It turns out, I suck at writing blurbs.
What now? What’s a blurb?
A blurb is the little advertisement for the story that you see on the back of the book (or on the front inside cover). It’s supposed to entice you to read the story inside.
But, Natalie, that should be easy! It’s not even a full page.
Yeah. That’s what I thought too. Until I started writing blurbs for my most recent short story. See, I started out with a short description and quickly realised I was giving away too much of the plot. Then, I wrote up a short teaser. Except, it sounded like some teen romance.
He’s a fisherman’s son. She lives up at the holy palace.
He has a boat load of fish to gut. She wants to escape an arranged marriage.
He just realised she might be nobility. She says: “Run away with me.”
He almost chokes. What if things go wrong…
Who’s he kidding? He’s going with her. It’s not like they’re going to be facing sea serpents or taking a bunch of other people who will get in the way.
At this point, I knew I needed outside input, so, I contacted my local Facebook writer group. They tore that last one so many holes, I had to breathe deeply for four hours before I could even start writing more than two words without summarily deleting them. The good news is: They did provide me with a kind of formula.
This is the formula (after much deleting of unnecessary explanations):
♦ Sense of character
♦ Life as it is
♦ Inciting event
♦ Secondary character
♦ The stakes
♦ Make the stakes personal (question/choice)
♦ Other interesting characters
♦ Intriguing end/hook
I sat down with the formula and substituted my story details into it. Boy, did that go badly. I stared at the abomination and added a little teaser from the first page of the story. Okay, that’s a little better, I thought to myself. I posted it on the group again.
Fish cleared his throat. “Wedding dress?”
“Yes, that thing where you wear fancy clothes for a day and then you have to have some stranger’s children because you’re unlucky enough to be a woman.”
“But you can’t marry-” He had been about to say “someone else”. He coughed.
“It doesn’t matter,” Myhrrl said, turning to face the sea again.
“But you said-“
Her eyes glittered. “I’ll run away.”
He’d been expecting something else. He wasn’t sure what, but it wasn’t this. The butterflies in his stomach fluttered. “Run away…?”
“You’ll come with, of course,” she said, already turning on her heel.
Fish has been in love with Myhrrl from the day he met her while offloading a day’s catch of fish behind the Forest Lord’s holy palace kitchens. Since then, she’s gotten him in to all sorts of trouble, the least of which has been a sound beating from his father for shirking his fishing duties.
When they get on the Kish Kist, a trading ship, to escape her impending nuptials, he has no idea that he’s embarking on a journey that will bring him face to face with the two most feared presences in the Kish Sea.
Will they survive Myhrrl’s escape plan or will they die before Fish gets a chance to profess his feelings toward her?
Turns out, they love my story writing but they still hated my actual blurb. I hated it too. But, you know, you can’t win everyone. Maybe I was just the one who couldn’t be won. Well, we know how that turned out.
I sat down again. This time it took me four days to write something that I didn’t reject off the bat. One of my best efforts looked like this:
There’s a boy. There’s a girl. There are pirates and a sea serpent.
Good heavens, Natalie! Are you kidding me? Sadly…no. Hahaha. *ahem*
I sat down again. This time, I consulted my good friend, Richard T Wheeler. I told him all about my blurb-writing woes. He sounded confused about my epic struggle. Whatever was the matter? On short order, he wrote up a blurb for his submission for Phoenix Fire and showed me. It was short, it didn’t even look fancy but it was enticing and I wanted to read the story. How did he do that?!?
I showed him the third blurb I had written for my Facebook writer friends (they actually liked this one, by the way):
What’s a boy to do when the girl he loves is running away from an arranged marriage? Why, sail the high seas and get captured by magic-slinging pirates, of course!
His reply was: Give me a moment. I’ll write up a version for you.
As good as his word, within five minutes, he had a blurb for me. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was my short story in blurb form. Maybe one or two details too many about the plot but it was almost exactly what I needed.
I altered a word or two. A phrase. But it’s really almost exactly what he sent me.
Scruffy fisherboy Eldvin knew that ethereal maiden Myhrrl was so far beyond his reach that he didn’t stand a chance of catching her, but when she ran away from her arranged marriage and (sort of) into his arms, he took his chance anyway. Too bad about getting captured by pirates in the process. Hopefully, his love will find a way, even through magic hell and high Suhl waters.
Sure, this one isn’t as punchy as the one a few lines up but it certainly gives more of a feel for the style of the story. And you know what? It follows that formula I had extrapolated.
Now, I have two blurbs. Sure, both can use a little polishing but they beat the heck out of my first efforts.
Shows you that a little perseverance and willingness to keep trying pays off! That and selfless help from others. Thank you, writer friends!