Why The Blurb Is An Author’s Wormhole

2215722962_169fd088c8_mImagine a wormhole in all its beguiling, seductive allure. Two twisting ends in interstellar space joined by a funnel. Two entirely different universes connected by a seemingly implausible conduit of empty space. Two sets of space-time coordinates separated by an esoteric bridge.

You have here a freaky concept that debunks all logical premises and promises to transport you magically to a world that is otherwise beyond reach and imagination. You are allowed access to a universe that had hitherto existed only in your imagination. Or one that you couldn’t imagine.

It is every author’s dream to suck the reader into his story and transport her to the universe of bewilderment and intrigue the minute the reader lays her hand on his book. Newbie authors often admit to a twinge of wistfulness when a browsing reader picks up his baby, gives it the once-over and promptly moves on to the book next to it.

Enter the author’s wormhole – the back cover blurb.

The blurb at the back of your book is one of the three hooks (the chapter opening and the book cover being the other two) at the disposal of the author to reel in the reader in the crucial two minutes it takes for her to decide whether to buy your book or not.

The humble blurb does multiple things. It provides a falcon’s eye-view of your story in a single glance. It raises questions in the reader’s mind – questions that she would want answered. It provides ample foil to trade reviews (if any) on the back cover so that the reader can wash down the story and market reactions to it in a single gulp.

Most importantly, the blurb is a funnel that transports the reader into your story’s universe instantaneously without giving away too much. And keeps her there.

So, what goes into creating that all-alluring blurb?

Take one of the master storyteller’s novels, The Shining, by Stephen King. This is how the blurb reads:

Danny is only five years old but in the words of old Mr Hallorann he is a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father becomes caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, Danny’s visions grow out of control.

As winter closes in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seems to develop a life of its own. It is meant to be empty. So who is the lady in Room 217 and who are the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why do the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?

Somewhere, somehow, there is an evil force in the hotel – and that too is beginning to shine …

Note the first part of the blurb. The protagonist, his defining characteristic and the setting are outlined in one simple paragraph. It is also a cliffhanger in that it raises the pulse by dangling the prospect of the protagonist going out of control tantalizingly enough for us to read the blurb further.

2117904919_78f5f06297_mThe second paragraph, although itself riddled with questions, raises other questions: what’s unique about Room 217? Why are the hedges shaped like animals? What’s making the hotel develop a life of its own and how’s Danny involved / impacted?

The third paragraph (really just an open-ended sentence) throws the plot wide open by hinting at a conflict (what happens when Danny’s ‘shining’ confronts the hotel’s?) while not giving anything away on the conflict resolution – perfect recipe to whet the reader’s appetite and set her up for a bone-chilling ride into King’s world. In other words, an effective wormhole.

What approaches do you follow while writing the back cover blurb? Write in.

NOTE: This post is part of the On Writing series on this blog. Read the previous post in this series: 5 Killer Openings To Hook The Reader.

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