Monday, March 26, 2012

Story Summary 3 Back Cover Blurb

For the past few weeks, we've been discussion different forms of one-paragraph story summaries. Today we discuss the Back Cover Blurb Paragraph.

If you’re a pantser who doesn’t want to outline because it will spoil the story fun for you, the back cover blurb paragraph is a great way to know just enough of your story to keep you on track, but not so much as to spoil your fun!
So let's get to it!
For decades editors and authors have been encapsulating their stories for the backs of their books to entice readers. And what’s the best way to entice readers? Show them the most important, most critical, most compelling part of your story.

i.e. Sam Montgomery had it all. Beautiful wife, smart kids, penthouse apartment. Until an old girl friend returned and told him their son was a prisoner in Iraq, thrusting him into a world of intrigue and danger. Can he trust the beautiful Bella when she tells him her son Cade really is his child? Or is she sending him on a chase that more than likely will get him killed?

Do you know what the heart of that story is? Sure. The relationship between him and Bella. That relationship and his mistrust of his former girlfriend will drive that thriller as they try to find “his” son. They will have dangerous adventures. There will be suspense and scary parts. All the while he’ll be with a woman he isn’t sure he trusts. And that might get him killed.

Knowing that BEFORE you write the book, you will also know how to tell the story. How to focus it. How to make it even more compelling and dramatic. All by sticking with the tone and premise you set forth in that paragraph.

So you need to think through your story. What story are you telling? Whose story are you telling? What’s the heart? What makes it special, unique…What would YOU put on your book’s back cover blurb?

What would make a READER pick up your book? Hum...interesting. After all, that's what a back cover blurb is supposed to do...entice a reader into buying!

That was a made up example. Let’s take a look at a back cover from a real book and see if you can tell how knowing this “back cover” information while you’re writing could keep you on track.

Lori Handeland’s MARKED BY THE MOON. (I don’t know Lori, by the way…but I loved this book!)

“Tough as nails, Alexandra Trevalyn does what most people can’t: She kills werewolves. Once part of an elite group of hunters, she’s going rogue these days, though no less determined to rid the world of the bloodthirsty beasts…once and for all. That’s why Alex had no choice but to kill Julian Barlow’s wife – and will have to pay the price. Julian’s brand of vengeance is downright devious, and now he’s turned Alex into a member or his pack. It’s only a matter of time before she falls under his spell. With the wild freedom of the wolf in her veins, Alex can’t deny that Julian wakes her most primal passions…and draws her that much closer to the moon’s call, where evil lies in wait.”

You don’t know the whole story from the back cover blurb, but you get the richest, most compelling, most important parts of the story in that blurb. As a writer, you would know how to focus that story – first on her killing Julian’s wife, then on Julian’s revenge which puts her smack dab in Werewolf World – and her troubled adjustment to becoming one of the beasts she used to hunt – even as her captor awakens her passions.

Which is why, if you choose the back-cover-blurb type of story summary, you will get a very good handle on the most dramatic, most compelling, most important parts of your story before you write it! Simply think: What will draw readers to this story, and write that blurb. (And then write THAT story!)

Just like the core story question, a well written back-cover-blurb summary can almost become a blueprint of sorts…

First hunting werewolves,

Then killing wife,

Then being hunted herself,

Then being turned,

then adjusting to werewolf life, as she falls in love with her captor –

We see five very distinct segments of the book. Five turning points.

But even if your blurb isn’t so good that you can pull out your turning points…it will keep you on track by always reminding you of the most important parts of your story.

And that's what you want. You want to focus on the most compelling, most interesting way to tell the story. The way that will draw in readers and leave them spellbound.

Happy Monday!


P. S. April 2012 I will be doing my workshop LET CONFLICT TELL YOUR STORY FOR YOU for the STAR chapter. Go to:

There's still time to register!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Week 2 One-Paragraph Story Summaries Core Story Question

Core story question

Like it or not, every time a reader picks up a romance, she expects certain things. Every time a reader picks up a thriller, she expects other things. Every time a reader picks up a sci-fi, she expects a totally different set of things.

And how do we know what readers expect from every book in the genre or subgenre currently popular?

Because at its heart every genre and subgenre has a core story question.

Every genre or subgenre has its own "signature" question that makes a book fit that genre.  It’s a marketing tool for booksellers to know how to shelve books, but more than that it's also a tool that helps an author keep his or her book focused so it not only results in a tight book. . .it also ensures a book hits its market.

Some of you are going to rebel against this because you WANT to be writing mainstream. You WANT to appeal to a broad audience.

I agree. I applaud you, and for those of you who seriously want to write mainstream, you’ll probably find yourself working with the “growth” paragraph which we’ll talk about the week after next. But, don’t skip this part! Don't turn away the tool that might jumpstart your story and give it enough focus that readers will love you.

For instance. . .

In CJ Lyons’ workshop, Thrills, Chills and Spills, How to Write the Modern-Day Thriller, she says, the story question of a mystery is Who. Who done it? The protagonist works to figure out who killed the cop, who murdered the mom, who blew up the bishop. Who done it?

The story question of a thriller is How. How will your protagonist save the world (albeit his or her own personal world) from the evil villain intent on destroying it?

That’s pretty obvious stuff. But how do YOU as author use it? How can it make writing your book easier? How can it make your book better?

To answer those questions, let’s look at the movie AIR FORCE ONE with Harrison Ford.

After the plane of the president of the United States is hijacked and most of the secret service agents on board are killed, it's pretty clear almost immediately that the president is going to have to save himself. So the question becomes how...

How will an aging military hero save himself when he's trapped on a plane, has no weapon, is outgunned and the villains are using his family against him?

Did you notice what I did there? I took the broad and general 'GENRE' question for a thriller (How will the protagonist save the world) and turned it into a concise story question for a specific story.

Because that's what makes your book unique. If you’re writing a thriller, the way you twist or turn or enhance YOUR version of “how will the hero save the world” is the way you make your book great, or different, or unique. (Which is why the more you play with your question and the more you enhance your question, the better, or maybe more unique, your book will be.)

So right off the bat you need to know what genre you are writing so you know how to direct your story, but once you know that, you can manipulate the question with your story facts and make your story the best it can be.

Why is this important? Very simple. If you can write a clear, concise story question you can show yourself (and potentially an editor) that your story fits your genre, making it marketable.
That's the gist of the core story question. For those of you not writing thriller, take some time and see if you can figure out what the core story question is for your genre.

And see if you can use it to keep you focused!

Happy Monday  Oh! And don't forget April's workshop on conflict.

Here's info:



Monday, March 12, 2012

One paragraph story summaries

I did a workshop called Prepping for Nano last October. I helped people to understand their stories BEFORE November 1 rolled around so that when the bell went off to start Nano, they were ready.

So, those of you who know me recognize that before we did anything else, I had everybody write their idea in one-paragraph form...Why? Because I believe that if you can't tell your story in one paragraph, then you don't really know it.

But I discovered an interesting thing as I was writing that lesson. There isn't just one way to write a one-paragraph story summary. I know four.

So, we're going to take the next four weeks to talk about the four one-paragraph story summaries. You can try out all four, see which one fits, and work with that for your next book.

Today we'll talk about the "just plain" one-paragraph story summary -- sometimes called a mini-synopsis.


the type of book,
the characters' goals, motivations and conflicts
and a bit of an ending.

Oh, and, you can't ever say...The hero's goal is... The heroine's goal is... Goals, motivations and conflicts should be understood. (Don't groan! It's actually very easy.)

Like this:

The hero and heroine must catch a killer, but she's already been arrested for the crime and he's the DA prosecuting her.

After reading that, do you need somebody to tell you what the characters' goals, motivations and conficts are? She's trying to stay out of prison, maybe even save her life. He's trying to keep the wrong person from being convicted. But...conflict alert...they're on opposite sides in this case. If he's discovered helping her, he's in trouble. And what if he's wrong? What if she really is the murderer, duping him.

Lots of stuff in that one SENTENCE.

But that's a special case.

Your paragraph will probably look something like this:

A bodyguard book about a woman who’s never had family, so she understands its importance, being protected by a hero with a loving family who doesn’t believe he’s capable of settling down. So, when they realize they're sexually attracted, and going to be alone on the road as they run from the mob boss who is trying to kill her before she can testify against him, one of the people the hero’s protecting the heroine from is himself.

Type of book: Bodyguard/romance
External Goal: Keep her safe to testify
Motivations: Heroine: To stay alive (Who doesn't want to live?)
Hero: To put mob boss in jail.
Conflict: External: Mob boss is trying to kill her
Conflict: Internal/Romantic: She is an orphan who realizes the importance of family. If they connect, he will be forced to chose between her and his family. She won't do that to him.
His: He doesn't believe he can settle down and having been deprived of real love all her life, she deserves better than he can give her.
Not only is all of that very clear in my paragraph, but you probably felt a tug of emotion reading it. Because that's what a romance novel is supposed to do. Evoke emotion.
And notice, not once did I say, the hero's goal is, the heroine's goal is, the heroine's conflict is...etc! LOL Yet all of it was right there in that paragraph.
If you can express your story this succinctly, you will not only understand it better so that you can more easily write it. You will also begin to see nuances of the story that you might have missed otherwise. Because what happens when you squeeze something? The juice pops out.
The same thing is true when you condense your story idea. The good stuff pops out.
So think about your story. Try to write it into a one-paragraph story summary so stunning and brilliant that even you are wowed. And then make your book match your story summary!
Next week...core story question.
Happy Monday!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Do you know the coulds, mights, musts and shoulds for your genre?

Do you?

I spend a lot of time analyzing things. My brain considers that fun so sometimes I just indulge it. I make lots of lists in my computer. Like:

Things I always find in romantic suspense.
Things I always find in women's fiction.
Things I always find in category romance.

I know. I'm insane. Or maybe I just love lists. But the truth is every genre has "things" that show up somewhere in the story.

In romantic suspense...there has to be a love interest. LOL (Otherwise it would just be suspense.)
But there also has to be an evolution or escalation of the story.
A struggle between the protagonist and the villain.
A few kisses.
Maybe a sex scene.
A scene in which we know the hero has fallen in love.
A scene where the love interest is in jeopardy. (Alone or with the some point one or both of them has to be in jeopardy.)
Threats to life and limb.
Deaths of other characters.
Scary scenes.

I could go on and on (because there are a lot of great things in romantic suspense) but I don't want to because I want you to think about your genre, or sub-genre, and come up with your own list.


Because when I tell you to write a could, might, must and should list for your story -- before you start writing -- so that you have fodder for your outline or the book can you write the musts if you don't know what they are?

Do you know what readers LOVE to see in your genre...Do you know what things you can put in to spice up or change up the things they love to see?

For me, manipulating those things, switching things out, changing things up, amplifying others...that's the fun of storytelling. Giving readers what they want but with a twist...

And you can't do that unless you know what they want.

So today...make your own list. What do you see in nearly every book you read from your genre? What do you WISH you'd see? (Maybe that will be the thing you put in your book that shoots it over the moon!)

Add to your list as you think of things or observe things that had passed you by in your first go round...and maybe that will be the observation that helps you write a book that goes from good to great!

Happy writing