The Theme of Blurbs

I’m struggling to write a cover blurb. You know, those little bits on the back of a book that make you want to read it. I swear the dang things are harder to write than the whole novel. They have to do so much with so few words.

One of the things they must at least allude to is the theme. Or maybe it’s the premise. I get them confused. So yesterday I went back to scraps of paper all writers have. Where you hear something, read something, think of something…and jot it down with no idea what you’ll do with it later. I am really bad at not also jotting down the source. So unfortunately I can’t attribute the following quotes to the very wise person who wrote them. I do know they came from a book on writing.

‘Theme is the central concern of the story, gives it focus, and is the invisible thread linking elements of the story.’

‘Premise is linked specifically to the conclusion, the truth proven by the story’s events and ending, often reflecting the protagonist’s journey of understanding and can be summed up in a simple statement – one character must be changed by what the premise proves. The premise and ending must always reinforce each other.’

You’ll notice that the explanation of ‘premise’ has a lot more words than the explanation of ‘theme’. I believe that’s because a writer is more aware of the premise while writing. It’s a tool used to tie all aspects together. The theme on the other hand, typically doesn’t show up until the edit process. Or for some, like me, four books into a series. When the thought bulb suddenly lights up and you realize that your stories all see to have the same underlying meaning. Plus, premise is usually explained in at least one complete sentence, where theme is typically explained in one or two words. A phrase maybe, if you’re lucky.

If I have an idea of the theme, and know the premise, those two tools give me the words that I know must be included somehow in the cover blurb.

The following statements and questions also help craft the blurb.

‘Is the protagonist ever in danger? Failure to solve the problem must seem to promise disaster.’ If you know the danger, the solution, and the disaster, you’ve pretty much got your key words for the blurb.

‘The inciting incident creates the first goal, upsets the balance, and is needed in act one.’ If you go back to the opening, find the inciting incident that starts the whole story rolling, then most of the time that also gives you the opening of the blurb.

So with all those tools and wonderful suggestions at hand, is my cover blurb done, perfect, and ready to grab readers?

Not even close.

But at least I know what one should look like if I ever finish one.

Here’s the view from the back door this morning. Much nicer to spend time gazing upon, than looking at empty pages with the nagging thought ‘finish that blurb!’.

The slope of Taylor and the backside of Frozen Mountain.

The slope of Taylor and the backside of Frozen Mountain.