Wednesday, May 1, 2013
My favorite was something like: "The introduction starts with..." Wow. That'll sell a lot of books.
When I was learning about queries, the rule of thumb was a formula like this:
To achieve his goal of _____, Hero must do _____ to stop Villain from doing_____. That's the story in a nutshell.
For my novel White Lies that would be - To prove his innocence, Asher must find the killer before he kills again. There's a lot more to it - his addiction problems and destroyed career, the relationships that he has to repair, the deaths of loved ones. But that is all window dressing for the direct action of the book. Once I have that single line finished, I can add the most important breadcrumbs and a splash of setting.
Writing the blurb can help you see any inconsistencies in your story. I wrote a blurb once that I thought was just right. Then I took a good look at it and realized that wasn't the story I had written. You have to cut through all of the backstory and setting and emotion down to the kernel of the story. That blurb clarified the direction of the story that I wanted. I needed to get back there from where I had wandered.
When I'm looking for a story to read, I don't want to hear about set up. "This is the story about a girl whose parents don't understand her." OK. Then what? Who's the hero and what does she need to overcome to achieve her goal. Better yet, what is her goal?
Or - "This story is set in several European capitals with fast paced chase scenes." Ouch. If I wanted a story about chase scenes, I'd be sure to snap that up. Who is running? Who is chasing? Why?
Readers want to meet the characters and ride along. I look through blurbs every day. I love books. I read a couple a week, when I can. The blurbs that get right to the meat of things draw me in - John loves Mary, but..., Sue's husband tried to kill her and she must escape..., David woke in a strange place....
Get to the point. Don't tell me that the story is set in post-Katrina New Orleans where a neighborhood is being revitalized. Tell me that Jane and Bob struggle to rebuild in a neighborhood destroyed by the hurricane.
Boiling a story down to it's simplest definition is hard. It's torturous. But it is the most important thing you can do.