[Pitch Slapped] A book blurb is no place for world-building

Happy Monday, canaries. We bring you a pitch-slapping to get this week rolling right. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the place that world-building has in blurb-writing. (Because the title of this post clearly isn’t spoiler enough.)

But before I dive into that, here is  Heena Patwa’s blurb for her novel, Impossible to Love:

There is an age old story – some call it a myth, some believe it to be history. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there exist three different species who look alike. First are the underwater dwellers – the nymphs. The myth says that they are cursed never to find love. They are all females and mate with humans, killing them after the act. Second are the starlites. They can fly, and their hearts are cold as the snow covered peaks they live in. They are cursed never to feel love or get loved by anyone. The third is the human race. Humans can feel love, get love, cherish it and hence are considered worthy to rule everyone. The guardians are a group of starlites whose job is to protect the humans from the nymphs and they have got a new member- Sophia Antofurota.

Sophia gradually finds out that the royalty is hiding many secrets but never suspects that she can have any part to play in their schemes. Will she find out that the crown-prince is in love with her or will the world keep believing that starlites are impossible to love?

So…guys. Here’s the thing. Stop world-building in your book blurb.

The trivia about the race system in this world might be interesting and relevant to the overall plot, but it’s a problem when we don’t actually find out what the story is about until the tenth sentence in a story summary. In fact, of the 192 words in this blurb, only the last 72 talk about what the characters and plot. That’s the equivalent of having the first 189 pages of a 300-page story be about the details of the world’s myths and geography, and the last 100 pages, the actual story.

I don’t care how clever or unique your world system, or your five-class society, or your alternative reality. At most, you get half a sentence to describe your super special world-concept, and that’s only if it’s super vital to the story.

If I cut the world-building, here’s what we get:

Sophia Antofurota is the newest member of the winged warriors called guardians, a group of starlites charged with protecting the human royal family from the dangerous and seductive nymphs at court.

The royal family hides many secrets, but Sophia never suspects that she has a part to play in their schemes. Will she find out that the crown-prince is in love with her or will the world keep believing that starlites are impossible to love?

And here, some of the core issues with the blurb become crazy apparent. The prince-in-love-with-Sophia comes completely out of left field in the second paragraph in a story setup that seems to be all about her being a new guard amid navigating plots in the royal court. What does this romantic element have to do with the scheming and the secrets?

Let’s try again…

Sophia Antofurota is the newest member of the winged warriors called guardians charged with protecting the human royal family from the dangerous and seductive court nymphs. At the same time, she must navigate and guard the royal family’s secrets. Little does she know that she herself is about to become such a secret when she catches the eye of the royal prince. But in a world that believes her kind cannot feel or love, this connection is more than impossible. It is deadly.

That last bit, I’m totally making stuff up. There will need to be an explained reason why their love connection is impossible. Or even if it’s shared. This story could be a romance, or it could be about a headstrong, lusty prince using his privilege and advantage to put his servant in an untenable position with his unwanted attentions. And frankly, my interpretation right now kind of leans the way of my second interpretation.

The blurb needs another sentence or two explaining what’s at stake. Let’s say the prince and his guard are in love. So what? What’s the problem? What’s the obstacle and what are the looming consequences?

Heena also included a shortened version of her blurb in her email to us. Here it is:

Prince Neal has many secrets to hide, the most shocking among them is his love for a starlite. Untouched by the royal secrets and unaware of the human’s love, Sophia grew up believing that nobody can love a starlite. While Sophia is busy protecting the humans from life-threatening seducers called nymphs, Neal is determined to make her fall in love with him. But he doesn’t know that destiny’s plans are always a step ahead of him.

This shorter blurb does a much better job at telling us what’s at stake, but it makes the interesting decision to take the prince’s perspective. Is the story told from his point of view? From Sophia’s? A split perspective?

Here’s a quick tweak with the assumption that it’s told from the Prince’s point of view.

Prince Neal’s love for his guard, Sophia, is just one of his many secrets. He’s the crown-prince, duty bound to serve his people and marry a human. Winged and fierce, Sophia is a starlite, a soulless creature utterly incapable of love. But sometimes, Neal thinks he sees flashes of that same passion in her eyes. With the future of the entire kingdom resting on his shoulders, Neal is torn between following his heart, and the very real risk that his guard is using him for her own ends.

But canaries, you say, this three-species world system I got going on is super important. Like, super important.

Arrighty, fine, okay, you can cheat. Put something in italics, and you can get away with murder. Here’s a final revision that includes the world lore and setup:

“The nymph will kiss and break your bones, the starlite lead you far from home. Human, don’t go out alone. “


Winged and cold as the ice peaks that are her people’s homeland, Sophia Antofurot is a starlite and guardian, assigned to protect the royal court and its humans from the every-hungry and seductive nymphs. She will do her duty and no more. But amid the seduction and scheming of the royal court, the crown-prince’s eyes keep straying in Sophia’s direction. Doesn’t he know that starlites cannot love?

Canaries, what do you think?

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

2 thoughts on “[Pitch Slapped] A book blurb is no place for world-building

  1. Totally agree! While the world-building nerd in me did appreciate said world-building detail (and just added the book to my Goodreads list), a blurb is not the place for that amount of detail. Ideally, I think a reader should be able to skim a blurb to get the gist of it, and this one is definitely not skimmable. Speaking of Goodreads, though, the book’s description on its Goodreads page is a lot more efficient and a lot better!

  2. Pingback: My Nominees for The 2016 Blogger Awards | The Bookie Monsters | The Bookie Monsters

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