Book Summary Help?

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DaHeckIzDat
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Book Summary Help?

Postby DaHeckIzDat » January 30th, 2018, 11:23 pm

I just finished work on a new book (Juryokine: Exile of Heroes), and I'm planning on publishing it as soon as the cover's ready. I've been working on the summary. If you guys have a minute, I'd love to know what you think!

"They say no good deed goes unpunished. A year has passed since Toke Gnasher, the infamous Juryokine of Yasmik, stopped Professor Navras from destroying Hashira, home of the Sorakines. Accused of masterminding the attack, Toke and his Sorakine friend Zashiel have hopped the border into Vlangur, accepting a lifetime of exile in exchange for peace. There, they find work aboard the Seventh Swordfish, a floating circus run by a mysterious ringmaster, in exchange for sanctuary from their pursuers. But though Navras has fallen, all is not well in Yasmik. A cult has risen, with Toke as their guiding deity, and the vengeful Sorakine Sir Klevon has sent a threat against Zashiel greater than any they’ve faced before… her own sister."

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Stalvern
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Re: Book Summary Help?

Postby Stalvern » January 31st, 2018, 4:04 am

Before you even think about a blurb, for the love of God, do not name a character "Toke". I get that I'm probably supposed to pronounce it in a disyllabic Japanese way, but... toke. Nope.

With that out of the way, the first sentences get things off to a bad start by opening with a cliché and following it with a string of names that cannot mean anything if I haven't read the book. The blurb is there to sell me on the book; it's useless if I have to read the book first to follow the blurb. And the names keep coming, even though they're barely explained. Is Vlangur a close neighbor of Hashira ("hopped the border") or a distant frontier ("lifetime of exile")? Is Yasmik a continent, country, or city? (Minor pet peeve: Not all is well in Yasmik. I know that you've heard other people say it this wrong, thoughtless way, but if all is not well, then nothing's well at all.) The most solid impression that I get in the whole blurb is that the main characters work for a floating circus, which seems like just a backdrop to the actual story.

The story itself is another issue - even though I'm missing a lot of information, you've still told me way too much. Your mistake is right in the thread title: You think that a blurb is a summary, which couldn't be more wrong. The blurb should not synopsize the plot, or you're only spoiling your own book. Give me just enough of the basic premise that I can get curious about where you take it, and give me a sense of the emotions and ideas that I should look forward to; if you get too explicit, you replace anticipation with recognition, hope with numbed familiarity. Why do you think people go to such ridiculous lengths to avoid spoilers for new Star Wars movies or Game of Thrones episodes? I'm sure that, in the book itself, you wrote the introduction of Zashiel's sister as an antagonist to be a surprise (or at least a dramatic turn), so why are you just telling me about this before I can even start reading?

I don't presume to be a better writer than you are (if nothing else, your work ethic absolutely shames mine), and I haven't read a word of this novel, but I can put together a quick example of a functioning blurb just from what you've posted:

A year ago, Tosuke Gnasher rescued millions from destruction. He's still on the run from them. Blamed by the Sorakines for the attack that he thwarted, Tosuke has been driven from their homeland of Hashira into exile, with only his Sorakine friend Zashiel for an ally. But even in hiding, in the wilderness or in the sky, trouble follows the two everywhere. From a sinister cult to a vengeful Sorakine lord, Tosuke and Zashiel must face enemies more relentless than ever before - and another is about to join the hunt.


Since most of the information I'm working from isn't suitable for a blurb, this one's pretty sparse, but it illustrates my main points:

1. It opens with an actual hook instead of stock phrases.

2. It keeps the fantasy names to a minimum and implies their context as concisely as it can.

3. It keeps specific events to a minimum and focuses on the story's general conditions, and it prioritizes the impressions and feelings of those conditions over the details.

While it isn't great (how could it be when I barely know what I'm trying to describe?), it at least understands its job and tries its best to accomplish it. It exists to grab attention, raise expectations, and let the book do the rest. If you, someone with a clue or twelve about this book, keep those principles in mind, you'll have a foundation for the blurb that your novel deserves.
Last edited by Stalvern on February 1st, 2018, 6:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

pacman000
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Re: Book Summary Help?

Postby pacman000 » January 31st, 2018, 8:18 am

Try to reduce the number of made up words and names; it makes the description sound corny.

Floating Circus instead of Seventh Swordfish, the land instead of Yasmik, etc.

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scotland
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Re: Book Summary Help?

Postby scotland » January 31st, 2018, 10:10 am

pacman000 wrote:Try to reduce the number of made up words and names; it makes the description sound corny.

Floating Circus instead of Seventh Swordfish, the land instead of Yasmik, etc.


I agree. I think I noted that before too. You have to lead people in to strange names slowly. Harry Potter is a world of muggles and floo networks, but Rowling spoon feeds it all to us slowly.

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DaHeckIzDat
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Re: Book Summary Help?

Postby DaHeckIzDat » January 31st, 2018, 10:13 am

Stalvern wrote:Before you even think about a blurb, for the love of God, do not name a character "Toke". I get that I'm probably supposed to pronounce it in a disyllabic Japanese way, but... toke. Nope.

Too late, this is the sequel. Can't change his name now. And since you're literally the first person to even mention it, I can't imagine it's that big of a problem.

Stalvern wrote:The blurb is there to sell me on the book; it's useless if I have to read the book first to follow the blurb.

Again, this is the sequel. The idea is that most people who are looking at this will have read the first book.

Stalvern wrote:Give me just enough of the basic premise that I can get curious about where you take it.

Actually, I think I did. Everything I talk about in the blurb is covered within the first few chapters.

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Retro STrife
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Re: Book Summary Help?

Postby Retro STrife » January 31st, 2018, 10:25 am

I'm not good with fiction writing, so I'll leave that to the other guys, but it sounds interesting and well written to me! I agree with the other guys that I come away not understanding much of it, but still, it sounded like there could be an interesting story inside. I guess it depends how much your readers are familiar with the backstory before picking up this book. I agree that there are a lot of proper nouns in that summary, and it might make it confusing to new readers, but at the same time I worry that trying to remove them all could make it more generic and less interesting. A middle ground between your version and Stalvern's version might be good.

pacman000
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Re: Book Summary Help?

Postby pacman000 » January 31st, 2018, 11:31 am

>Again, this is the sequel. The idea is that most people who are looking at this will have read the first book.

I'm not sure that's a good assumption. Ok, a lot of folks who read the 1st one will pick up the 2nd; that's true, but you'll also pick up new readers who see the book and think it looks interesting. Assuming everyone already knows the world's rules will leave them in the dark.

Forgive me if that's harsh; it's not meant to be. I've wanted to tell that to movie producers since Pirates of the Carabian 2 came out, and this is as close as I've come. XD

Your story does sound interesting, by the way.

pacman000
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Re: Book Summary Help?

Postby pacman000 » January 31st, 2018, 11:44 am

>I agree that there are a lot of proper nouns in that summary, and it might make it confusing to new readers, but at the same time I worry that trying to remove them all could make it more generic and less interesting

That could be a warning sign; if it needs odd names to sound original and interesting, it might not be original or interesting. I doubt one can make a story interesting by calling a rabbit a smeerp.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/M ... bitASmeerp

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Stalvern
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Re: Book Summary Help?

Postby Stalvern » January 31st, 2018, 12:44 pm

DaHeckIzDat wrote:Too late, this is the sequel. Can't change his name now. And since you're literally the first person to even mention it, I can't imagine it's that big of a problem.

Trust me, it's about as big a problem as naming him Bong or Sativa. If people haven't mentioned it before, it's out of either politeness or ignorance of the word.

DaHeckIzDat wrote:Again, this is the sequel. The idea is that most people who are looking at this will have read the first book.

In that case, why bother with a blurb at all if you're just counting on people to already be invested? And if you have to write a blurb, why explain stuff that these people should already know, like how Hashira is home of the Sorakines or that Zashiel is Toke's friend? You aren't writing this blurb for the people who are already on board - the whole point is to draw in new readers. While this is a sequel, it does appear to have its own separate story; a reader should be able to read and enjoy the book on its own merits without necessarily coming into it from the first one, and even if they aren't in the majority, it's that new reader who should be the blurb's target.

Here's the blurb for a book that is absolutely not meant to be read on its own:

Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, victim of the sorceress who holds him in her thrall. Young Robb still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons left in the world. And as opposing forces maneuver for the final showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost limits of civilization, accompanied by a horde of mythical Others—a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords.

This has a direct, immediate opening sentence, a minimum of proper nouns given the book's enormous scope (four named characters and two places, all of which are concisely contextualized), and a focus on the story's conditions, stakes, and general impressions rather than plot points. (There's also a real stinker of a closing line, but that's beside the point.) Even if I've never heard of A Song of Ice and Fire, I can tell that Bantam really wants me to buy this book! That would be a mistake, of course, but only because it's a direct continuation of its predecessors, while yours is much more episodic. If A Storm of Swords can get a blurb that sells it on its own terms, Exile of Heroes certainly can too.

DaHeckIzDat wrote:Actually, I think I did. Everything I talk about in the blurb is covered within the first few chapters.

That's only part of what I was talking about. Even if it isn't the whole plot, you're still synopsizing, describing events in linear sequence up to the point where the antagonists are mentioned and throwing in another plot point even there, one that's enough of a spoiler to make it feel like you've covered half of the book, whether you actually have or not. That isn't giving "just enough of the basic premise" to draw the reader's attention. My example blurb* probably could have kept the circus explicitly mentioned, but it would have been presented less sequentially, as a part of the book's premise rather than its plot. Premise is good in a blurb. Plot is bad. Plot is for the book itself.

*I can't stress enough that I'm not trying to compete with you or show you up. I wrote my blurb to give a direct illustration of the concepts in my post and to show that I could practice what I was preaching.

ActRaiser
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Re: Book Summary Help?

Postby ActRaiser » February 1st, 2018, 4:50 pm

In my humble opinion, get rid of the made up words. The names of proper people are okay, but the rest, either describe them or remove them entirely.

What does "the infamous Juryokine of Yasmik" mean? You're making a potential audience be immediately turned off by having them try to understand something that's impossible to understand.

At least that's my humble opinion. I believe stalvern's feedback is right on the money.

Best of luck with your book!


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