Author Topic: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?  (Read 1389 times)  

Offline Mylius Fox

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Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« on: June 02, 2017, 06:08:46 AM »
That's what they're called, right?  ::)

My two-year project is nearing its release date and this is what I've come up with so far. The cover is the first in my sig, it's primarily a military thriller.
Thanks for taking a look!  8)

//

When they kidnapped her, they didn't count on him.

Bandit's military career hits a snag when a CIA agent shoots him in the neck. During the downtime his relationship with a reporter grows serious. They plan their life together, but she has powerful enemies, and he has a few of his own.

A gunfight in the streets of D.C. puts Bandit on the radar of a billionaire arms dealer. He wakes up on a jet alongside a Russian soldier and an Iranian hacker. The truth about that nearly-fatal mission is revealed, and Bandit is put to the test: will he do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason?

Bandit's actions in Syria place him in the middle of a conspiracy that would change the presidential election and the international order. None of that matters when his fiancee is kidnapped by ISIS. Their genocidal leader takes her for a bizarre reason, and no one knows where to begin to find him.

Bandit goes on the warpath to save her, but someone is also hunting him.

//
« Last Edit: June 02, 2017, 06:20:22 AM by Mylius Fox »

Offline Lummox JR

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2017, 09:53:52 AM »
I have to warn you that the red pen nearly ran out of ink on this one. Some brutal honesty follows, so brace yourself. To put it in brief, absolutely nothing about this blurb works, but I'll go through it all and afterward offer some suggestions for how it can be rebuilt. Usually I try to offer a suggested rewrite, but that won't work here for reasons that will become apparent.

When they kidnapped her, they didn't count on him. (1)

Bandit's military career (2) hits a snag when (3) a CIA agent shoots him in the neck. During the downtime his relationship with a reporter grows serious. (4) They plan their life together, but she has powerful enemies, and he has a few of his own. (5)

A gunfight in the streets of D.C. (6) puts Bandit on the radar of a billionaire arms dealer. (7) He wakes up on a jet alongside a Russian soldier (8) and an Iranian hacker. (9) The truth about that nearly-fatal mission is revealed, (10) and Bandit is put to the test: (11) will he do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason? (12)

Bandit's actions in Syria (13) place him in the middle of a conspiracy that would change the presidential election (14) and the international order. (15) None of that matters (16) when (17) his fiancee is kidnapped by ISIS. (18)(19)(20) Their genocidal leader (21) takes her for a bizarre reason, (22) and no one knows where to begin to find him. (23)(24)(25)

Bandit goes on the warpath to save her, but someone is also hunting him. (26)(27)

1) I'm generally opposed to taglines in blurbs. If they're there, they have to be super short and punchy. This one comes close, but I don't know if it's quite close enough.
2) In what branch? This may matter more to some people, or at least help pin him down as a character.
3) HUGE blurb clich. Avoid the dreaded when.
4) How serious can it be if she doesn't have a name? It sounds like her kidnapping is going to be a huge factor in this book, so why'd you make her nameless? Give him some stakes, man!
5) This is all reading like a bunch of story beats. A happens, then B, then C. The blurb is not a synopsis, and temporal flow is its enemy. Speaking of enemies, how does a man make so many in a military career rather than something like law enforcement, debt collection, etc.? Something isn't adding up.
6) What? If he's still recovering from being shot in the neck, what's he doing getting into gunfights on the streets of DC? (I think you can also say DC instead of D.C. here. It reads better.) Is he a cop or something now? Did the CIA recruit him after they shot him? What in the heck am I missing?
7) Because billionaire arms dealers naturally want to kill every off-duty Army sergeant they run across. I'm just going to assume that's what he is from here out, because it's as good as any other guess.
8) What kind? What level of skill? I'm going to assume the Russian soldier is a grunt with like three hours' worth of basic training from here out, because it's as good as any other guess. Just because blurbs have to be brief and leave out all kinds of things doesn't mean this kind of thing should be left out too. "Soldier" is so broad a term this guy could be the chaplain for an office building for all I know.
9) Again, the story beats keep on rolling. It's like you're trying to tell the story in brief, instead of giving us a snapshot of the action which is what blurbs are all about. I'm only about halfway in, and I feel a powerful apathy towards any of the characters because you've vagued them all to Hell. This reads like a "you had to be there" story where I don't know anybody involved or why I should care about them.
10) Story beat.
11) "
12) Good gads, where do I start with this? First off, questions are blurb poison: They're hackneyed, rhetorical, reach into the late story, and they talk to the reader. This one is doing all of those. The italics only make it worse, but that's not even the pinnacle of awfulness. The real problem is this sentence says nothing; readers have NO IDEA what's going on or why any of this matters.
13) Wait, was he in Syria before or is he in Syria now and this is another story beat? Gah! You've confused me so much I want to shoot this guy in the neck.
14) ...of Syria? Specificity matters here.
15) This part is wasted words. Of course the international order would be affected, whether it's the president of Syria or the US.
16) I'll drink to that. Nothing at all in this blurb has mattered so far.
17) Once was bad enough. Twice is much, much worse.
18) What? You're nearly at the end of the blurb, but only now you've gotten to the part that actually mattered enough you built a tagline around it? All of the preceding issues have just been discarded--by the blurb's own admission!--as completely irrelevant.
19) This is another story beat.
20) Also, if she's been kidnapped by ISIS this just turned super dark, because those goons do not screw around. If he gets her back alive and in one piece and unviolated, I'm calling shenanigans because these losers do not work that way. Their whole MO is over-the-top overcompensatory violence. I need hardly add that their treatment of women makes Genghis Khan look like Richard Simmons.
21) Does ISIS really have a leader? It's not like there's a single bin Laden type figurehead out there that I'm aware of.
22) How would Bandit know that? How would anybody know that his reason is bizarre? Why even mention that it's bizarre if you won't tell us what it is? And if this has anything to do with holding her hostage--which frankly is her best shot at survival--then it's not that bizarre, is it?
23) Yeah, that's kind of how these guys operate. I don't see how a sergeant with a neck wound is going to magically find him.
24) This is another story beat.
25) What in the frell is this book about?
26) Someone's after him too? That's thrown in at the end as an afterthought, and it's sitting there like a dead fish. It fits as well as all the other things this blurb has mentioned so far, not one of which has anything to do with each other. Seriously, you've described like ten different possible main plots here.
27) Because of the dead fish afterthought, this is not working whatsoever as a hook. But honestly the strongest hook in the world would be irrelevant at this point, because you've lost readers way before this.

27 notes might be a record.

One of the big problems this blurb has is that it's trying to be something it's not: a synopsis. A blurb is a glimpse of the action, a peek into the world of the story, and it has a murky but rather static sense of "now"--specifically, right around the transition from act 1 to act 2. Instead you're trying to tell key parts of the story in brief, and none of it is coming together coherently. Even if it did come together coherently, it's still going step by step, A then B then C then D, and that temporal flow is killing this blurb--or at least it's finishing the job.

The bigger issue by far is that I can't find a reason to care about Bandit or anyone else. You've reduced the key parts of his life to such vagueness that I don't know who his fiance is (I didn't note this, but you didn't even mention they were engaged until the end), what he does for a living currently, where he is/was in the military, or what kind of person he is. I know that blurbs have to leave a lot out, but you've taken it to such an extreme that each of these one-sentence vignettes that bear no relationship to one another are completely devoid of character; and that's exacerbated by the fact that while you did try to be brief, you threw in so many of those vignettes. Each of them is so threadbare that they hardly make sense on their own, but read together they create one big confusing mishmash. Again this comes back partly to the fact that you wrote this as an attempt at a synopsis, so you're throwing too many plot points into it instead of developing the parts that matter. You're kitchen-sinking it something fierce, throwing in plot points as story beats that may or may not even matter. (Even as a synopsis, though, hoo boy is it not working. Those still need enough detail to follow from one thought to the next.)

So let's get back to basics. This is where I can help you come up with a real blurb.

First, you need a structure. Since it sounds like your plot is in-depth, the structure I would advise is character-conflict-conflict. That is, the first paragraph is for the character, the second is for conflict, and the third will be for how that conflict is even more complicated than it seemed at first. The length you want to shoot for with each one would be roughly the same as this paragraph. Three or four sentences, maybe more if some are short, and keep it flowing.

The character paragraph is hugely important. Tell us who Bandit is. Be specific about his role in the military and what he's doing now that he took a bullet to the neck. Tell us his girlfriend's name and be clear about the fact that they got engaged. The fact that she's a reporter seems relevant, but her name matters even more. Give the reader a reason to root for him to get her back. At the end of that paragraph you can have a short segue into the conflict.

Here's the most important part going into your conflict paragraphs: avoid temporal flow. The blurb lives in a loose cloud hovering around the end of act 1, spilling as far over as the early stages of act 2. Everything there is "now". Avoid story beats, a sense of A then B then C; avoid words like "soon" and "then" which are flow words. Where flow seems inevitable, hide it as best you can in the gaps between paragraphs. The art of temporal focus is keeping your blurb on a moment of tension, a freeze frame where the reader sees a bomb about to go off, one man in pursuit of another, a wild car chase right at a hairpin turn.

Often one conflict paragraph is enough to get it done; I only suggested two because it sounds like this one has a lot of ground to cover, literally. A blurb should have no more than 3 paragraphs for good structure, so given that you really need a character paragraph--especially because it's clear he's the unifying element of this whole story--two conflict paragraphs is the max. Plus, any more than that and it would be a mess anyway.

The tagline has got to go. Not just because it's marginal, but because if anything at all was clear to me from your blurb, it's that the kidnapping is only one piece among several. What's the overarching theme of this plot? What's the overall point and goal of the book? That's what a tagline would have to be about. Taglines however are tricky beasts, and to be good they have to be incredibly pithy. Don't even waste effort coming up with one until the blurb is solid.

As I mentioned earlier, at the end of a blurb post I like to write up a suggested rewrite for the blurb, but that's quite impossible at the moment. I would suggest you keep in mind the above concepts of structure and temporal focus, and answer these four questions:

1) Who is your protagonist?
2) What does he want?
3) What's standing in his way?
4) What happens if he doesn't get what he wants? (I.e., what's at stake?)

Most of those are missing right now. Readers need to know who Bandit is and, in a few sentences, connect with him emotionally before any of the plot will ever matter.

To end this on a positive note, one trap you didn't fall into with that first blurb was talking to the reader (except arguably for the question). So many blurbs end up doing that, so kudos for sticking to the story.
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Offline Mylius Fox

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2017, 03:54:50 PM »
Thanks for the input! I've taken another hack at it based on your feedback:

When they kidnapped her, they didn't count on him.

Bandit's military career hits a snag when a CIA agent shoots him in the neck. During the downtime his relationship with a reporter grows serious. They plan their life together, but Najida has powerful enemies, and he has a few of his own.

A gunfight in the streets of D.C. puts him on the radar of a billionaire arms dealer. Bandit wakes up aboard his jet alongside a Russian soldier and an Iranian hacker. The truth about that nearly-fatal mission is revealed, and Bandit is put to the test: take the fight against terrorism into his own hands or stand by as innocent lives are lost.

His actions in Syria thrust him in the middle of a CIA conspiracy that alters the presidential election and the balance of power between rival nations. Bandit is given the job offer of a lifetime, but Najida is kidnapped by ISIS. Their genocidal leader takes her for a bizarre reason, and no one knows where to begin to find him.

Bandit goes on the warpath to save her, but every conspiracy has consequences, and a deadly force is now hunting him.

Actually the plot points I showcase here are just the pivotal sliver of everything that happens at the transition between Act 1 and 2. A synopsis of the same part of the story with the same degree of brevity would go on for pages. ;D It's an action thriller, so there's gotta be a taste of the plot. I took a couple of steps to help clear up a couple things, especially how the different elements relate. On the other hand a lot of it is meant to generate questions that hopefully the reader will find intriguing enough to get the answers to by reading, like why he'd have enemies, why a billionaire arms dealer would be interested in him, the significance of the Russian, what he does in Syria, the bizarre reason she's kidnapped, etc.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2017, 07:08:52 PM by Mylius Fox »

Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2017, 10:43:56 PM »
Her name's Najida?  I was hoping it was Frog.  And they were being chased by Smokey Bear.


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Offline Lummox JR

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2017, 10:47:45 PM »
Making minor changes to the original blurb won't work; it's impossible to salvage. There's still way too much vagueness going on, too many story beats, not enough info about his character or his fiance. I'm absolutely serious that you need to spend a paragraph focusing just on him: it needs salient details about who he is that would make the rest of this make sense and give readers an emotional investment.

You're still kitchen-sinking the crap out of this. Even if a lot of this stuff is happening at the act transition, there has to be a way to say it that avoids the temporal flow and--far more importantly--makes any of it make sense. Saying you want to raise questions is a cop-out, because these questions don't draw the reader in but make them wonder what the heck is going on. The questions you need to raise are "Whoa, how will this character who sounds interesting get out of this difficult situation the book puts them in?" Going super vague won't help anything, because in a thriller a reader has to have reason to believe that the action in the book will follow logically. There also has to be a general overarching plot thread--or maybe two at most--to follow in the blurb, even if there are others going on.

Again I'd love to help you out with a rewrite suggestion; I just have no idea what's happening or even who this guy is. Maybe the best thing is to lay out for us, here on the forum, a lot of info about who Bandit is and what his back story is. Tell us roughly what goes on in the first act, and where things are going after that. With that info it ought to be a lot easier to distill this down into a proper blurb.
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Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2017, 11:24:25 PM »
I agree with Lummox. This blurb is basically a confusing synopsis.

You're right in that the blurb should raise questions, but questions like "why does he have enemies", etc, aren't actually at all interesting if you receive the question with no context of the story. Especially given he's an ex-military guy. If readers don't know your main character (and they won't because they haven't read the book yet), then the obvious answer to the question of "why does he have enemies?" is "because he's the main character in an action thriller".

I'm sure there is an interesting answer to that question, but its not right for a blurb. You have to focus on questions that are compelling in blurb form. That question is "what is he going to do?", not "what are the details of his backstory?". That is especially true in a thriller.

I'd also argue against the idea that you need to convey too many details of the plot. At the blurb level, the plot details of most thrillers are usually fairly interchangeable. You need a few details to hint at the stakes, but don't go overboard. What you want to do is convey a sense that the plot is thrilling, and marry that to the question of "what is he going to do?", to essentially ask the question of "What is Bandit going to do now that he's found himself in this thrilling situation?"


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Offline Mylius Fox

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2017, 11:03:42 AM »
Her name's Najida?  I was hoping it was Frog.  And they were being chased by Smokey Bear.

;D Bandit's first name is James, and someone told me they saw him as a redneck James Bond, so you're not far off the mark here. ;)

Okay, so I've further refined this thing based on what I'm hearing about it:
Quote
When they kidnapped her, they didn't count on him.

Bandit's military career hits a snag when a CIA agent shoots him in the neck. During the downtime he proposes to the woman he loves. Finding a less dangerous occupation feels like the smart choice for his new family, but life isn't that simple. Najida has powerful enemies, and he has a few of his own.

A gunfight in the streets of D.C. puts Bandit on the radar of a billionaire arms dealer. Bandit wakes up on the man's jet next to a Russian soldier and an Iranian hacker. The truth behind why Bandit was shot is revealed, and the billionaire puts him to the test: take the fight against terrorism into his own hands, or stand by as innocent lives are lost.

Bandit's actions in Syria thrust him in the middle of a vast CIA conspiracy. They offer him the job of a lifetime, but before he can decide, Najida is kidnapped by ISIS. Their genocidal leader takes her for a bizarre reason, and no one knows where to begin to find him.

Bandit goes on the warpath to save her, but every conspiracy has consequences, and a deadly force is now hunting him.

I haven't abandoned the blurb's structure yet because it seems like it's adapting pretty well to the clarifications and the streamlining. If the whole thing collapses in the process it'll become clear it needs to go...

Again I'd love to help you out with a rewrite suggestion; I just have no idea what's happening or even who this guy is. Maybe the best thing is to lay out for us, here on the forum, a lot of info about who Bandit is and what his back story is.

Earlier on I'd tried using a lot of that stuff for a foundation, but it definitely felt like it either made the pacing of the blurb far too static or conveyed the wrong tone on what the story's about by putting those details into too much focus. Some of it is trickling back in now, though, without being too overpowering (like the dilemma about going back or not, crucial to not make it sound like it's a suspense romance or something :D )

If readers don't know your main character (and they won't because they haven't read the book yet), then the obvious answer to the question of "why does he have enemies?" is "because he's the main character in an action thriller".

Right, but isn't signalling genre like that one of the top goals? My impression is it's saying "here's a military guy that a CIA agent tries to kill for some reason who also has enemies with whom he has a shootout in D.C.", and that's the kind of stuff my target reader likes to read.

If I start explaining the CIA agent was held hostage, Bandit was in on the rescue mission, let's just say the agent didn't want to be rescued, Bandit uses his downtime to start learning some of the more basic skills to prepare him for a career in cyber warfare to not jeopardize his life for the sake of Najida, tips off the feds about the crimes of some white supremacists he'd started looking into with said cyber skills after they'd harassed a friend of Najida's family, the Mexican cartel on the other side of the criminal transaction with the supremacists' throws some manpower behind coming after him, etc., doesn't it just sound like a synopsis? ;)

Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2017, 01:36:05 PM »
The latest version of the blurb looks pretty good to me. Bandit: great name for a character!

I think the beginning and end work great. The middle is the tricky bit. You've worked hard on it all to tie things together a bit more and flesh it out more fully, and I think that's paid off.

I suspect the transition from the opening to "A gunfight in the streets..." is just a bit too much of a jump. It seems to come out of nowhere and confuse people. Maybe play around with that some more.

I'm hesitant to say more because I don't read much these days in the way of thrillers. I will say this though, and I think you've done it, the best way to write a good blurb is to study the successful blurbs of books in that that particular genre on the bestseller lists. Personal preferences don't count. Results do.

Hope that helps. Good luck!


Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2017, 02:53:30 PM »
;D Bandit's first name is James, and someone told me they saw him as a redneck James Bond, so you're not far off the mark here. ;)

Okay, now you've piqued my interest.   ;D  Your blurb isn't working for me--I agree with Lummox's criticism, and think you should start from scratch--but the "redneck James Bond" thing has my attention, and that means that phrase should probably appear somewhere in the blurb.


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Offline Lummox JR

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2017, 03:16:59 PM »
Stop adapting. Your structure is completely broken and making little tweaks to the old blurb doesn't change the fact that it's a dog. Practically nothing of note has changed, except that you've now named Najida (who should be named immediately, not left to the reader to connect that name to the woman you were just talking about), and that the jet he's on belongs to the billionaire. But nothing else has been fixed!

It's still completely opaque as to how Bandit ends up in a gunfight--what is he doing now? How does a billionaire giving him that particular choice make any sense? The question of whether Syria is now or then is unresolved. The CIA offering him a job is completely out of step with the whole billionaire's-jet thing. Najida's kidnapping is still a big bombshell blowing everything else up, and still reads as a story beat. The "bizarre reason" for the kidnapping still makes just as little sense as it ever did, and the hook is still a limp afterthought.

NOTHING is working. Nothing. Blow this blurb up and start over. At the very least, you should give us the infodump I asked for and I can take a whack at writing something up. Tell us about Bandit as a character, and lay out the first act of the story in depth--just for us on the forum. That will give us the missing info, and I can use that for a rewrite. Sometimes seeing something radically different is enough to jar you out of your rut, and that's exactly what you need.

What Jeff said about the "redneck James Bond" thing being relevant is right on the money. You don't have to use those exact words, but already those three words have told me way more about Bandit than any of your versions of this blurb have. You've written him in the blurb as a complete nobody, and for readers to connect with him he needs to be a somebody.
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Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2017, 07:23:50 PM »
Here's another way of looking at it. To work, a blurb has to be hooky. It has to reflect genre. And it has to be clear. That last point is a whole lot less common in thriller blurbs. Zigzaggy plots are par for the course in thrillers, and thriller blurbs reflect that. 

You can pin a blurb down with a whole lot of generic rules (pretty sure you did break your record there Lummox JR) but generic rules don't sell books. The blurb that will sell books is the one that hits the target audience between the eyes.

It seems to me that the OP's blurb is very hooky, especially at the beginning and end where hookyness counts most. Looking through the military thriller bestseller list, it also seems to match them for reflecting genre and zigzaggy plot.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2017, 10:24:36 PM by Jack Krenneck »

Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2017, 07:34:19 PM »
Right, but isn't signalling genre like that one of the top goals? My impression is it's saying "here's a military guy that a CIA agent tries to kill for some reason who also has enemies with whom he has a shootout in D.C.", and that's the kind of stuff my target reader likes to read.

Yes, but if all your blurb gets across is that there are shoot outs and CIA agents, then what is going to convince a reader to read your book over another one? Shoot outs and CIA agents are not uncommon in action thrillers. It's not just the plot that people respond to; its the protagonist that is important here.

Consider the blurb for Killing Floor that I just pulled off Amazon:
Quote
Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. Hes just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in less than an hour, hes arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Reacher knows is that he didnt kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesnt stand a chance of convincing anyone. Not in Margrave, Georgia. Not a chance in hell.

Killing Floor has a lot more plot to it than that blurb implies, but they don't include it. It very briefly outlines who Reacher is, where he is and what's happened to him. It doesn't even touch on the bad guy (Reacher is the only character even mentioned). It's a nice and clean "here is this guy stuck in a corner, what is he going to do?"

Think of it like this. The cool plot details in your book work because they're got a story to explore them. For example, lets say the shoot out is a really awesome scene. But its just about impossible to actually convey in a blurb how fun the shoot out is. There's not really any way to describe it other than a "shoot out", and what action novel doesn't have a shoot out? But what you can do is give a scene of your main character, and make the reader ask "what is he going to do?". It's not easy, but you do it. But by condensing down the plot into a few sentences, you're stripping out all the context and personality. It's sort of like describing a James Bond film as "James Bond gets called into MI6, and then he finds out he has to go to Morocco. He meets a woman in Morocco but gets into a shoot out, etc etc". Those scenes are great in the book, but they just don't work in a blurb.

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Offline Mylius Fox

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2017, 09:13:32 AM »
Yes, but if all your blurb gets across is that there are shoot outs and CIA agents, then what is going to convince a reader to read your book over another one? Shoot outs and CIA agents are not uncommon in action thrillers. It's not just the plot that people respond to; its the protagonist that is important here.

I definitely hear what you're saying, but the biggest angle I'm seeing regarding the protagonist himself is "military guy falls in love, wants to start a life with her, considers leaving his service behind to not live in mortal danger for her sake, but not only does he have enemies, she does, too". I could beef up his credentials as a warrior, or try to showcase his personality, but it all feels inconsequential compared to this, doesn't it?

I'm still tweaking the first paragraph to capture that essence, but it's touchy as far as getting the right balance goes. If I try to expand it to make it more relatable, perhaps by showing how his mentor actually dies during the same mission, he'd went to his funeral and met the guy's wife and kids (after the guy told him before the mission his only regret from a life of service was not having enough time for them), it starts to sound more like a romance novel...

Quote
Consider the blurb for Killing Floor that I just pulled off Amazon:
Killing Floor has a lot more plot to it than that blurb implies, but they don't include it. It very briefly outlines who Reacher is, where he is and what's happened to him. It doesn't even touch on the bad guy (Reacher is the only character even mentioned). It's a nice and clean "here is this guy stuck in a corner, what is he going to do?"

Odd coincidence, I just started reading Killing Floor a couple days ago. ;D

It's a great blurb, and the opening chapter is one of the best hooks I've ever read.  :) I think this touches on what Jack was saying about genre, though. It's a mystery novel with a very simple premise. But it's not like I'm married to the version I've got going, and this at its heart has a very simple premise, too. Case in point, this is probably how it'd sound if I gratuitously used the Killing Floor blurb as a model:

Quote
Bandit is a special ops soldier in love with an international reporter. She ticks off the wrong regime and a terrorist kidnaps her. Bandit has his own problems. His enemies try to kill him and he's neck deep in a vast CIA conspiracy. He doesn't stand a chance of finding her. The terrorist is too good. And Bandit's just one man. And someone is hunting him.

I do have to admit, I kinda like the sound of that. 8)

At the very least, you should give us the infodump I asked for and I can take a whack at writing something up. Tell us about Bandit as a character, and lay out the first act of the story in depth--just for us on the forum. That will give us the missing info, and I can use that for a rewrite. Sometimes seeing something radically different is enough to jar you out of your rut, and that's exactly what you need.

When I have more time I'll lay it out, there's certainly no harm in seeing what happens. :)
« Last Edit: June 04, 2017, 09:28:01 AM by Mylius Fox »

Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2017, 06:17:45 PM »
I definitely hear what you're saying, but the biggest angle I'm seeing regarding the protagonist himself is "military guy falls in love, wants to start a life with her, considers leaving his service behind to not live in mortal danger for her sake, but not only does he have enemies, she does, too". I could beef up his credentials as a warrior, or try to showcase his personality, but it all feels inconsequential compared to this, doesn't it?

To be honest I think it's actually the perfect "in" that you've been missing (but you're right in saying its tough to get the balance). You could go for something like (adapting your Killing Floor version for this):
Quote
Ex-special ops soldier Bandit had finally gotten the simple life: the love of a good whip-smart reporter and a picket fence.

But trouble has a way of finding him, no matter how well he hides. When Bandit's girlfriend ticks off the wrong regime and gets kidnapped, he's the only one who can find her [side note: would be good to know why he's the one who has to find her, and not the FBI or whoever].

But as he hunts for her, he finds someone is hunting him. A vast CIA conspiracy from his past is back to haunt him, and now a missing girlfriend is the least of his problems.

Bandit may be just one man, but now he's mad.

Editorialising at the end there because I don't know Bandit at all. But yeah, see what you think about that. The idea is to strip away enough of the plot as you can to leave the basic motivations clear. Remember the point of the blurb isn't to act as a sort of table of contents for the plot; it's to make people read the first page. Then its the job of the first page to make people read the second :P

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It's a great blurb, and the opening chapter is one of the best hooks I've ever read.
Right?!

Quote
I do have to admit, I kinda like the sound of that. 8)

I think your Killing Floor blurb was a big improvement on your first one. I hope my incessant nagging has helped.

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Offline brkingsolver

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2017, 07:32:53 PM »
Thanks for the input! I've taken another hack at it based on your feedback:

Actually the plot points I showcase here are just the pivotal sliver of everything that happens at the transition between Act 1 and 2. A synopsis of the same part of the story with the same degree of brevity would go on for pages. ;D It's an action thriller, so there's gotta be a taste of the plot.
You're missing the point. The purpose of the blurb is not to provide a synopsis, or tell people about the plot. The only purpose of the blurb is to sell the book. Who, what, when, where, how many for how long... all that is irrelevant (to an extent). Tell me why I should buy the book.

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Offline Mylius Fox

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2017, 08:06:14 PM »
You're missing the point. The purpose of the blurb is not to provide a synopsis, or tell people about the plot. The only purpose of the blurb is to sell the book. Who, what, when, where, how many for how long... all that is irrelevant (to an extent). Tell me why I should buy the book.

Just popped in before bed, so I'll reply to everything tomorrow, but I said a synopsis would go on for pages. This is definitely not a synopsis, and every blurb includes a small number of plot points to contour how the story goes, so I guess it's unclear to me what makes the difference here.  ;D

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2017, 09:05:46 PM »
Just popped in before bed, so I'll reply to everything tomorrow, but I said a synopsis would go on for pages. This is definitely not a synopsis, and every blurb includes a small number of plot points to contour how the story goes, so I guess it's unclear to me what makes the difference here.  ;D

There's the problem: You're looking at it as contouring the plot. The overall arc, or at least the start of it, should be seen from a distance and taken in at a glance. Right now I can't tell if this is about Bandit rescuing his girlfriend, about his joining some kind of private anti-terrorist operation, or what; and I realize both of those things might happen, but there has to be a grand unifying something to tie it all together. And I think it's possible to mention both of those things in a way that works, but right now the blurb isn't doing that.

Much more to the point, the blurb doesn't tell us a darn thing about Bandit or why we should care about him. Yes he's in love, but what else? What does he do right now while he's out for his neck injury? What was his role in the military before that, that would make him make sense as a character? Is where he comes from relevant? (It sounds like it might be, based on the "redneck James Bond" thing.) Is he a hard-nosed tough guy trained to take on serious crap, or more of an everyman thrust into a situation way beyond his pay grade?

With a character-conflict format, or character-conflict-conflict which is what I recommended (basically it's the same deal, just one is longer), the blurb should proceed like so:

1) Establish the character in brief. Sometimes age, where they live or came from, maybe even ethnicity matter a lot; occupation also tends to matter much of the time. Dominant personality traits belong here. It opens before the storm, so to speak, and possibly says here what the character wants most.
2) The character paragraph, in this format, ends with a segue into the conflict. This is an event that upends their current situation. (This is often where the dreaded "when" comes into play, because it's such an easy crutch to lean on.)
3) Now that we're at the conflict paragraph(s), give an overview of the conflict.
4) End with a powerful hook that lays out what's at stake if the protagonist fails.

Regardless of the format, establishment is the name of the game with the first paragraph; sometimes that first paragraph is used for setting, and that too is about establishing things. And in every format, a hook ends it. Right now your blurb has an upending event, but it has practically no establishment, the conflict is presented in a sequential-seeming way rather than as an overview, and the hook is not a hook. (What you currently think is a hook is actually something that would go before a hook, because it's a complicating factor that's in his way, not a statement of what could go bad if he fails to achieve his ends.)

Please do take the time to do that write-up for us of who Bandit is, in depth, what the first act looks like, and what kind of tone this is all taking. I think with that information I can come up with something.
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Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2017, 10:34:49 PM »
The only purpose of the blurb is to sell the book. Who, what, when, where, how many for how long... all that is irrelevant (to an extent). Tell me why I should buy the book.


Nailed it.

Offline brkingsolver

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #18 on: June 05, 2017, 03:46:44 AM »
Just popped in before bed, so I'll reply to everything tomorrow, but I said a synopsis would go on for pages. This is definitely not a synopsis, and every blurb includes a small number of plot points to contour how the story goes, so I guess it's unclear to me what makes the difference here.  ;D
Here is the blurb from the first book in my sig. Note that it doesn't tell you anything about the plot. It teases you about the main character and provides the setting. That's it.

Libby is a mutant, one of the top burglars and assassins in the world. For a price, she caters to executives' secret desires. Eliminate your corporate rival? Deliver a priceless art masterpiece or necklace? Hack into another corporation's network? Libby's your girl.

Climate change met nuclear war, and humanity lost. The corporations stepped in, stripping governments of power. Civilization didn't end, but it became less civilized. There are few rules as corporations jockey for position and control of assets and markets.

In the year 2200, the world has barely recovered the level of technology that existed before the ice melted and the subsequent wars. Corporate elites live in their walled estates and skyscraper apartments while the majority of humanity supplies their luxuries. On the bottom level, the mutants, the poor, and the criminals scramble every day just to survive.

Urban Fantasy set 200 years in the future.

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Offline Mylius Fox

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2017, 09:32:22 AM »
To be honest I think it's actually the perfect "in" that you've been missing (but you're right in saying its tough to get the balance).

I'm still tweaking the first paragraph to capture it, but I think it's definitely there. And it's kind of a different approach to take for an action thriller, too, to start the protagonist off in the blurb with an emotional arc. Most of the biggest names (traditional and indie) don't invest many words at all in characterizing the protag, usually just a shout out to "special agent" or "former Delta" or "Marine" and that's it. A chunk of them don't even mention the protag at all until the second paragraph, because they're busy spelling out the evil plot the bad guys have set in motion. :D

Here's the problem with the short blurb: it didn't test well. I ran a slightly modified version of it against a newer pass through the longer version via FB ads. I targeted an audience from a pool of several similar authors + Goodreads and kept things simple by posting an image of a Kindle on a white background with a big question mark on its screen and the ad copy itself as Yes or no question: would you read this book? followed by the respective blurb. I didn't throw a lot of money behind each ad because I'm keeping that for when I put 50% of the book on Instafreebie ahead of the release date, but the results were definitely suggestive. Each ad had a similar engagement rate, in line with my better performing previous ads (especially considering there wasn't any article or video to click on). Each ad had a similar amount of likes and shares. I'm inclined to suspect this means the basic premise of the story itself transmitted well regardless of how the blurb was written. The difference was the people who commented. The longer blurb had people unanimously saying yes with varying degrees of enthusiasm. ;) The shorter blurb was a unanimous no in the comments. One grandmother who replied no even put the sad face reaction.  ;D

I think it comes back to message control. One of the people who said "probably not and I don't like Bandit" probably picked up on how it sounded to say "And Bandit has his own problems" right after saying she was kidnapped. Like her being kidnapped wasn't his problem or something. So I can start to modify that sentence to more accurately convey what's really happening, in a way that makes him sympathetic, but then I'm right back where I started, using a piece of the story itself to show people what it's going to mean for him emotionally for her to be kidnapped. :)

Here is the blurb from the first book in my sig. Note that it doesn't tell you anything about the plot. It teases you about the main character and provides the setting. That's it.

It doesn't lay out anything from the plot linearly, but it does have something to say about at least a couple things from your plot. And your blurb emphasizes the setting much more heavily than the plot because of your genre. It's an urban fantasy, and the sell is inhabiting that fantasy world as that character. In action thrillers, the selling point is the action and the twists as that character. The most straightforward way of selling the action and the twists is by showing them through action. It might be why it's getting confused for a synopsis, because selling the action requires a sequence of events...

1) Establish the character in brief. Sometimes age, where they live or came from, maybe even ethnicity matter a lot; occupation also tends to matter much of the time. Dominant personality traits belong here. It opens before the storm, so to speak, and possibly says here what the character wants most.
2) The character paragraph, in this format, ends with a segue into the conflict. This is an event that upends their current situation. (This is often where the dreaded "when" comes into play, because it's such an easy crutch to lean on.)
3) Now that we're at the conflict paragraph(s), give an overview of the conflict.
4) End with a powerful hook that lays out what's at stake if the protagonist fails.

Regardless of the format, establishment is the name of the game with the first paragraph; sometimes that first paragraph is used for setting, and that too is about establishing things. And in every format, a hook ends it. Right now your blurb has an upending event, but it has practically no establishment, the conflict is presented in a sequential-seeming way rather than as an overview, and the hook is not a hook. (What you currently think is a hook is actually something that would go before a hook, because it's a complicating factor that's in his way, not a statement of what could go bad if he fails to achieve his ends.)

Here's the most recent iteration of my blurb, I'd like to take a look at whether or not it already does fit this format:

Quote
When they kidnapped her, they didn't count on him.

Bandit's military career hits a snag when a CIA agent shoots him in the neck. During the downtime he proposes to the woman he loves. Leaving his life of danger behind feels like it might be the right choice, but Najida has powerful enemies, and he has a few of his own.

A gunfight in the streets of D.C. puts him on the radar of a billionaire arms dealer. Bandit wakes up on a jet to Syria next to a Russian soldier and an Iranian hacker. The truth behind why the CIA agent shot him is revealed, and the billionaire puts Bandit to the test: take the fight against terrorism into his own hands, or stand by as innocent lives are lost.

Bandit's decision thrusts him in the middle of a vast CIA conspiracy. They offer him the job of a lifetime, but before he can decide, Najida is kidnapped by ISIS. Their genocidal leader takes her for a bizarre reason, and no one knows where to begin to find him.

Bandit goes on the warpath to save her, but every conspiracy has consequences, and a deadly force is now hunting him.

Structurally, it has three paragraphs, albeit with the second paragraph broken in two to avoid a big block of text.

1) Bandit is military, but unusually so in that a CIA agent shot him. He's in love, at the point in his life where he wants to start a family. He's even considering leaving service behind so its dangers won't threaten his safety and the well-being of his new family.

- This is all stuff that's in the blurb, inherent in what it says. I think the biggest question is is it enough?. My biggest concern is: I can slide the dial to more exhibition of his character, but at the cost of losing the pacing of the blurb and customer interest. I can explain more his role in the military, or why he was shot, but at the risk of squashing any suspenseful question that leaving it hanging raises. My theory is the blurb is meant to generate interest in buying the book to get answers to the questions it raises.

2) My first paragraph's segue into the story's main conflict is signaled by the disruption of his concern for safety from danger by the fact that both he and she have enemies. My gamble is it's far more intriguing to not answer who these enemies are, partly because it's irrelevant to the blurb anyhow, also because the idea she has enemies feels interesting (and in line with already knowing she'll be kidnapped). Is it enough? The intimation of conflict leaves unknowns, but it's essential meaning is simple and direct: they have enemies, and having enemies means conflict. I'm inclined to believe it's more than enough, especially weighed against what it'd require to consume valuable attention span to exhibit each of their enemies and the conflicts posed, a major detour.

3) Second paragraph, overview of the conflict. Najida is kidnapped by ISIS, whereas Bandit is simultaneously vaulted into a CIA conspiracy amongst an unusual set of characters. It is presented as a sequence of events (albeit in only 119 characters), but that's in conformity with the book's genre, and it's still an overview. It's eight twists compressed into one blast on an arc of increasingly-raised stakes. :D The book is fast-paced and that needs signified because it is a major selling point in the genre. IMO blurbs that try signaling that by saying "in a fast-paced turn of events" rank right up there with the ones that say "from a powerful new author, an amazing talent certain to join the ranks of the genre's finest writers.". ;)

4) She's been kidnapped by terrorists and his efforts to save her are threatened by him being hunted for the choice he made. Both their lives are at stake. The definition of a hook definitely isn't the statement of the consequences of failing. ;) A hook is something that literally hooks the reader to read so they can get resolution. Tacking something after my last sentence like "If Bandit cannot evade his enemies in time, Najida will die." isn't a hook; it's a foregone conclusion. :D The hook is "Bandit goes on the warpath, despite being neck-deep in a CIA conspiracy and that no one knows where to find the kidnapper, but someone is also hunting him". It's a hook because it's a total unknown how that will play out. Everyone already knows it will play out, right? 'Cause it's fiction. And they already know what the stakes are, because they're implied. But it's the how that hooks.

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #20 on: June 05, 2017, 09:46:58 AM »
Just popping in to say I  like the tagline. Immediately makes you think of "Taken," which worked because it was about one overall thing that drove all else. Daughter kidnapped. Get daughter back.

Offline Mylius Fox

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #21 on: June 05, 2017, 10:06:06 AM »
Just popping in to say I  like the tagline. Immediately makes you think of "Taken," which worked because it was about one overall thing that drove all else. Daughter kidnapped. Get daughter back.

Thanks, I owe the tagline to Kboards. I did a poll with a whole bunch of options and this one was the runaway favorite, despite it being nowhere near the top of my own favorites. ;D

Offline Lummox JR

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #22 on: June 05, 2017, 02:16:48 PM »
Here's the most recent iteration of my blurb, I'd like to take a look at whether or not it already does fit this format:

Structurally, it has three paragraphs, albeit with the second paragraph broken in two to avoid a big block of text.

1) Bandit is military, but unusually so in that a CIA agent shot him. He's in love, at the point in his life where he wants to start a family. He's even considering leaving service behind so its dangers won't threaten his safety and the well-being of his new family.

- This is all stuff that's in the blurb, inherent in what it says. I think the biggest question is is it enough?. My biggest concern is: I can slide the dial to more exhibition of his character, but at the cost of losing the pacing of the blurb and customer interest. I can explain more his role in the military, or why he was shot, but at the risk of squashing any suspenseful question that leaving it hanging raises. My theory is the blurb is meant to generate interest in buying the book to get answers to the questions it raises.

No, IT IS NOT ENOUGH. I don't know how many ways I can say it. Saying he was military is way too vague. Was he in some kind of special forces unit? Counter-terrorism? Military police? You also said nothing about his personality. He's just a cardboard shell at this point, not even given enough detail to make an interesting silhouette. Remember: the phrase "redneck James Bond" told me way more about him than your blurb ever did. That's a huge problem for your blurb. If someone can present an interesting character in three words and you can't do it in a couple hundred, your blurb is failing. Here's an example of what would look better:

In the Special Forces, Bandit's head for tactics and skill in combat made him a legend, but his career was cut short after taking a bullet to the neck. Back home in Virginia, he proposes to his reporter girlfriend Najida and plans a new life away from the action. But the enemies he made in the field haven't forgotten about him.

The "legend" bit might be way over the top, but otherwise this is the sort of thing I mean. Saying what sort of soldier he was is pretty crucial. His general skills are laid out for the reader to see. His engagement is stated overtly, as is the fact that his girlfriend is a reporter--which is relevant because that too is a potentially dangerous field, depending on the scope.

Quote
2) My first paragraph's segue into the story's main conflict is signaled by the disruption of his concern for safety from danger by the fact that both he and she have enemies. My gamble is it's far more intriguing to not answer who these enemies are, partly because it's irrelevant to the blurb anyhow, also because the idea she has enemies feels interesting (and in line with already knowing she'll be kidnapped). Is it enough? The intimation of conflict leaves unknowns, but it's essential meaning is simple and direct: they have enemies, and having enemies means conflict. I'm inclined to believe it's more than enough, especially weighed against what it'd require to consume valuable attention span to exhibit each of their enemies and the conflicts posed, a major detour.

Your instincts as to what's teasing the reader and what's just irritating them by being too vague are way off here. Saying the MC has enemies doesn't tell us anything. It literally says nothing of value; you're simply wasting words with it. Telling us he's a certain type of character (e.g., slightly loose cannon with a high kill record) that we can easily imagine has enemies would be a far better use of space. Heck, just saying Najida is a reporter implies she has enemies.

It is also not an event that upends his current situation; it is a fact of his situation. Rather than segue into the conflict, it's just a detail about his character but it's the kind of detail that doesn't tell us jack squat about him.

Quote
3) Second paragraph, overview of the conflict. Najida is kidnapped by ISIS, whereas Bandit is simultaneously vaulted into a CIA conspiracy amongst an unusual set of characters. It is presented as a sequence of events (albeit in only 119 characters), but that's in conformity with the book's genre, and it's still an overview. It's eight twists compressed into one blast on an arc of increasingly-raised stakes. :D The book is fast-paced and that needs signified because it is a major selling point in the genre. IMO blurbs that try signaling that by saying "in a fast-paced turn of events" rank right up there with the ones that say "from a powerful new author, an amazing talent certain to join the ranks of the genre's finest writers.". ;)

An overview is not a sequence! An overview is an at-a-glance view of the plot. You're absolutely right that talking to the reader to say it's a fast-paced turn of events is just as bad as talking to them to say how awesome the author is. All reader-talk is evil. But you can imply that the plot is twisty and fast-paced without saying it outright and without having to spell out half those twists in chronological order. Consider a paragraph like this:

Unfortunately his past isn't done with him yet. His new career in cybersecurity only makes him an even more valuable pawn in a billionaire's high-stakes gambit to fight terrorism where it lives. Against his will, Bandit is pulled into a conspiracy that has him working against the CIA and hunted by an assassin determined to follow him across the globe. But while he struggles to keep on top of the situation, Najida is kidnapped by a genocidal maniac that only someone with Bandit's training could ever hope to find.

That's very rough, based on an incomplete understanding of the plot and the things you've told us about it. Notice how it stresses a sense that Bandit's predicament is spiraling out of control, while also keeping a strong sense of temporal focus--that all these things are happening simultaneously in a very nebulous "now". The powers he's up against are mammoth; the fact that he's being hunted is right up front and in your face. I'm sure plenty of the details there aren't quite right, but that's the tone you want. That's the general level of detail you want. (I went with "genocidal maniac" instead of "ISIS" because ISIS seems a little too specific for this, and "terror" was already used earlier in the paragraph.) None of the plot elements are really in sequence. It's not even clear that there's a sequential jump from the first sentence to the next, or the next after that. And that's exactly what the name of the game is when it comes to breaking out of temporal flow.

Quote
4) She's been kidnapped by terrorists and his efforts to save her are threatened by him being hunted for the choice he made. Both their lives are at stake. The definition of a hook definitely isn't the statement of the consequences of failing. ;) A hook is something that literally hooks the reader to read so they can get resolution. Tacking something after my last sentence like "If Bandit cannot evade his enemies in time, Najida will die." isn't a hook; it's a foregone conclusion. :D The hook is "Bandit goes on the warpath, despite being neck-deep in a CIA conspiracy and that no one knows where to find the kidnapper, but someone is also hunting him". It's a hook because it's a total unknown how that will play out. Everyone already knows it will play out, right? 'Cause it's fiction. And they already know what the stakes are, because they're implied. But it's the how that hooks.

You know, I agree with you about that being somewhat rhetorical. Rhetorical questions are why I hate questions in blurbs so much, especially when used lazily as hooks. But "Someone is also hunting him" is by no means a hook; it's a tension builder and nothing more. The real hook in this case would be the question of whether, and how, Bandit can continue the mission he's on and still save Najida, or if he faces an impossible trade-off. If he's being pulled in two different directions and both of them have deadly consequences if he fails, that's the hook: the choice before him, and/or the desperate hope that he can solve both problems without having to choose. Even if there's a possibility of him solving both problems but dying in the process, that too is hook-worthy.
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Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #23 on: June 05, 2017, 05:51:24 PM »
No, IT IS NOT ENOUGH. I don't know how many ways I can say it. Saying he was military is way too vague. Was he in some kind of special forces unit? Counter-terrorism? Military police? You also said nothing about his personality. He's just a cardboard shell at this point, not even given enough detail to make an interesting silhouette. Remember: the phrase "redneck James Bond" told me way more about him than your blurb ever did. That's a huge problem for your blurb. If someone can present an interesting character in three words and you can't do it in a couple hundred, your blurb is failing.

I think the blurb is failing for you because you take a literary view of things. You want CHARACTER. But really, I'm not sure that military thrillers, or thrillers in general (psychological ones aside) are big on character at all. Plot/setting/suspense/twists far outweigh it. This is why it's critical when writing blurbs to ignore general advice and hone in on what's proving successful on the bestseller lists for the subgenre. Audience targeting is what is CRITICAL. 

Offline brkingsolver

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Re: Would you like to help me with my bloobie?
« Reply #24 on: June 05, 2017, 06:09:26 PM »
It doesn't lay out anything from the plot linearly, but it does have something to say about at least a couple things from your plot. And your blurb emphasizes the setting much more heavily than the plot because of your genre. It's an urban fantasy, and the sell is inhabiting that fantasy world as that character. In action thrillers, the selling point is the action and the twists as that character. The most straightforward way of selling the action and the twists is by showing them through action. It might be why it's getting confused for a synopsis, because selling the action requires a sequence of events...
I'm confused as to why you came here for advice. All you've done is argue with people who have tried to help you. I wish you luck.

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