It’s the moment of decision. There are so many wonderful, fascinating things you feel a reader should know about your story, but what do you include? What will make them want to part with their money? How many times have you put a book down, or scrolled onto the next one just because the description was ho-hum? Don’t let that happen to your book. Anyone who has published, either traditionally or independently will tell you: you have to have a great hook or no one is going to read your book. So um—no pressure, huh? So how can you help prevent a potential reader from scrolling past your book? There is no definitive answer, but here’s how I approach it:
1. Who is involved?
A good blurb should tell us something about the main character or characters. In a few words or phrases, if you can show a reader something relatable about the character, something unique or interesting, or even create sympathy for that character, then chances are you’ll hook them on at least one level, and they may even read on.
2. What is happening to them?
You don’t need to give your character’s entire backstory, for a good description. The reader needs to know why they should care about this character. What challenges will they be facing? In what way are they relatable? What mysteries will they need to solve? And do they have any desire to be involved in the outcome, or are they being thrust into the action unwillingly? This step should concisely summarize your story.
3. What is the point of tension?
This is what really sells the story. Your book is more about this than anything else. Let’s look at a couple of popular titles to see what their primary points of tension are. First, let’s take a look atTwilight. (Personal opinions aside). Its point of tension is simple: a girl falls in love and the boy she loves is a vampire. Right away, you start to think: how’s that going to work? Will he end up killing her? Will she regret it? Will she be tempted by his immortality and foolishly end her life so she can be a vampire too? Are vampires even capable of love? And now, whether you want to be or not, you are hooked. A second example comes from the classic science fiction novel, Flowers for Algernon, written by the late Daniel Keyes. In it, the main character, Charlie Gordon, starts out as a guy with a low IQ. Experiments are done on a mouse named Algernon in order to increase its intelligence, and it works. So they attempt the same procedure on Charlie, and it also works. However, eventually the mouse starts mentally deteriorating and eventually dies. The now intelligent Charlie realizes that the same horrible fate awaits him unless he can do something about it—and this is the book’s point of tension. There is romance. There are personal relationships that are changed for the better, but despite the richness of the book, the real tension, the real selling point is in knowing that Charlie’s good life as an intelligent man isn’t going to last. Will he die? Will he be able to save himself in time?
A good description is going to engage the reader to a point where they will ask these sorts of questions, and with any luck, they are going to want to know the answers.