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Blurb Workshop > Blurb Help - Urban/Dark Fantasy - Harbinger's Law

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message 1: by Jannik (last edited Mar 31, 2019 04:07PM) (new)

Jannik (jann1k) | 19 comments Hey there!

After writing several short stories in German, I have decided to try myself at writing a novel. Thing is, I have also decided to do it in English. As a non-native speaker, I would greatly appreciate any feedback on my blurb you might have - especially suggestions where I could cut it down a bit and maybe pointers regarding the cadence of the paragraphs. Thank you in advance!
________________________

Even a terrible situation can get worse.

In an abandoned town in the middle of nowhere Eve stood with a bloody knife in her hand, her sister’s corpse laying at her feet. Before she could clear her thoughts, and come to terms with what she had done to Lily, she is made an offer she can not refuse. Something ancient was waiting in this town. They have watched from the shadows until their terms were met and the compact was signed in blood. Lily’s blood.

Vengeance thousands of years in the making.

The Brothers will not be denied their price. Eve must fulfil her obligations as his Harbinger in the schemes of the First Brother or endure her punishment in the realm of the Second, a land even devils dare not enter. There are no other choices. She is theirs and bound to them by chains she can not break. Bound to them by blood. Lily’s blood.

Extinction follows in her wake.

Eve can not turn around and run as she did in the past. Her new master has sent her to the mysterious Twin Cities — a terrifying place where forgotten gods walk among myths and demons alike, and human morals are little more than a nuisance. With her own life on the line, all Eve can think about is the life she took and why she can not remember her reasons for taking it. For answers, she is willing to give everything. Even her blood.


message 2: by Andres (new)

Andres Rodriguez (aroddamonster) | 30 comments I really like the last paragraph, that is enough for me to read.


Twin Cities — a terrifying place where forgotten gods walk among myths and demons alike. All Eve can think about is the life she took and why she can't remember her reasons for taking it. For answers, she is willing to give everything. Even her blood.


message 3: by Jannik (new)

Jannik (jann1k) | 19 comments Thanks for your feedback, Andres.

Cutting out the 'With her own life on the line' part is a good suggestion. That is probably a bit redundant since it should be apparent that she is in dangerous waters after the blurb's first two parts. However, I'm not sure if I should use this space to establish a bit clearer that Eve is coming from our world and is unfamiliar with her new environment and the beings in it. Since I'd really like to keep the blurb below 250 words and maybe even a bit below 240.

I probably will try to keep the 'and human morals are little more than a nuisance' part since the Twin Cities are a bit of a character themselves and I'd like to paint at least a contour of them in the blurb.


message 4: by Jay (last edited Mar 29, 2019 08:31PM) (new)

Jay Greenstein (jaygreenstein) | 217 comments I’d drop the headline, because the reader has no context for it as it's read.

As for the blurb: In paragraph one you make your point, and do it well. In paragraph two you hammer it into the ground. In paragraph three you smash it to powder. Why? Your goal is to make the reader say, “Ohhh…interesting. Let’s see what the story is like.” It’s the writing that will sell them, not the blurb. As in the story, make your point and move on. Hit them hard and keep them reeling. Emotion, not facts, will have the reader turning the pages. Personally, I’d have been sold on looking at the excerpt in paragraph one.

A bit of editing and tweaking to add impact:
- - - - -
In an abandoned town in the middle of nowhere, Eve stands with a bloody knife in her hand, Lilly’s corpse at her feet, desperately trying to come to terms with what she’s done. But before she can, she’s presented with an offer that’s impossible to refuse.

Something ancient has been waiting for thousands of years—watching from the shadows and biding its time. But now, the one they’ve been seeking has finally arrived: she who will sign their compact in blood…her sister’s blood.
- - - - -
The why:

First, I changed it to present tense, to give less of a dispassionate, “I’m telling you a story,” feel.

I swapped some of the prosaic language for wording with more emotional impact, like, “impossible to refuse,” in place of “cannot refuse.”

I also swapped the name and relationship of the dead woman. The name tells us she knew her on a first-name basis and had an emotional connection to her. That way, learning that it’s her sister becomes a punch-line surprise that amplifies the emotional content of the final line.

Hope this helps.


message 5: by Jannik (last edited Mar 30, 2019 02:49PM) (new)

Jannik (jann1k) | 19 comments Yeah, the change to present tense makes sense. It is definitely what felt off for me with the first paragraph and I couldn't put my finger on it. I'll try to get rid of some of the prosaic sentences that come of as too much of a phrase ('offer she can not refuse' -> we've all seen The Godfather). But I'll probably not go overboard with it. Eve is a rather cold, distanced and pragmatic character, who only gets emotional when her temper is triggered - something I want the text to reflect. Also, I've tried on purpose to aim for an average reading level of 5th grade English. The book is quite fast-paced and action-heavy, and I want as little flowery or choppy sentences in it as possible to not slow it down.

Cutting the blurb down to as short a portion of it as you suggest won't work for me since there are important story beats that are left out that I want the blurb to encompass***. For example, I want the blurb to establish at least a glance at the Twin Cities since they are the main location and have some significance within the story.
I'll try a rewrite with the second paragraph dissolved and only bits of it transported to the first and third paragraph. I might be able to cut away some of the details regarding the specifics of the First and Second Brother, it is just important for me to establish that Eve works for them. I don't want people to expect a heroic story just do discover within the first few chapters that this book is about a gal who has just murdered her sister and now works for the bad guys - even when she is only doing it reluctantly.

I also have a question regarding the headlines: My intention was for them to be a bit of an eye-catcher and the paragraphs below to provide context -> A bad situation (just killed her sister) gets worse (some supernatural beings taking over her life in the direct aftermath). Did that not work for you?
I'll have to see how to deal with them anyways if there won't be a three-part split anymore because the hidden messages in them don't work anymore. Maybe I'll just keep the first or get rid of 'em alltogether. I just really liked the idea to structure a blurb like this after I saw it on Half a King.

Thanks for your pointers! I'll come back when the rewrite is done.

***These are the points I want to convey in the blurb, all of them are introduced within the first three chapters of the book:

Characters - The Who?
- Protagonist: Eve
- Antagonists: The Brothers, work together but are different
- Important Person: Lily, the dead sister.

Struggles - The Why/How?
- Why can't Eve remember the reasons for killing Lily?
- How can she escape the leash the Brothers have put on her?

Setting - The Where?
- The Twin Cities, a preternatural place with its own rules and non-human denizens.


message 6: by Jannik (new)

Jannik (jann1k) | 19 comments Okay, I switched around some things and did a little tidying up here and there. I think the blurb is a bit more to the point now without losing any of the information I want to be in there, in fact now there is even a bit more info regarding Eve. Still, I lost about 40 words in length which is good. 250 words were stretching it a bit.

I also delayed the reveal of Lily being Eve's sister as long as possible but it is a very fundamental part for the rest of the story and needs to be somewhere relatively in front — her killing is the very act of signing the Brothers' compact and literally the first sentence in the book.
The only way I can delay the reveal further is by switching the first and second paragraph around and do some minor editing (and switching of tenses again). I'll include this version of the rewrite as well, but I think I prefer it the other way around (Version 1).

What do you think?

________________________

Version 1:

In an abandoned town in the middle of nowhere Eve holds a bloody knife in her hand, Lily’s corpse laying at her feet. Before she can clear her thoughts, and come to terms with what she has done, she is thrust into a terrifying world she does not understand. Something ancient was waiting in this town. The Brothers have watched from the shadows until their terms were met and their compact was signed in blood. The blood of Eve’s sister, Lily.

Enslaved by chains she cannot break Eve has no choice but to obey her new master, the First Brother. She is to act as his Harbinger in the mysterious Twin Cities — a place where forgotten gods walk among myths and demons alike, and human morals are little more than a nuisance. If she dares to oppose him, she faces punishment in the realm of the Second Brother, a land even the vilest denizens of the Twins dare not enter.

Despite all this, the only thing Eve can think about is the life she took and why she can not remember her reasons for taking it. But her knife is still sharp and so are her wits. For answers, she is willing to give everything. Even her own blood.

________________________

Version 2:

Eve is enslaved by chains she cannot break and has no choice but to obey her new master, an ancient being known as the First Brother. She is to act as his Harbinger in the mysterious Twin Cities — a place where forgotten gods walk among myths and demons alike, and human morals are little more than a nuisance. If she dares to oppose him, she faces punishment in the realm of the Second Brother, a land even the vilest denizens of the Twins dare not enter.

It all started when Eve stood in an abandoned town in the middle of nowhere holding a bloody knife in her hand, Lily’s corpse laying at her feet. Before she could clear her thoughts, and come to terms with what she had done, she was thrust into a terrifying world she does not understand. The Brothers have been waiting in this town. They have watched from the shadows until their terms were met and their compact was signed in blood. The blood of Eve’s sister, Lily.

Despite all this, the only thing Eve can think about is the life she took and why she can not remember her reasons for taking it. But her knife is still sharp and so are her wits. For answers, she is willing to give everything. Even her own blood.


message 7: by Glenn (new)

Glenn Williams (goodreadscomglennwilliams) | 7 comments Version 2 is fantastic. The first and third paragraphs work really well for me since they're very emotionally evocative and gripping. The only place you lost the pace was at the end of the first paragraph, when you use "denizens of the Twins". This confused me for a second, since before its referred to as the "Twin Cities". I'd suggest something more like "even the darkest of creatures" or something along those lines.

Also, the second paragraph feels a bit jarring/disruptive since it switches between the present-tense of the first and third paragraphs, and into past-tense. It feels like the emotion sort of "fizzes out" right in the middle of the blurb. Though your reasons for switching tenses make sense, I feel it loses a bit of steam. My suggestion is to keep it all in the present tense. See below:

It all starts when Eve finds herself standing in an abandoned town in the middle of nowhere. She's holding a bloody knife in her hand and Lily’s corpse is laying at her feet. Before she can come to terms with what she had done, she is thrust into a terrifying world she does not understand. Because the Brothers have been waiting in this town. They have watched from the shadows, waiting for the day until their terms are met and their compact is signed in blood. The blood of Eve’s sister, Lily.

The entire blurb would read:

Eve is enslaved by chains she cannot break and has no choice but to obey her new master, an ancient being known as the First Brother. She is to act as his Harbinger in the mysterious Twin Cities — a place where forgotten gods walk among myths and demons alike, and human morals are little more than a nuisance. If she dares to oppose him, she faces punishment in the realm of the Second Brother, a land even the darkest of creatures dare not enter.

It all starts when Eve finds herself standing in an abandoned town in the middle of nowhere. She's holding a bloody knife in her hand and Lily’s corpse is laying at her feet. Before she can come to terms with what she had done, she is thrust into a terrifying world she does not understand. Because The Brothers have been waiting in this town. They have watched from the shadows, waiting for the day until their terms are met and their compact is signed in blood. The blood of Eve’s sister, Lily.

Despite all this, the only thing Eve can think about is the life she took and why she can not remember her reasons for taking it. But her knife is still sharp and so are her wits. For answers, she is willing to give everything. Even her own blood.

Overall, your blurb is fantastic. If I ran across this, I would be eager to read the excerpt.

Cheers,
-GW


message 8: by Jannik (new)

Jannik (jann1k) | 19 comments Thanks for your feedback!

I've also come around on preferring v2 over v1 after mulling it over a few times, it just makes more sense from a narrative standpoint. I think yours and Jay's suggestions regarding the tenses even improve on the tension.

The 'denizens of the Twins' part was already marked as suspect in my draft, I was hoping to get away with it but I agree, it is probably a bit confusing with both the Brothers and the Twin Cities being introduced in the same paragraph. I actually had an alternative sentence in there for a while:

'a land even the Devil himself dares not enter.'

I wasn't sure if a reference like this is too much different stuff in a blurb, but I want to create an ominous feel regarding the Realm of the Second Brother, and, well, everybody knows the Devil. He provides a tether to more commonly known mythology and gives people an approximate weight on the 'okay, how fucked is she?'-scale they can use without knowing any further info about the book. Also, Lucifer is a (very) minor character in the story and his reluctance to engage with the Second Brother is addressed at some point.

I'll do another rewrite of v2 and put in your suggestions plus some other minor tweaks. Thanks again for all of your help!


message 9: by Glenn (new)

Glenn Williams (goodreadscomglennwilliams) | 7 comments I think you'd be absolutely safe to drop in "a land even the devil himself dares not enter." This works really well and, as you mentioned, provides mythological context & raises the stakes.

This is really well done and I think you're going to have a really powerful and effective blurb!

Cheers,
GW


message 10: by Jannik (new)

Jannik (jann1k) | 19 comments Here it is (version 2.1 if you will):

Eve is enslaved by chains she cannot break and has no choice but to obey her new master, an ancient being known as the First Brother. She is to act as his Harbinger in the mysterious Twin Cities — a place where forgotten gods walk among myths and demons alike, and human morals are little more than a nuisance. If she dares to oppose him, she faces judgment in the Realm of the Second Brother, a land even the Devil himself dares not enter.

It all starts when Eve stands in an abandoned town in the middle of nowhere. She is holding a bloody knife in her hand and Lily’s corpse is laying at her feet. Before she can clear her thoughts, and come to terms with what she has done, she is thrust into a terrifying world she does not understand. The Brothers have been waiting in this town. They have watched from the shadows until their terms are met and their compact is signed in blood. The blood of Eve’s sister, Lily.

Despite all this, the only thing Eve can think about is the life she took and why she can not remember her reasons for taking it. But her knife is still sharp and so are her wits. For answers, she is willing to risk everything. Even her own blood.

________________________

This feels a lot more consistent to me. I really couldn't put my finger on what felt off about my first draft, I just knew something wasn't quite right.

Thanks again! Now I can finally concentrate on finishing my thesis and can get back to Harbinger's Law with a clear head when I'm done :P


message 11: by James (new)

James Leth | 27 comments Lily’s corpse is *lying* at her feet, not laying. You lie down. You lay something else down. Two different verbs. It gets confusing because the past tense of lie is lay. For a non-native speaker, English must be hell. Strunk & White (The Elements of Style) can help.

But really, you should avoid the passive voice (is lying) completely. Lily’s corpse lies at her feet. Eve holds a bloody knife, Lily’s corpse sprawled at her feet.


message 12: by Jannik (new)

Jannik (jann1k) | 19 comments Good catch, thanks! I picked up your book recommendation as well, 99cents on Kindle sounded like a fair price.

English is actually rather pleasant to learn when compared to most other languages (at least the ones I've dabbled in). The demons in my personal hell would probably speak Hungarian :P


message 13: by Tony (new)

Tony Duxbury | 26 comments I always have problems with that one too.


message 14: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1101 comments Just a few thoughts:

I like version 1, it has more impact.

The word "corpse" is a bit objectifying, so it just depends on the feel you want.

The part about the devil wouldn't go there, using the word 'devil,' I don't know, kind of takes the edge off because it sounds almost folklorish, i.e., even old scratch wouldn't go there.

Twin Cities, I don't think you're talking about Minneapolis St. Paul, but they are called the Twin Cities. Not that weirdness can't happen there but it's not a place that comes to mind in terms of, well, demonic weirdness.

Overall I think it's good, crisp pacing, nice.


message 15: by Jannik (new)

Jannik (jann1k) | 19 comments Oh, thank you for your comment, ML! I was on vacation over the last weeks and only saw it just now.

Regarding your points:

1. Yeah, 'corpse' was intended to be a bit detached since the moment in the town is quite overwhelming and confusing for her - for more reasons than the obvious ones. A point that is expanded on in the book.

2. Hm, I get your point but I'm not quite sure how to otherwise give some context as to how much trouble the Brothers actually are. The Devil seemed like a decent choice since he is a known entity for almost everyone and appears in the book anyways.

3. Nope, not talking about Minneapolis St Paul. In fact, I did not know the name was in use over there. The Twin Cities I'm referring to are not quite on our realm of being, they're taken from western mythology. But, well, if my blurb manages to spike some interest caused by misunderstandings over locations I'll take it :P


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