next – What will ratchet up the suspense and leave the reader wondering?
Do not use pronouns until after an introduction is made.
Do not use back story – the reader doesn’t want to know what happened to John Smith when he was 4 if the story takes place when he’s 40.
Do not give specifics about location unless it’s unique – If your book takes place in Hawaii, Australia, Alaska, Africa or any other unique location, by all means, tell the reader. But if it takes place in Podunk, Virginia – they likely don’t care.
Do not neglect your theme – Mystery? Be sure that your blurb is mysterious. Romance? Be sure that your blurb is romantic. Dark Fantasy? The blurb should show that, too. Gear your blurb for your genre.
Do not ask too many questions – One or two question marks in your blurb makes it intriguing, but five or six? Overkill. Everything in moderation.
Do not give away too much of the story’s plot – this is not a synopsis of the complete story!
Blurb writing is extremely difficult for most writers. We, lovers of words, must condense down thousands of them to one paragraph that will somehow attract readers. It’s bloody as we strip away all the meat to get to the bones of the story. But we’re not done until we pick up our chisels and fashion something the reader longs to learn more about.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope you’ve found it helpful. Feel free to agree or disagree with anything I’ve said. I’m perfectly open to discussion! If you have a great tip for writing blurbs, PLEASE share it in the comments!