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Covers, Blurbs, 1st Line, Query > Fantasy novel blurb help

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message 1: by Lena (new)

Lena Hey guys!

I have a 95K fantasy novel, "The Castle of Lost Time". It is made of 3 nested stories, which all have their characters and plotlines and connect in the end. As you can imagine, it's a real pain to boil it down to 150 words.

I'm looking for a blurb that could go into query letter. I've written two. One is shorter (150), but I'm not as happy with it as I am with the longer one (200). Please help!

1)
Three nested stories converge in a desolate castle that absorbs the lives of its guests.

Two grizzled veterans, Prince Amron and his secretary, Telani, embark on a journey with a youth whose destiny is crucial for the kingdom. When he disappears in a blizzard, they chase him to a castle in the forest and become its prisoners.

Ida, a rogue teenage girl who tries to escape the hard life on the road, accidentally joins a band of brigands on their way to rob a lord. Instead of reaching safety, she finds herself in mortal danger.

And Elysant, a young lady with a head full of romantic stories, is forced by her father into an unwanted marriage. When she tries to run away, she invokes a deadly divine magic.

When their destinies clash, they must find the way to break the curse or become sacrifices in the castle of lost time.

2)
Telani, an assasin turned secretary to his old wartime commander, Prince Amron, just wants a peaceful life in the sunny palace gardens. But when the king orders them to guard a youth whose destiny is crucial for the kingdom and the youth promptly escapes in a blizzard, Telani and his prince embark on a wild chase that leads them into a trap.

Ida, a rogue girl who makes a living by helping a travelling crook sell the elixir of youth, accidentally joins a band of brigands on their way to rob a lord. What looked like a plan to escape the hard life on the road soon turns into a nightmare where she has to fight for her life.

Elysant, a young lady with a head full of romantic legends, is forced by her father into an unwanted marriage. When she tries to run away, she walks into a horrific legend of her own, invoking a deadly divine magic she cannot control.

All of them will meet in a desolate castle that absorbs the lives of its guests. And if they do not find a way to break the deadly curse, they will remain there forever.


message 2: by N.L. (new)

N.L. LaFoille (nllafoille) | 13 comments I actually like the first blurb better. It's punchier and piqued my interest. The second feels like too much information.

But I'd remove 'teenage girl' and make it "Ida, a rogue teen who tries..." (we get that she's a girl from the pronoun later in the sentence)

Otherwise it sounds great!


message 3: by Lena (new)

Lena N.L. wrote: "I actually like the first blurb better. It's punchier and piqued my interest. The second feels like too much information.

But I'd remove 'teenage girl' and make it "Ida, a rogue teen who tries..."..."


Thank you!
I was afraid that the first one didn't give enough info... but if it's enough to make you interested, then it's enough :)

I'll remove "girl", it sounds better without it.


message 4: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments Second the first. I found the second to be too wordy. Actually, I think removing the first sentence of the first blurb makes it better. I tried wordsmithing it a bit. For Elysant I took some creative liberties, no idea if they make sense. 130 words.



Two grizzled veterans, Prince Amron and his assassin-secretary, Telani, escort a youth whose destiny is crucial for the kingdom. When the youth disappears in a blizzard, they chase him to a castle in the forest and all become its prisoners.

Ida escapes her hard life by accidentally joining a band of brigands on their way to rob a lord. Instead of reaching safety, she finds herself in mortal danger, trapped in a castle.

Elysant, a young lady with a head full of romantic stories, is forced by her father into an unwanted marriage. Upon her escape, she invokes a deadly divine magic, transporting herself to a castle.

As their destinies clash, they must find the way to break the curse - or become sacrifices in the castle of lost time.


message 5: by Lena (new)

Lena Keith wrote: "Second the first. I found the second to be too wordy."

Thank you very much.
Elysant does not transport herself to the castle, sorry :) As the three nested stories go in reverse chronological order (Telani-Ida-Elysant-Ida-Telani), Elysant is the one whose escape attempt triggers the divine curse.

Perhaps I could just say this about her:
"Elysant, a young lady with a head full of romantic stories, is forced by her father into an unwanted marriage. Her attempt to escape invokes a deadly divine magic."

I think I should not try to elaborate and say something like: "Her attempt to escape invokes a deadly divine magic that turns the guests of the castle into prisoners." I think readers would be confused by the sequence of events.


message 6: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments I do think you need to tie them all to the castle somehow (that was my artistic reach/guess attempt). 'Invokes a deadly divine magic' tells the reader nothing about a castle and, to me, anyway, feels disconnected. I assume that the three storylines converge at the end for the resolution. If so, you need to telegraph that to a certain point.

Something to note, blurbs, exactly like movie trailers, don't have to exactly match the ebb and flow of the story proper. Blurbs are there to give the reader a sense of the story such that they get a feeling for if they'll enjoy investing their time and money. This is not to say lies are in order, but paraphrasing what happens or simplifying a concept that you spend half your words on, is perfectly acceptable.


message 7: by Lena (new)

Lena Keith wrote: "I do think you need to tie them all to the castle somehow "
Absolutely. It all starts and ends there. That's why it's called "The Castle of Lost Time" though I'm not too happy with that either. How about "Elysant and Castle"? :P

Anyway, third attempt: "Elysant, a young lady with a head full of romantic stories, is forced by her father into an unwanted marriage. Her attempt to escape invokes a divine magic that turns the castle into a deadly trap."


message 8: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments I feel that's the best so far.

Your original title sounds almost like a spoiler to me.

Titles are 'funny' things. Self-describing is great, but probably doesn't really matter in the long run. The cover design probably has a bigger impact than the title.


message 9: by Lena (new)

Lena
Titles are 'funny' things. Self-describing is great, but probably doesn't really matter in the long run."


By the time one gets to the cover design...
I have a list of 40+ titles and hate all of them.
Also, there is this weird practice that fantasy books are called "The X of the Y" or "The X of the Y and Z"

Anyway... the fact that the castle is a trap is not really a spoiler, I think. It's how they get out that matters...


message 10: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments I tend to fall in love with my titles pretty early. In some cases, the title was what drove the story in the first place. But I understand the other way.

You planning to query or self publish? Polish is important for both (if you haven't already, I highly recommend a developmental editor before you spend time/money on proofing and line editing), but the former may result in completely altered title and the cover art often has little or no input from you. Self, of course, means you have to manage all that.

Best of luck to you!


message 11: by Lena (new)

Lena Thank you for the advice.

I plan to query. I have a content/developmental editor and a few serious beta readers, although I can always welcome more. I realize that finding an agent is a risky business and that one had to be as prepared as possible - the letter, the blurb, the synopsis, the manuscript... I tend to overthink and procrastinate. But as the manuscript is out among the betas, I think that in due time I'l be ready to query.

Sometimes I find my titles right away. And sometimes it's a struggle. This novel still sits in a folder called "the swap" - and that was one early plotline, abandoned a long time ago. I had hoped the title would emerge as I approached the end, but it did not. Darn.

If I ever get a publisher, I do hope they are good at titles :)


message 12: by Erika (last edited Sep 11, 2019 03:39AM) (new)

Erika Winterlia (marleene) | 25 comments Your query was interesting and I was intrigued, but I feel like the first one (which was the best one in my opinion) may have been a little too vague when it comes to the stakes. Actually both of them are too vague when it comes to the stakes and the second version really doesn't add any necessary details that we don't already get from the first. So, I'd suggest tweaking the first version a little and really showing the stakes and why it's important that these people do not fail their quests.

Here are some comments:
Three nested stories converge in a desolate castle that absorbs the lives of its guests.
[I really liked this first line, it really hooked me and I wanted to know more]

Two grizzled veterans, Prince Amron and his secretary, Telani, embark on a journey with a youth whose destiny is crucial for the kingdom. When he disappears in a blizzard, they chase him to a castle in the forest and become its prisoners.
[Do we really need the name of both the prince and the secretary? Which one do we follow in the POV? Always a good thing to give as few names as possible and the secretary's name doesn't come across as very important. That said; the "crucial youth" on the other hand sound very important, but I'd like to know (get a hint) as to why he's so important. Make me understand the stakes here, why it's important to get him. Also, at the end here, you say "become its prisoners", and I feel like that is a little too vague here. What does that mean? Amp up the stakes here, show what it means to the kingdom and them if they don't make it out.]

Ida, a rogue teenage girl who tries to escape the hard life on the road, accidentally joins a band of brigands on their way to rob a lord. Instead of reaching safety, she finds herself in mortal danger.
[Ida sounds interesting, but I wonder about the choice of the word "tried" in the beginning here. Either she did escape or she didn't. And it seems like she didn't escape the hard life if one reads on here. What I would wish for here instead is to know what she did to escape, and how her escape attempt led her to accidentally join a band of brigands. You really don't accidentally join a group, you make an active choice to do something that may lead to something you didn't expect. Share what she did. And at the end here, we have the same "problem" as in the other paragraphs, we're not getting enough stakes. "Mortal danger" is too vague. Explain what that means and what will happen if she doesn't get away.]

And Elysant, a young lady with a head full of romantic stories, is forced by her father into an unwanted marriage. When she tries to run away, she invokes a deadly divine magic.
[This is the second character here that "tries" to run away/escape. Share what she did and why it didn't work and what happened because of it and how that changes everything. Who does this deadly divine magic threaten, and why is it so bad?]

When their destinies clash, they must find the way to break the curse or become sacrifices in the castle of lost time.
[How does their destinies clash? I think that the ending paragraph from the second version of your blurb is better and much clearer. A little tweak here: When their destinies clash and they all find themselves trapped in a desolate castle that absorbs the lives of its guests, they are forced to work together to break the deadly curse. If they fail, xxxxxxx (whatever happened that is bigger than just them losing their own lives).]


message 13: by Lena (new)

Lena Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments. I will try to tweak the blurb, but answering your questions would reveal too much of the plot and I really don't know how to avoid that.

The "crucial youth" from the first paragraph is a pretender to the throne, but if I reveal that, I'll throw away half the plot. If they don't get him, they might have a rebellion on their hands.

Ida could go like this: "Ida, a rogue teenager, escapes her hard life by joining a band of brigands on their way to rob a lord. Instead of reaching safety, she finds herself stabbed and left for dead."
But that also reveals a plot twist.

Elysant has been changed already: "Elysant, a young lady with a head full of romantic stories, is forced by her father into an unwanted marriage. Her attempt to escape invokes a divine magic that turns the castle into a deadly trap."

As for the final sentence, I really don't know how to tweak it. If they break the curse, they will release the prisoners of the castle...


message 14: by Erika (last edited Sep 11, 2019 10:44AM) (new)

Erika Winterlia (marleene) | 25 comments Jelena wrote: "Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments. I will try to tweak the blurb, but answering your questions would reveal too much of the plot and I really don't know how to avoid that.

The "cruc..."


Maybe you could focus more on the castle rather than how they get there? Try to narrow it down to where, who, how etc.

Like something more simple:
Two grizzled veterans, a rogue teenage girl, and a young lady with a head full of romantic stories, find themselves trapped in a desolate castle that absorbs the lives of its guests. One must escape to rescue the fate of a kingdom, one bares the key to getting out (or whatever Ida's part is) and one is the cause of the curse that traps them all.

Now, they must work together to break the curse that has trapped souls for centuries or watch themselves become one of the tormented spirits that unwillingly draw new victims into the ravenous castle. (or what you can think of that will happen to them should they be left there).

Yes, that may not have been the best one, but I'm thinking that maybe it wouldn't hurt not to go too deep into the characters and rather focus on the main plot. They getting trapped in the castle and the quest to getting out.


message 15: by Lena (new)

Lena Erika wrote: "Yes, that may not have been the best one, but I'm thinking that maybe it wouldn't hurt not to go too deep into the characters and rather focus on the main plot. They getting trapped in the castle and the quest to getting out.
"

Thank you so much.
Here's one version focused on the plot (96 words):

A grizzled veteran, a rogue teenage girl, and a young lady with a head full of romantic stories find themselves trapped in a desolate castle that absorbs the lives of its guests. One must escape to change the fate of a kingdom, one holds the key to getting out and one is the cause of the evil that traps them all.

Now, they must work together to break the curse that has consumed the souls of ill-fated travellers for ages or watch themselves become sacrifices to the ravenous deity that rules the castle of lost time.

***
Is the second paragraph too wordy?


message 16: by Erika (new)

Erika Winterlia (marleene) | 25 comments Jelena wrote: "Erika wrote: "Yes, that may not have been the best one, but I'm thinking that maybe it wouldn't hurt not to go too deep into the characters and rather focus on the main plot. They getting trapped i..."

I don't think the last paragraph is too wordy. It reads well to me. I think you have room here to add a few more details about the world and the characters, but still keeping the focus on the plot. It needs a just a little more. Maybe you could add something more about the relationship between the characters? Are they all friends in there, or is maybe tension and betrayals and problems that make it hard for them to work together? Try brining that into a paragraph in the middle, something that will make it clear that "working together" isn't as easy as it sounds.


message 17: by Lena (new)

Lena Erika wrote:"Maybe you could add something more about the relationship between the characters? Are they all friends in there, or is maybe tension and betrayals and problems that make it hard for them to work together? Try brining that into a paragraph in the middle, something that will make it clear that "working together" isn't as easy as it sounds."

Erika, your feedbacks are priceless, they make me rack my brain every time :)
I tried to keep it very simple:

A grizzled veteran, a rogue teenage girl, and a young lady with a head full of romantic stories find themselves trapped in a desolate castle that absorbs the lives of its guests. One must escape to change the fate of a kingdom, one holds the key to getting out and one is the cause of the evil that traps them all.

To break the curse that has consumed the souls of ill-fated travellers for ages, they will have to overcome their own failures and flaws and work together – or watch themselves become sacrifices to the ravenous deity that rules the castle of lost time.

***
More than that would make me go back to the plot, which would make it all complicated again...


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