Thursday, May 31, 2018

Magic Cure for Blurb Paralysis

Zestful Blog Post #266

I predict that someday soon we will be able to load the master file of our novel into a program, and the artificial intelligence therein will fashion and spit out a compelling back-cover blurb in .4 seconds, as well as a coupon for half off that rib roast you were looking at in the grocery store the other day. And I’m sure that six months after that, AI bots will write all of our novels for us, collect our royalties, and spend the money on themselves. Until then, we wrestle with all of this. (Zestful friend B, it’s been a long time since you made this request, but I didn’t forget it.)

Using my own ALI (admittedly limited intelligence), I spent some time analyzing back-cover blurbs for a bunch of bestselling novels, and have come up with three foolproof formulae, which you may use at will.

[Name of protagonist] is [doing something normal] when [extraordinary thing happens]. Now, [specific danger lies ahead] unless he gets involved in solving truth behind extraordinary thing. Meanwhile, an old [friend / associate / romantic connection] shows up, with [an entirely different problem / an unexpected gift / an astonishing proposal]. [Protagonist] is reluctant to get involved, but because of [a debt owed / a guilty conscience / an old grudge / a dying request], he can’t say no. His quest takes him from [dangerous location] to [dangerous situation]. As the tension ratchets higher, the two [seemingly separate plot strands] converge. Along the way, [protagonist] learns [a life truth, like things are more complicated than they seem] as well as the fact that [morals can be ambiguous / he never really knew what loyalty was before now / a person we love the most can be toxic].

[Spend less time on troublesome crap so you can get out and play once in a while. Photo by ES]

Cozy suspense:
Everything’s going great in [name of happy place]! Everyone we meet [the three or four main people and how they’re related] think they’ve got life figured out, as they go about their business of [running a resort / managing a farm / being the city council]. Until, that is, [a messenger arrives with a disturbing piece of news / a family secret springs out of hiding / someone dies under strange circumstances] and everything is turned upside-down. It’s up to [name of main character or pair of main characters] to dig into [the past / a scary neighboring ranch / the deepest computer databases of some government agency] to find the truth. Along the way, they discover [ancillary weird stuff], and they come face-to-face with their own [demons / prejudices / comforting yet creepy family myths]. Shocking revelation follows shocking revelation as they grapple with [their own thirst for revenge / the fact that things aren’t what they seem / the knowledge that love can be toxic] —and begin the healing process.

[Name of protagonist] is having a bad day. Everything’s wrong, from [crappy thing] to [disappointing event]. Now, to make matters worse, here comes [name of antagonist], who is the [new hire / lead detective on the case / biology class lab partner] and with whom she must cooperate or [some consequence will happen, like get a bad performance review / blow the case / get a bad grade]. [Protagonist] and [antagonist] are at each other’s throats day and night. Until, that is, [event happens, like a shared crisis / a new enemy appears against whom they can unite / one of them gets in a dire situation that can only be solved by the other]. Suddenly their petty grudges don’t seem so important anymore. Love molecules fly, and as the two discover true passion, [another serious event occurs]. Can they continue to build their love and trust even in the face of [dire happenings which require one to betray the other]?

The magic here simply is that you can easily analyze and appropriate for yourself what, in many cases, was put together by people who are specialists in blurb-writing, such as the editing staff at major publishers.
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  1. Yep. I went to a talk on journalism ethics at the Gulfport library given by the VP of the Poynter Institute...she said that some high school sports columns are already being written by AI. A "source" feeds the computer the numbers and AI spits out the article. Very scary.

    1. Wow! That is amazing. I can see how a computer could take box scoring information and do that. Wow.

  2. This is so helpful. Thanks for synthesizing all those blurbs into their basic forms. I also laughed at "love molecules flying."

    As for another AI example, I heard a story on NPR about scientists trying to use AI to predict pancreatic cancer. AI technology seems to be moving at lightening speed.

    1. Wow, I guess so. Glad you liked the post, Bev.

  3. Love it but you waited too long. I wrote my blurb a couple of months ago and did a pretty good job, that is after a few months of a really bad job. No love molecules flying then! Thanks for the entertaining look!

    1. Argh, sorry. But this 'formula' idea just came to me two days ago. Up til then, I'd been in the same boat...

  4. I'm saving this for the blurb on my next book! Thanks.


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