Who out there remembers last week? I mean, it was ages ago, right? So long ago, that things and events happened in the meantime, and we’re all seven days older.
But I digress. Which is, if you recall, EXACTLY what I said last week you shouldn’t do in your blurb. In fact, it’s Cardinal Rule #1 of Blurbing. And you didn’t even remember that! Stilll, I’m not one to point the finger. Or maybe I am. But that’s not the point. Which is the whole point of the blurb, I keep telling you.
Anyhoo, last time round, we looked at romantic fiction and thrillers. This week, in revisiting this series, we’re in for a dose of crime, history, and good ol’ science fiction or fantasy.
So back to our key questions of blurbing: how do you blurb? What rules can successful blurbs teach us? And how can we break them?
CAREER OF EVIL – ROBERT GALBRAITH
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.
Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
- Explain the modus operandi of your Evil Perpetrator.
- Introduce your Main Character [cop/victim], what’s important about their life/family and how the threat from Evil Perp targets them specifically.
- Ask: What is the [intriguing detail/further connection] between the crimes and the Main Character?
- Ask: must Main Character overcome an internal/personal obstacle in order to stop Evil Perp from doing even worse things?
- Suggest what might happen if Evil Perp is not defeated [and don’t forget the dot dot dot…]
4. Historical Fiction:
I chose this example because this blurb was brilliant enough to make me really excited about the story and therefore buy the book. If I’m honest, I didn’t think that the intriguing stuff from the blurb was resolved in the novel at all, so I was quite disappointed, but this doesn’t take away from the blurb’s pulling power.
Also, Historical Fiction seems to be the one genre where you can get away with praising your own novel with flowery adjectives, so go for it. All the big shots are doing it.
THE MINIATURIST – JESSIE BURTON
On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .
Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?
Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
- State the when and where: In [place and year], [historical event is happening] / Main Character is [doing/being something].
- Explain how [important life or historical event] intrudes and [creates obstacles for Main Character], he/she must fight against the [constraints of their time] to achieve [self-actualisation or greatness].
- State how this novel/story is a [flowery adjectives] examination of what it means to [be human, change society] and will delight readers who loved [any classic or successful historical novel which made shedloads of money].5. Science Fiction/Fantasy:
A GAME OF THRONES (A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE) – GEORGE R.R. MARTIN
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing.
The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to.
Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
- Set the fiction: make it clear, through a unique event, character trait or description of place, that this is not realism.
- Introduce your Main Character(s), who discover [problem, threat, invitation], which sets them off on a [journey/chain of events] which changes [them/the universe around them].
- Introduce what it is about the Main Character which makes them uniquely qualified to fix everything.
- Throw in some specific scenarios/keywords to create intrigue.
- Optional: Ask a vague question about the future of the universe/mankind/Main Character which alludes to the wider theme of the book (and its relevance to our world).
That’s it for today. Next time, I’ll be dealing with short story anthologies and literary fiction.
And I’ll warn you now, I’ve been fairly straight with you so far, but I’m going to have to have my fun with this some time, and that’s probably going to be next time.