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Covers, Blurbs, 1st Line, Query > Blurb help- Biblical Characters re-imagined in a modern context

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message 1: by Hajar (new)

Hajar Ali | 18 comments The blurb is some 165 words- I have not found a way to keep it within the 100-150 recommended word length. The book re-imagines the characters of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar in the modern context and explores ideas of surrogacy and the centrality of fertility in the lives of women. There is talk of egg freezing, fertility treatments and the ethics surrounding surrogacy arrangements. Three (necessary) sex scenes to illustrate the dynamics between the characters. Would appreciate some feedback!


Fleeing Sara

Against the festivities of the annual fairy worshipping ceremony of the Kalash, a mysterious tribe living in seclusion in northwestern Pakistan, Hajar meets a dashing French aid worker.


Hajar is later discovered sitting in a pool of blood by a group of Islamic vigilantes who had been waiting outside her room, hoping to ambush Hajar and Raphaël after they were seen entering the hotel room together. Raphaël had tricked her into a chemical abortion on the pretext of trying the ayahuasca, an exotic South American drug used for rituals.

Sara is an American expatriate married to Abraham, a polo-playing scion of one of Singapore's wealthiest families. Her position in the traditional Chinese family she married into is threatened when she fails to produce an heir. She turns to Hajar to act as surrogate.

The book follows Hajar as she traverses continents, following in the footsteps of Raphaël, looking for answers- the why, how and whom- behind the abortion of her child.


message 2: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments Hello Hajar,

I'm not feeling sold on your blurb. I PMed you some notes I've made helping others with their blurb. A blurb needs to be active and fast-paced, so 'Hajar is later discovered' is too passive. Instead, something like 'Hajar is accosted by a group of Islamic vigilantes as she sits in a pool of blood' makes it more active. The opening sentence is basically an infodump, and, worse, you don't even name the aid worker (I assume, through context, that it is Raphael, but am guessing).

You can shorten your blurb character count by using things like 'expat' and 'US' ('American' can describe North, South and Central, though it's common to use it to describe US citizens). I must say, having had some interactions with traditional Chinese families, Sara would have to be ethnic Chinese for her to even be considered as any sort of viable match. If she is, it may be worth mentioning, if not, then you probably need an explanation for why she was allowed into the family.

Also, what's the title of your novel? Fleeing Sara? And you need word count and comparables. Plus, if you have any meaningful writing credits, or something in your background that could sell the novel, you should include that as well. Personalization is also an important thing to consider, as it shows you've done enough due diligence to be sure there is at least a potential match between your work and the agent/publisher you're querying.

Good luck!


message 3: by Hajar (new)

Hajar Ali | 18 comments Hi Keith,

Thank you so much for this! I've always found your comments and observations in this group to be very constructive and helpful and was hoping you would reply.

Wanted this to be a blurb only instead of a query but the explanatory bit of in the first draft of the blurb might have been confusing. On that note, I've not had any writing experience aside from travel writing for magazines and I'm not sure if that would be relevant to mention?

Have rewritten the blurb bearing your suggestions in mind. Stuck to the 'American' because to say North American would seem a little odd, I think? When Iranians chanted 'Death to America' I don't think they meant the continent, same way that 'American-led coalition' usually means just the US?

The title is indeed Fleeing Sara, on comparable works, I would see it as Biblical characters reimagined as those in a Caroline Kepnes' novel- dark, twisted, unnervingly relatable?


The blurb is at 136 words now:) The last paragraph/sentence is too long but am not sure on how to reformulate...

Abraham, Sarai, Hagar- 3 Biblical characters reimagined in the modern context as Abraham, Sara and Hajar.

Abraham is a polo-playing scion of one of Singapore's wealthiest families.

Sara, his American expatriate wife, turns to a surrogate after losing her last frozen egg in a miscarriage, and all hope after a surgery to remove her ovary.

Hajar, Sara's willing intern and appointed surrogate, displays enough agency and self-interest to engineer her social ascent, ending up as Abraham's second wife.

After Raphaël, an angel ridding you of impurities in the Judeo-Christian tradition, a French aid worker in this novel, successfully tricks Hajar into having a chemical abortion, Hajar traverses continents to find the answers- the who, why and how, in a fast-paced novel fusing theological references with clues whilst looking at enduring issues of fertility and religious patriarchy.


message 4: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments Hmmm. Looks like you only began to follow the advice in my blog post. Your bullets are a _starting point_ for crafting your blurb, to know what elements that need to be in it, vs those that don't. You don't actually use any of them for the blurb.

Which makes me wonder, why is it so critical that Abraham be "polo-playing."

You'll likely get more interest if you let the reader (and agent/publisher) interpret the biblical references themselves rather than beating them on the head with them. Unless you're specifically targeting bible readers, in which case you'll need to focus on querying publishers specialized in the field.

The goal of the blurb is a mini story that entices the reader to commit to the larger novel. It needs to be exciting. Introducing the characters such that the reader has sympathy for them and wants to learn more. If the focus is on Sara, try writing one where that's the only character you mention.

Think about the books you've browsed in the book store. How many seconds did you give it to grab your attention. Then try and strip your author blinders off and read what you've actually written (doing this out loud is supposed to be a great way, or have someone read it to you, or you to them).

You can worry about the rest of the query after you have a blurb that sucks the reader in.


message 5: by Hajar (new)

Hajar Ali | 18 comments Hi Keith,

Thank you for the feedback. On the polo-playing, it's the same way that Gatsby introduces Daisy's husband as 'the polo player'. It's as essential to Abraham's characterisation as 'American expat' is to Sara's and 'Sara's willing intern' is to Hajar's.

On the Biblical connection, it's important that the reader understands that this is a re-imagining of the original characters from the get-go. I thought it important to emphasise this in the blurb as not everyone would be familiar with these characters or their original stories. Can the story move forward without the reader having this background information? Yes it can but it would be like watching the movie Maleficent without knowing the story of Sleeping Beauty.

I did read the book descriptions, especially those on my 'want to read' list here on Goodreads. Some titles are on the list by reputation, some based solely on the description(and the book cover design). Based on the latter, I made changes to the blurb, especially the second half. Also looked at your list again:

Abraham, Sarai, Hagar- 3 Biblical characters reimagined in the modern context as Abraham, Sara and Hajar.

Abraham is a polo-playing scion of one of Singapore's wealthiest families. Sara, his American expatriate wife, turns to a surrogate after losing her last frozen egg in a miscarriage, and all hope after surgery to remove her ovary.

Hajar, Sara's willing intern and appointed surrogate, displays enough agency and self-interest to engineer her social ascent, ending up as Abraham's second wife.

After Raphaël, a French aid worker Hajar meets in Pakistan successfully tricks her into having a chemical abortion, Hajar traverses continents to find answers. Who sent Raphaël? And why?

Unexpected events thwart even the best laid plans, throwing avowed enemies into alliances. With the fate of the three characters thus intertwined, what does it mean to exact revenge? Can one really triumph at the expense of the rest?


message 6: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments You're telling, not showing.

Also, if her name is Sarai, why call her Sara? You want to minimize confusion in your blurb (or synopsis), and also want to minimize characters. You have four named characters, which is on the extreme end, as it doesn't allow you to introduce any of them well enough for the reader to be engaged.

Which character gets the most focus in your novel? Hajar seems to be the one who is taking the most action, perhaps you should focus on her?

The way you've written Abraham to this point makes him sound like a passive participant in the story, that it's about the women. Of the women you describe, it seems like Sara is the less active member. Raphael seems to play a significant part, so perhaps Hajar and Raphael should get the focus.

Your story should be able to stand alone, without any reference to the bible. Might it make the story richer? Perhaps. But if you've done your job right as an author, people with absolutely no knowledge of the bible or any of it's stories should be able to enjoy it and get as much out of it as anyone else.

These things are hard, so don't feel your struggle is in any way unusual. I spent at least as much time on my first blurb as I did writing the first draft.


message 7: by Hajar (new)

Hajar Ali | 18 comments Thank you for the feedback, Keith! I changed the names of the characters because this is a modern re-telling. Sarai has been referred to as Sarah sometimes and Sara is not much of a stretch. The three characters exist in all Abrahamic religions and Hajar is simply the Islamic version of Hagar.

I like the ending of this one the least:

When Hajar turns up at a fairy-worshipping ceremony in a remote valley in Pakistan, no one knew she was pregnant.

There, she meets a dashing French aid worker and disappears into a hotel room with him.

Before the day's end, a group of four Islamic vigilantes responding to her cries for help find her sitting in a pool of blood.

Who sent that aid worker? And why? Her suspicions fall on Sara, her co-wife and reason for her exile. As she crosses continents to find the answers, Hajar encounters storied Islamic sects, learn of beliefs considered heretical and how ideas could prove fatal.


message 8: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments I think this is _much_ better!

I suggest you make this your baseline and tinker from here. You _might_ want to mention that Sara and Hajar are co-wives to Abraham, but what you have might be fine. I don't know that the number of vigilantes is important, though Islamic might be. You might want to put in a couple of words to make it clear she had an abortion, as opposed to, say, stabbed or something.

I assume you've had some beta readers, so I suggest you ask them if they think the blurb fits with what they've read. You could also post for more beta readers with this blurb, or one like it, and see what sort of interest you get.


message 9: by Hajar (new)

Hajar Ali | 18 comments Thank you for the suggestions again, Keith! I will definitely post on the Beta Reader forum to look for beta readers using this blurb. Thanks for being so patient with me on this!


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