Did you ever bait a fishhook with a squirming worm, but you squirmed more than the worm? That was my experience. Novels have hooks too: the cover , the first few lines, and the blurbs on the cover that entice the reader to pick this book.
We writers squirm to keep butt in chair, trying to get the first lines of our novels just right. But the blurb makes me squirm most of all, because it requires distilling hundreds of pages, dozens of characters, a multi-layered plot, themes, settings, motivations, tone, all into two sentences – then into a paragraph or two. It’s tough. But it’s critical to show potential readers that the story is worth reading.
The blurb is also a priceless exercise for the writer, well worth writing as you begin your novel. It’s a target that gives you something to shoot for. But unlike a static target, this one can change as you refine the story. Basically, it goes: positive (protagonist) + negative (antagonist) = the conflict. (In fact, this is helpful to do in every scene. (Warning: easier said than done.) Anyway, FYI, here are the blurbs from the cover of Breath of Angel. They’re basically from the blurbs I wrote for my author q&a, although in the first paragraph, the copywriter elaborated, and you can see it’s a bit rough. I hope the editor fixed it.
Headline: The stranger’s cloak had fallen back, and with it, a long, white, blood-stained wing. An angel.
Body copy: ”Melaia, a young priestess, witnesses the gruesome murder of an emaciated stranger in the temple courtyard. Just after she discovers wings on the stranger, the murderer appears at the temple. Committing the fatal act as a hawk, he appears as a man. What Melaia has known only through song and story has suddenly been given flesh. Angels. Shape-shifters. Myths and stories… until now.
“Melaia finds herself in the middle of a blood feud between two immortal brothers who destroyed the stairway to heaven, stranding angels in the earthly realm. When the feud turns violent and Melaia becomes a target, she finds refuge with a band of wandering angels attempting to restore the stairway. But the restoration is impossible without the repayment of an ancient debt, the breath of angel, blood of man, a payment that involves Melaia’s heart, soul, and destiny.”
So the hook is baited. I hope readers will leap to it!