Keep the Mystery in your Fiction!

By Glenna Mageau (Writing as Maggie Thom)

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You’ve finished writing your novel and now you find yourself with the prospect of having to write a catching back cover blurb that will hook the potential reader and draw her/him in. Unfortunately, writing this brief but vital info seems to be a mystery for many authors. What to include? What to leave out? Where to begin? How to make it interesting?

It’s no wonder this task so daunting. You’ve just written 60,000 words, or 82,454, words or 102,383 words, and now you want to give a glimpse inside the meat of your story in only 200 words? The thing is though, for an author 200 words is really not that difficult a task to write. Where the problem comes in, is that authors of fiction tend to look at writing the book blurb as a summary, as a “this-then-that” kind of article, when really it’s not.

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The key to the fiction blurb is that you want the reader to know they are departing on a grand adventure, an exciting and thrilling journey! But where will they actually go? That, you want to keep a mystery!

To give the reader a taste of the experience they will experience while devouring your book, you want to offer them a glimpse inside the pages and connect them to your protagonist and her/his journey without giving away too much of what lies ahead.

Sounds easy, right?

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I sure didn’t find it that way when I first decided to be Indie published. I had little idea how to write the effective fiction blurb, and no idea how to make it something that would pull the reader in and capture her interest. That frustrated me to no end. So, I set out to learn all that I could about what makes a such a blurb intriguing. Here are some vital points of what I have learned:

Where to start?

Keep the focus of the  blurb on the protagonist. Who is this character? What makes him/her unique? Why have you chosen this particular character as your protagonist?

What to include?

You want to include the struggles, the problems that the protagonist faces. And you want to include the major conflict that your story is about.

What to leave out?

You really don’t need to include all of the events and situations that happen. You don’t want to spell out the climax or ending. And you don’t want to mention too many secondary characters by name – maybe 2 or 3 at most.

Now that you have the reader’s attention, you want to pull them into the mystery of where the story is going.

How to make it interesting?

This is where you will use the climax and ending to hint at where the story is going. You want the reader to wonder, “Will the protagonist succeed or fail?” and what might happen if they fail.

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If you ensure that you include the above information in your blurb, you are giving a good sense of who the protagonist is, what’s going on for him/her, and how they are handling it all. That’s what will grab the reader and connect them to your story. Then, when you tack on the mystery of how and where the protagonist ends up, you’ve got their attention–and better yet–you’ve got them wondering where the story is going. You’ve hooked them!

Remember–keeping the mystery in your blurb will pull the reader into your story, and won’t let them go!

I’m doing a free webinar – 5 Steps to a Compelling and Interesting Fiction Book Blurb – on Nov. 9. The best way to keep informed and get more tips on writing a fiction book blurb is to sign up for my free ebook – 3 Keys to Creating a Compelling and Interesting Fiction Book Blurb

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About the author:Glenna Mageau is an award-winning suspense/thriller author who works with Indie/Self Published authors to create attention-grabbing blurbs. Her first attempts at writing fiction book blurbs were dismal, time-consuming and stressful. Over many hours of trial and error she finally figured out the keys to writing interesting, compelling and attention-grabbing back cover copy. This led to the author’s course – Mastering the Art of Writing the Catchy Fiction Book Blurb – to help all Indie/Self-published authors learn this vital art. You can learn more here: http://www.glennamageau.com/

Glenna’s motto: Escape to read… Read to escape… and Write for the Freedom!

Connect with Glenna at:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GlennaMageau

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thewritesuccess/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/glennamageau/

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23 thoughts on “Keep the Mystery in your Fiction!

    1. Hi Michael. Thank you for hosting me today and thank you for your comments. I know book blurbs used to be a foreign thing for me. 🙂 I was so thrilled when I discovered there was a much easier way to write it.

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    1. Hi Kait. Thank you for hosting me today. I hear you about the entirely new level of hell. I used to hate and avoid writing them for as long as I could. I’m glad you found my post helfpul. 🙂

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    1. Hi Margot. You’re right blurbs do take effort to write a good one but I do know that since I change how I write the fiction book blurb, it is so much easier. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point, Sue. I think the components of a good blurb depend on the length. Are we talking back cover copy, a brief one or two paragraph hook, or . . . ? The old cliche, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” might apply here. (Who the heck ever wanted to skin a cat, anyway?) 🙂
      –Michael

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      1. I found the following at THE PHRASE FINDER:

        The earliest printed citation of this proverbial saying that I can find is in a short story by the American humorist Seba Smith – The Money Diggers, 1840:

        “There are more ways than one to skin a cat,” so are there more ways than one of digging for money.
        ———————————————-
        There are more “possibles” out there if you care to search. Who knows? 🙂
        –Michael

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Sue. I think that is a good basis. What I found really works is that I suggest authors write – Setup, Capture, Intrigue. Setup – is like the underlying theme/issue of the story. It gives a good sense of what type of story it is and what it is about. The back story and kick start (probably the same as your first plot point) are great for this. The Capture is where I suggest introducing the protagonist and the conflicts and hurdles s/he/it is up against. Also include the yin and yang – where they are to where they want to be. And then the Intrigue – the conflict question – that really alludes to the climax and ending. Good question, thanks.

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    1. Hi WL. I completely agree. Setting is really important in a fiction book blurb. And it really doesn’t have to be much to give a sense of either the place and or the time period. Like you said mention Ireland. This is way off topic but I see you are in BC? I am on the island. 🙂

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      1. Very cool. It is truly beautiful out here. My plan is to use this setting one day in one of my suspense thrillers. What do you write?

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  1. Great post, Glenna! Reading a lot of good blurbs helped me, and boiling it down to a formula as Sue suggested is what I ended up doing. My formula is similar. It’s based on Janet Burroway’s formula for fiction: Drama = Desire + Danger. Who wants what, and at what risk?

    The other thing about blurbs is that they can provide the basis for marketing materials — you’ll end up using them on your Web page and other ways, so they might shrink to a sentence (the so-called elevator speech: how do you answer “What’s your book about?” in a sentence?) or expand a bit more for interviews or other places where you have a bit more space or time to entice someone to buy your book.

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    1. Hi Ellen. Thank you. Neat formula. It is an interesting process to figure out. I so agree about authors using it in their marketing – tweets, posts, website. Once you have a good book blurb it is really much easier to pull those one line sentences from it or create a new one. 🙂

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  2. Informative post Glenna. Blurbs are a thread the needle task. I like to draw pictures on shirts and embroider them with colorful threads. I have pricked my finger a lot trying to get that thread in. I think blurbs have to be a tease and they are an art as Kait said. My finger currently has beads of blood on it as I am writing blurbs and book backs for one book I am doing a second edition of and another that is in the works. I like the idea of Drama=Desire=Danger, Ellen. You all have experience and good ideas. It’s great to get some help from friends! Oh, and Michael thanks for the research on skinning cats. I imagine they have been skinned or there would not be a cliché, you think? Nothing like cat stew. Anyway here is to effective answers to the dreaded question “What is your book about?”

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    1. Hi MJ. Thank you. And I have to agree they are like threading the needle – you have to choose the right color, the right needle and the right light – to cut down on those pricked fingers. 🙂 With your book blurb, focus on the back story, the kickstart, where the protagonist is and where s/he/it wants to be and the hurdles s/he/it has to overcome. Good luck with it.

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  3. Nice answer Glenna. Luckily I’m not a bleeder. Hm I guess it depends. Anyway the post is good, the finger bandaged and I was just kidding about the cats. In fact there is one draped on the wall outside tormenting my Doberman. Best to all.

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