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Blurb help?

My experience so far is that blurbs are the worst. I've never written one I've cared for, but it's also never mattered before. I am very serious about this novel and an attempt to get it published... So anyone who's willing to toss me some feedback, what do this title/blurb make you think, and what do you like, dislike, or wonder?

Heart of Draehn 

One broken kingdom floundering for posterity. Two leaders locked in combat; diametrically opposed. Decades of violent tyranny have made the once prosperous Kingdom of Draehn unrecognizable, and Draehnians are grasping for hope to stand on. King Milros’ heir and the gathering rebel forces each have their own plans for the direction of their kingdom. 

Lord Prince Shane Herrale is not quite the most hated man in Draehn. Trained to be the perfect warrior, he is willing to cross every line for the end goal. If only he could find what that goal is. 

Treyson Gallaen was born in a sawmill.  Fervent idealism and ardent retribution drive his every decision, and rebellion heads have noticed. 

With these as the rising powers, do the people have a future? 

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Replies (11)
    • (I posted on the other question before I saw this!) 

      It certainly sounds like a blurb, but having read through a couple of times, I realize I'm only learning the back-story. There's going to be a battle between these two guys, but why? There's no motivation for either. What are the stakes? What has caused this conflict? What *is* the conflict? What is the nature of the rebels' idealism?

      I don't read a lot of fantasy, but I wonder what is the USP here - what is it about your story that's different? The one thing that stands out is Herrale's sense of ennui - lacking a goal. That could be something interesting in itself: thrust into the role of leader, wondering why there has to be all this killing, etc. A man who doesn't fit in his circumstances.

      In terms of specifics, a few phrases came across as vague (if interesting): e.g. floundering for posterity. A king might care about 'legacy', but a kingdom? Grasping for hope to stand on sounds like a mixed metaphor.

      Perhaps it helps to think in terms of the 'elevator pitch'? What is your premise, in the simplest terms (20 words or so)? I know this probably sounds like an even worse challenge, but you'll need the elevator pitch if you're looking for an agent, and once you've nailed that the blurb might fall into place easier.

      Looking forward to hearing more!



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      • Thank you! I will definitely consider this all. I suppose I struggle balancing information with giving away too much to make the story feel appealing, if that makes sense? 

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      • I agree with Slago, it sounds like a blurb but it is too vague and generic to be enticing. You need to show/hint how unique your world is and specific stakes for your story. My advice would be look at the blurb of about 20 fantasy debuts and analyse how they show the specific and USP (Unique Selling Point) of their world/story.

        The other thing that I would add is that irrelevant of the genre, the most important is your main character (MC) you need someone we want to root for or against. Here we don't have a name until the 2nd paragraph and it's a just vague description. I don't know what they do in the story and what the stakes for them. A lot of fantasy involves the rise or fall of a kingdom, but what does that mean for your MC?

        Blurbs are tricky and can sometimes feel harder than writing the actual book! I hope this helps.

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        • Thank you :) Definitely feeling harder than the actual book right now... I lack confidence that others will find my story interesting, which I think is part of my problem. I don't want to give away too much and spoil what little interest there might have been... Guess I've got to work on the confidence. 

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        • Is this an improvement?

          Lord Prince Shane Herrale is not quite the most hated man in Draehn. Trained to be the perfect warrior, he is willing to cross every line for the end goal. If only it were clear what the end goal is. Shane knows only that he was born to rule; and that there’s only one person in the world he can trust. 

          Treyson Gallaen was born in a sawmill five years before Milros violently claimed the throne. At seven, he watched his parents and his entire village die at the hands of ruthless soldiers for the sole purpose of a political statement. Fervent idealism for a better world and ardent desire for retribution drive his every decision- and he rapidly climbs to the head of the rebellion.

          Threats greater and darker than Milros loom unknown above the Kingdom of Draehn, growing in secrecy. A brutalised population struggling to survive in a breaking kingdom may be the last defence of the mortal world. With Treyson and Shane as the rising powers, do the people have a future? 

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          • The literal answer is ... yes, the paragraphs are clearer in themselves, and I have a better idea of who the characters are and their motivations. But ... sorry to say this, it now sounds less like a blurb. I also don't get much of the third paragraph. I don't get anything about the secret threats, because they're secret. Why is a brutalized population the last defence of the mortal world? (I've had some problems trying to tease what's coming up without giving the whole thing away, so I know how difficult it can be.)

            I don't know if this helps, but I wonder if you could start with a three-sentence hook (something like the elevator pitch - I still think that's the key), then introduce your characters/stakes, then round off with the question? Something like:

            One man, born to rule. The other a rebel, born in a sawmill. Together, they hold the fate of the Kingdom of Draehn in their warring hands.

            (Brief paragraph, one sentence about each character, emphasizing the stakes - what they both have to lose.)

            With Treyson and Shane as the rising powers, do the people have a future?

            I assumed this kind of structure (which seems familiar) must be part of some formula or other, and when I started googling I ran into this straightaway https://estherrabbit.com/how-to-write-the-perfect-blurb/ (you've probably seen it but lots of good ideas in there).

            Also, related to what L. said: you have two protagonists? Or a protagonist and an antagonist? Who are we meant to root for? I'd assume Treyson (because I'm always rooting for the underdog, even if it's Max Verstappen), but it needs to be clear.

            Hope this helps.

            Cheers, S.

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            • Thank you again. I'm going to let this simmer in my mind for awhile before I try again... I really hate blurbs. Will definitely consider all of your points here. 

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            • Letting it simmer is a good idea. Blurbs are hard to write partly because we're so close to our own material.

              Blurbs have a formula. I think studying the blurbs of novels you haven't read can be helpful. It's easier to pick out the formula, to spot what kind of information you're being given. Also, read ones outside your genre so you aren't tempted to compare your own story or start thinking about details of your own plot. Such activities can make you forget to be objective about spotting the formula. Distraction = scrambled brain = growing sense of despair that you'll manage to write a 150-word blurb!

              Have a look at this one:

              "For many years Camilla has spent the summer in the countryside with friends. But this year their private absorptions -- Frances with her painting and Liz with her baby -- seem to exclude her from the gossipy intimacies of previous holidays. Feeling lonely, and that life and love are passing her by, Camilla steps into an unlikely liaison with Richard Elton, handsome, assured -- and a dangerous liar."

              So there's: 1) Name of main character and her typical life; 2) What has changed from her normal life. Her feeling of exclusion is the first hint of a story; 3) The actual story with the main threat, the challenge the MC will have to deal with. This is what will, hopefully, keep the reader on tenterhooks. It also tells the reader what type of novel this is going to be.

              This particular blurb is 68 words. 

              It's from A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor published by Virago, 2011 edition. I grabbed it off the shelf nearest to me. I didn't spend ages looking for a blurb which would be a good example -- it was simply there, on hand, containing the formula. It could be done differently, maybe saying more about how Richard Elton is a threat. Less about the friends and more about him especially for a modern readership attuned to coercive control. 'Dangerous liar' on its own is probably a bit vague these days.

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              • I really appreciate everyone’s advice. 

                I’m back again because I’m struggling with the details… Perhaps I’m taking suggestions too literally, as I tend to do that, but I could use a hand getting my thinking outside the box. 

                For instance, the issue of who is the protagonist/antagonist… I have two protagonists; but they begin positioned as each other’s antagonists. Ultimately the reigning king is the big “bad guy”, and he is an antagonist to Shane (Treyson as well… But extremely far removed from Treyson’s situation. The entirety of this book, he does not meet the king in person, whereas he and Shane face off in the first chapter). As for who the reader roots for, to me that’s half the fun. In my mind it would be easy to love or hate both characters, and I can’t say who most readers would prefer. Personally, I root for them both… and eventually I hope the reader will too. This also will become more natural as they transition to be allies late in the book and moving forward in what I plan to be a series. 

                I still have no idea what my unique selling point would be, honestly. But I’m having a tough time leaving this be. I pulled a random selection of books off the shelf; each of them introduced the setting, the character, and the conflict in that order. So to try again based on that and the formula noted above, as well as trying to make a clearer indication of protagonist/antagonist, this is what I've got this time… 

                Heart of Draehn 

                The Kingdom of Draehn is crumbling beneath King Milros Kygore’s tyrannical paranoia. As the king’s laws and punishments become more erratic than ever, new fuel is given to the Allegiant rebellion- and Treyson Gallaen finds himself rapidly swept up in the current. Treyson flings himself heart and soul into the battle for a better Draehn, desiring nothing more than to purge Milros, his right hand man, and all of their followers from the land. Perhaps then, the bloodshed will finally end. 

                Lord Prince Shane Herrale is the king’s prized possession. Trained from childhood to be the perfect warrior; he is willing to cross every line for the end goal. Trouble is, he is no longer certain what that goal should be. But he was born to rule, and Milros is in the way. 

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                • I like succinctness 😊 Consider:

                  The Kingdom of Draehn is crumbling beneath King Kygore’s tyranny. His laws and punishments, ever more cruel and savage. A rebellion gathers pace around Treyson Gallaen, an idealist, imagining a world without Kygore and his brutal mercenaries. Any amount of conflict is worth that promise. Even if he must face Lord Herrale, the king’s perfect warrior. Trained from infancy to cut down any opposition to the king's glory. But Herrale begins to wonder who's glory he should be fighting for when he discovers that it was he, and not Kygore, who was born to rule.

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                  • Also it's OK to have difficulty with blurb. In this address from 2018 Sarah Pinsborough (of Behind her Eyes) says that she trades blurbs with another writer. Ir's easier to do someone else's.


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