Lesson 5: Back Cover Blurbs
I enjoy writing the Back Cover blurb as it’s often one of the first things I write while writing a story. It’s part of my plotting process and it often is the motivation to keep things on track even when the characters seem to meander down trails I never saw in the initial movie trailer. In fact, the back cover blurb will lead us to the final blurb– the query/highlight one as it’s a refined version with small changes. So, let’s take that high concept blurb as our guide and begin the back cover blurb.
In this blurb, I often have three to four paragraphs, each composed of 4-7 sentences. This limits what is included and forces you to think in what I call movie trailer mode. Movie trailers are one of the best ways to learn how to write back cover blurbs. Listen to them on the radio and watch them on TV. Take notes on what is used as the opening, the middle, the ending hook. These are what comprise the back cover for a story. Though there are many things that make up a book or movie, these three components are always present.
We know the essence of the story, so the next step is what is the crisis/decision moment that forces the protagonist to act? This is your first sentence since it creates the setting of the story and focuses the reader’s attention to read further.
Take your opening sentence. Does it make you go, “Hmm, I wonder what this is about? How did this happen?” If you aren’t finding yourself wondering more about the character– you need a different first sentence. Once you open up with the appropriate attention grabber that sets up the book, usually introducing the main character or at least one of the main characters, you move to the next part. Normally my first two sentences are what constitute not just the crisis moment, but the main characters first reaction. This allows the readers to identify with the character–even though they don’t know much else.
Then we go to what I call the interference–why can’t the character do what is necessary to fix the situation? What is stopping him/her from moving forward? Normally, I pick one certain thing faced that is a failure or I generalize a couple of incidents that show just what the character/s face and why they’re not getting anywhere fast. Normally this is a physical conflict that I showcase as it keeps the blurb moving forward and is easily relatable for the reader.
Next, I bring in the emotions. Why? Because we are emotional creatures and we want to feel the humanity of the protagonists. We want to see them struggle, fall in love, realize that they need something more than what they are at that moment to accomplish their goals. When writing a romance, this is where I mention about the attraction factor, the intimacy, or even being overwhelmed thus causing the next set of circumstances that happen. Once I’ve done this part–which is often a few sentences, I get to the setup of the black moment/final crisis. When I prepare this part, I often take a few minutes with the story if it’s done and reread the first few pages before that moment and through that moment. If the story isn’t written, I play my movie trailer in my head, taking down the aspects that make it so intense you need to know what happens after.
Now, I fiddle with it a bit, making sure that I don’t give away the ending but leave the reader wondering– “What happens?” Depending on the genre, I often try to form the last sentence or two as questions, bringing the whole story essence into that moment– “Can they love each other when they find out their love is based on deceit?” “Can he figure out who is behind the murders before the murderer wins the final round by destroying the one person that Jake can’t live without?”
By using a strong hook at the end of the back cover blurb, you are leaving the reader wondering, thinking, considering. You’re forcing them to speculate without too much information and with the right closing; you’re creating a lasting impression in their mind. It’s the kind of thing that might have them debating as they wander around the store a little while longer, especially if they’re not sure they want to buy the book at first. It makes them think to the point that they have to know the answer, which gives you a sale and a new reader. Starting and ending with a hook is one sure way to have your book remembered. If the hook is also catchy–they won’t forget it and will talk about to other people. Once this is written, I often spend some time revising, tightening, and rewording the blurb until I’m happy with it. This usually involves me reading it out loud, like a movie trailer. If I hear it and I feel excited, then I know that I’ve got the pacing and flow nailed for the blurb.
This takes us to the final blurb– the Query/Highlight blurb.
Assignment--- Share your cover blurb with us.