Today, as promised, I’m going to teach you my super-secret formula for how to write a blurb.
I taught this recently at a major writers conference—not because it was part of my class and workshop on genre fiction, but because I had some time on my hands the evening before, and it suddenly seemed like a good idea. I looked up some movie descriptions and applied my two-sentence formula to them to create the most succinct blurbs I could.
I was exhausted, and my head was full of fiction, and I liked the results.
So I took them with me in the morning, and this is what I opened my workshop with:
MOVIE DESCRIPTION: Former models Derek Zoolander and Hansel find themselves thrust back into the spotlight after living in seclusion for years. Invited to a major fashion event in Rome, the estranged friends are surprised to see how much the business has changed. Even more shocking is their encounter with Valentina Valencia, a special agent who needs their help. Someone is killing famous pop stars, and it’s up to Derek and Hansel to help save the world’s most beautiful people from a similar fate.
TWO-SENTENCE BLURB: When former models Zoolander and Hansel are invited to a major fashion event in Rome after years of seclusion, they find someone killing off famous pop stars. Now, special agent Valentina Valencia needs their help to save the world’s most beautiful people.
MOVIE DESCRIPTION: Travis Shaw is a ladies’ man who thinks a serious relationship would cramp his easygoing lifestyle. Gabby Holland is a feisty medical student who’s preparing to settle down with her long-term boyfriend. Fate brings the two together as Gabby moves next door to Travis, sparking an irresistible attraction that upends both of their lives. As their bond grows, the unlikely couple must decide how far they’re willing to go to keep the hope of love alive.
TWO-SENTENCE BLURB: When feisty medical student Gabby Holland moves next door to ladies’ man Travis Shaw, the spark of irresistible attraction upends both their lives. Now, this most unlikely couple must decide how far they’re willing to go to keep the hope of love alive.
MOVIE DESCRIPTION: Wade Wilson is a former Special Forces operative who now works as a mercenary. His world comes crashing down when evil scientist Ajax tortures, disfigures and transforms him into Deadpool. The rogue experiment leaves Deadpool with accelerated healing powers and a twisted sense of humor. With help from mutant allies Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Deadpool uses his new skills to hunt down the man who nearly destroyed his life.
TWO-SENTENCE BLURB: When former Special Forces operative-turned-mercenary Wade Wilson is disfigured by evil scientist Ajax, he is transformed into Deadpool. Now, with accelerated healing powers and a twisted sense of humor, Deadpool must use his new skills to hunt down the man who destroyed his life.
MOVIE DESCRIPTION: After four years of college, young Alice decides she needs a break from her long-term boyfriend Josh. Excited and ready for new challenges, the eager grad moves to New York to take a job as a paralegal. Helping her navigate her way through an unfamiliar city is Robin, a fun-loving, wild co-worker who enjoys partying and one-night stands. With Robin as her freewheeling guide, Alice can now learn how to get free drinks, meet men and enjoy the single lifestyle.
TWO-SENTENCE BLURB: When eager college grad Alice takes a break from romance to become a NY paralegal, her fun-loving, freewheeling coworker Robin guides her through a party-time of free drinks, one-night stands, and the wild single life.
MOVIE DESCRIPTION: In the early 1950s, Eddie Mannix is busy at work trying to solve all the problems of the actors and filmmakers at Capitol Pictures. His latest assignments involve a disgruntled director, a singing cowboy, a beautiful swimmer and a handsome dancer. As if all this wasn’t enough, Mannix faces his biggest challenge when Baird Whitlock gets kidnapped while in costume for the swords-and-sandals epic “Hail, Caesar!” If the studio doesn’t pay $100,000, it’s the end of the line for the movie star.
TWO-SENTENCE BLURB: After 1950s film ‘fixer’ Eddie Mannix at Capitol Pictures is assigned to a disgruntled director, beautiful swimmer, singing cowboy, and handsome dancer, he finds himself unexpectedly handling the $100,000 kidnapping of Baird Whitlock from the set of the studio’s biggest blockbuster.
MOVIE DESCRIPTION: In the 19th century, a mysterious plague turns the English countryside into a war zone. No one is safe as the dead come back to life to terrorize the land. Fate leads Elizabeth Bennet, a master of martial arts and weaponry, to join forces with Mr. Darcy, a handsome but arrogant gentleman. Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy, but respects his skills as a zombie killer. Casting aside their personal differences, they unite on the blood-soaked battlefield to save their country.
TWO-SENTENCE BLURB: When a mysterious plague turns 19th-century England in to a war zone, martial arts and weaponry master Elizabeth Bennet joins forces with handsome but arrogant country gentleman Mr. Darcy. Now, with contempt for Darcy but respect for his zombie-killing skills, Elizabeth must fight alongside him to save their country.
MOVIE DESCRIPTION: While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass sustains injuries from a brutal bear attack. When his hunting team leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back home to his beloved family. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, Glass treks through the wintry terrain to track down John Fitzgerald, the former confidant who betrayed and abandoned him.
TWO-SENTENCE BLURB: When legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass is injured in a brutal bear attack while exploring uncharted wilderness in 1823, he is left for dead by his best friend. Now, grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance against the confidant who betrayed and abandoned him, Glass must survive the winter terrain to return home to his family.
MOVIE DESCRIPTION: Thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, the galaxy faces a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren and the First Order. When a defector named Finn crash-lands on a desert planet, he meets Rey, a tough scavenger whose droid contains a top-secret map. Together, the young duo joins forces with Han Solo to make sure the Resistance receives the intelligence concerning the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi Knights.
TWO-SENTENCE BLURB: Thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, young Finn, defector from the evil First Order, crash-lands on a desert planet, where tough scavenger Rey has just bought a new droid carrying a top-secret map. Now, under the guidance of legendary Han Solo and before the First Order tracks them down, Finn and Rey must smuggle the droid to the Resistance to find Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi Knights.
Yes, this last one is a bit longer than the others. That’s because the backstory is what sells it. Without Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, this would just be one more space opera like any other. We need to work them in there.
So what’s my super-secret formula?
When [identity] [protagonist name] [does something], [something happens]. Now, with [time limit/restrictions], [protagonist] must [do something brave] to [accomplish great achievement]/ or [sacrifice high stakes].