Diverging from the Standard Form

If someone asked you to explain what a standard back cover descriptive blurb is, you’d probably say this: “Two or more paragraphs in normal prose style with the book’s hook and main points. Maybe a question or tantalizing phrase to close it up.”

That’s standard.

But you may…diverge.

Let’s take a look at one such cover.

DIVERGENT back copy

Twenty-seven words.

Take a look at the first line of two words, larger and eye-catching: ONE CHOICE.

There it is, the story’s inciting incident and the core of the main character’s conflict.

Next you scan a string of couplets of two words in the first line and three words in the second. This gives us the plot.

The shadowing behind the  words give an ominous feeling.

This is a YA dystopian novel that became a bestselling phenomenon, plus a film series. Note that first detail: Young Adult.

I think one can be choppier, punchier, and more playful with blurbs aimed at younger audiences. If your book is action or aimed at a young audience, playing with forms is a good idea. Since the main character is “different,” she should have a divergent blurb. 🙂

It’s particularly smart to use that style for another reason.

Here are a few sentences from the opening of DIVERGENT:


Notice the short sentences.

This continues as you read. It’s part of the novel’s style.

So, the blurb echoes something about this character’s POV voice. It emphasizes the importance of a person’s choice (it can change everything as the sequence shows). It implies  a heroic character (one who chooses, sacrifices, and battles).

Plot is a cause and effect string of character decisions and actions in a story. This blurb emphasizes that sequence by its verticality and brevity. Because of the shape, you get a sense that things will happen quickly–hinting at a fast pace. YA readers, say authors and editors I know, like a fast pace. Visually, this blurb style is saying: this is your kind of read.

The stakes: possible destruction. The biggest stakes you can have.

You don’t spend a lot of time skimming through 27 words in a narrow column. But you get what you need to decide to look at the first pages or not.

Millions chose to look. Were you one of them?

Another winner of a blurb.

Is your book aimed at a younger audience? Think what different blurb form might suit your target readership, a shape that echoes elements of the character or the story.

I’d love it if you left a comment telling me what cool new form you tried, especially if you blog about it. Link me up.

Get the book: Divergent (Divergent Series)

Next Time:

When Numbers Add Up In A Book Blurb

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