Writing Blurbs That Sell: Focus On Conflict in 3-Steps

Three Steps: Writing Blurbs That Sell

One thing that has helped me immensely is writing my synopsis or blurb as I still like to call it, before writing the story. Of course it can be changed later, as my characters emerge in multi-dimensional technicolor, but it gives me something to focus on - conflict.

Back in the day when authors had to murder a multitude of trees sending paper manuscripts to publishers, the message we always got from them was "strengthen the conflict." Maybe not in those words, but conflict gives the plot wings; without it, the story just seems to plod along or even worse, meander and ramble.

The conflict can be between the main characters (my personal favorite), their families, tribes, or affiliates, or some external conflict they both end up fighting. Also, it's best to have all three or some combination of them. The more conflict we have in our stories, the more exciting it becomes.

So, with that in mind, everyone has their own way of crafting a blurb, and I've read many formulas, but the simplest and best way I've found is to put conflict first. Here's my 3-step process...

1. In one sentence (complex sentences are fine), sum up the relationship between your hero and heroine, stressing an unavoidable conflict or some common ground that brings them together - perhaps they work on opposing sides or there's some force or situation that they must team up to overcome. Here's an example of common ground...

Example: It all comes down to freedom. He needs freedom from imprisonment, and she needs freedom from tyranny.

Immediately, questions arise. What imprisonment? Why was he imprisoned? What kind of tyranny? Who's the tyrant? and you have interest. 
Let's look at one where the conflict is based on opposing personality traits between the hero and heroine...

Example: What's a straight-laced Nephilim-descendant to do when a human trouble magnet steals his heart?

Again, questions arise, and not only do we have one obvious conflict, but two. First of all, there were never supposed to be any Nephilim, let alone descendants, and what's this one doing with a human in the first place? 

2. Give us a few basics about each character, one at a time. Tell us enough to whet our appetites about each one's present situation. Again, focus on conflict. If it doesn't enhance the conflict, leave it out. In this example we learn something about the heroine's predicament. We find out very quickly what she wants,  what she's been denied, and what's important to her.

Example: Palima’s father is the Moorish ruler of a small rural town long surpassed by the twenty-first century. Her life has been spent in a palace with all the trappings of a princess, yet the one thing she desires has been denied – the opportunity to pursue her dreams despite being born female.

3. Pull the two (hero and heroine) together in your summary,
stressing what they're up against. Show a strong connection between them, using each one's unique challenges. You're not trying to tell your readers everything, but just offer an interesting teaser to make them want more...

Example: When Davik's path collides with that of Palima, they embark on a journey filled with danger on every side, and Palima’s father has vowed to uphold his outdated law at all costs, including their lives.

So there it is. Now, this is not to say it's easy, or that it doesn't require some deep thought. Conflict is exciting, but it should always be character-based. Obviously, a conflict for one character won't necessarily work for another due to differences in their personalities and situations. Since this article is by no means exhaustive, I'll leave you with a few follow-up resources on conflict. Feel free to add suggestions or tools from your personal writing arsenal in comments :-)

Creating Conflict

How to Keep Readers Interested

Author Holly Lisle on Creating Conflict

I'm also blogging at The Romance Studio today, so stop by and say "Hi!" I'd appreciate your help sharing the "Dai's Dark Valentine" thunderclaps for the launch tour and Facebook party, too...

Happy Writing!



What a very helpful post, Dariel.
I love conflict. It is the driving force in any plot. Quite often, I write my blurbs mid-way into the story or at the end, and at other times, I start with the blurb.

Sometimes, writing blurbs is easy for me, but many times, I struggle. I have just written the blurb for my current W-I-P, but I would appreciate your feedback on it. I would send it to you via email.

I have added my support to your thunderclap via Facebook.

Have a lovely Valentine.
Dariel Raye said…
Thanks for your support, Stella :-) I'd love to take a look at your blurb! I'll drop you an email so you can send it to me.