[Pitch Slapped] A blurb is no place for Captain Obvious

“In one moment, his life changed forever/his life was never the same/was altered beyond…”

Look, people. We all lead pretty boring lives. They change, but mostly in really subtle ways that can only be seen with the benefit of hindsight and ample time for reflection (read: many many years).

But in a book, change better happen in a moment or in a series of very rapid moments or else you, the author, are doing something very wrong and very boring.

It’s a given that a character’s life will change dramatically. It’s called plot and character development. And sort of the whole point of books.

So don’t waste time in your pitch talking about how this character will face a crisis of faith/intellect/morality etc when they get slammed in the face by a revolutionary event or once they survive the first 200 pages.

Instead talk about the event itself. The writerly mantra of show-don’t-tell applies to pitches, too. Give your reader a reason to think, ‘Oh, snap! Then what happens? Man, that character’s life is gonna go into a tailspin.’

And then, suddenly, the reader will need to find out what happens. And suddenly, your book is all that much closer to being read.

Not only will this let you squeeze more out of the short and limited blurb format, but will give the reader a specific issue, event, or mystery to gnaw on while they pick up your book and get sucked into that first chapter.

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Do you have a pitch or synopsis that you’d like to send to the sacrificial altar?  Email it our way  to canarypost@gmail.com with the subject “Pitch Article Submission”.

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Read more: Pitch Slapped Articles

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11 thoughts on “[Pitch Slapped] A blurb is no place for Captain Obvious

  1. I like this advice.

    If you describe the event that disrupts the character’s life, the person listening to your pitch will imagine the change, hopefully on an emotional level.

    A pitch about a boy who gets teased and bullied at school and then stumbles upon an asteroid that infects him with a superpower (a super strong right arm that can punch through walls, let’s say) will be much more effective if you don’t explain HOW it changes his life (he can now deal with bullies by punching their lights out, etc.)

    Instead, let the other person’s imagination take over from there.

    I think that was the gist of it.

    • Yes, definitely! I feel like a pitch is all about set up and making someone want just a little bit more of the story. But, don’t give ’em that little bit more in the pitch. Make them buy the book and read the whole thing to find out.

  2. I have varying thoughts about this.

    On the topic of pitches, it’s theoretically good advice.

    However, on the topic of writing in general, there was one sentence that really made me think about the direction of books based on this “Bang!” change you mention.

    “They change, but mostly in really subtle ways that can only be seen with the benefit of hindsight and ample time for reflection (read: many many years).”

    Personally, I’m tired of reading about normal people whose lives are randomly and suddenly changed by something external. I’m tired of the seemingly formulaic method that has presented itself in many, many books over the last few years and beyond. (Not to say that all books are like this, but many are).

    It’s the slow, subtle changes that really get me as a reader. It’s the experience of life in real-motion that causes me to place a book on my “read again” shelf. Simplicity.

    In my opinion, the change shouldn’t be the book, the book should be the change. Food for thought as we must forge into new territory of the written word. Thanks for this.

    • Ah, yes. Great point! In a book, the change should be over the long term — like, maybe there is a sudden ‘I have super powers’ change, but the actual character development should, of course, take the length of the novel. Changes to personality or point of view that happen too quickly in a book come off as being unrealistic, and thus are something to avoid.

      But for a pitch – just get to the point and don’t drag it out with hyperbole. 😀

    • Especially true (and especially frustrating!) in books with a romantic bent. Instant love (or instant powers) are all too often abused as a kind of shortcut to character development. It never works!

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