Sunday, July 26, 2015

How Much Is Too Much?

As I was walking through a bookstore recently, I got to thinking about what we put in our book know...those fun little summaries on the inside covers that help entice readers to see what more may lurk within.  Just how much do you reveal in that blurb?

On one hand, you need to reveal enough so the reader kind of gets what the story is about.  I saw several novels that had something along the lines of, "A professor at his university's history department, Dr. Green found a mysterious artifact that could challenge everything we know about human history," and I'd walk away asking what the story was about, not because I was intrigued, but because the description was so generic that it didn't tell me anything.  In other words, it was the basic "THIS BOOK IS AWESOME AND MYSTERIOUS SO PLEASE BUY IT" approach.  Rather than invite me to learn more, it dissuaded me from looking any further because I didn't want to get 20 pages in and find I didn't care for the story.

On the other hand, you can't give away the store.  A blurb that says something like, "Arthur Quinn was a geneticist who found an ancient scepter that reacted to family blood lines.  He uses this scepter to rearrange the power structure of his city and rule with an iron fist," essentially tells me the entire story.  Why do I need to read it at that point?  I may as well have looked it up on Google and gotten the Wikipedia version.

So what do you tell?  I look at the blurb as heavy on introduction and light on mystery.  You want a blurb that introduces the reader to the character so that, subconsciously, that reader starts to care about the character.  However, you should only tease the story with enough specifics to have the reader want more.  For example, this is the way I tease Salvation Day:
"Mike Faulkner wants to kill God.  No, he doesn't want to convince less people to believe; he wants to confront the deity Himself and watch Him die.

After he lost his baby girl to a childhood illness, his wife, consumed by grief, committed suicide.  Through a series of seemingly random events, he comes to know that his wife's soul has been sent to Hell.  However, Mike is a theoretical mathematician whose equations show the potential for a new form of energy that can affect the bonds of reality.  In the midst of this discovery, he's approached by a demon from Hell's ruling council with an offer of immortality in exchange for using this new weapon to storm the gates of Heaven and challenge the Almighty.

Salvation Day is a paranormal thriller that takes us from Mike's grief to his temptation to his corruption to his redemption, stopping at every emotional place in between.  It's not for the faint of heart."

In my opinion, this introduces readers to the main character and gives them a "whoa, what the hell?" moment.  Kill God?  Is that even possible?  Who would want to do that?  Then it gives basic reasoning for the decision, a process of grief and anger that most of us could understand.  Finally, it lets the reader know that there is a journey involved that you have to follow in order to see where it leads.

I believe you should put a great deal of effort into your blurb.  If your title and cover are your eye contact with the audience, then the blurb is your greeting.  If you're too strong, you'll put them off.  If you're too soft, they won't care who you are.

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