Blurb Doctor: Red Haven

Natalie McKay has volunteered her short stories for the first posts in my new series, the Blurb Doctor. In these posts, I’ll take apart a book or short story’s marketing blurb, and rebuild it … better … stronger … faster. [For the younger crowd, that’s a Six Million Dollar Man reference. Hmmm, inflation is making that guy seem less and less impressive every year.]

Once I’ve built a new blurb, it’s your turn to go to the comments section and let me know if I’ve succeeded, or show me up with an even better blurb.

Our first story is Red Haven, here is the current blurb:

Kye’s life may not be perfect, but life on board of a space station inhabited by the low lives of the galaxy, he couldn’t complain. Red Haven had become his shelter and home in a galaxy where he was constantly on the run, avoiding bounty hunters and the Fed’s. That all changes when he is doubled crossed by his latest boss, a pirate who valued wealth over everything else.

Now Red Haven was under attack by the Fed’s themselves.

Kye must use his contacts and skills to pull off an escape before the rusted space station explodes around him.

I’ll take each sentence apart before presenting a modified blurb:

Kye’s life may not be perfect, but life on board of a space station inhabited by the low lives of the galaxy, he couldn’t complain.

  • “may not be perfect, but” should be followed immediately by something positive: ‘may not be perfect, but at least the brain parasites are dead.’
  • “on board of” should be shortened to ‘on board’.
  • “low lives” should be replaced by ‘lowlifes’.
  • “he couldn’t complain” – why not? I live in a much nicer neighborhood, and I complain constantly.

Red Haven had become his shelter and home in a galaxy where he was constantly on the run, avoiding bounty hunters and the Fed’s.

  • This sentence has two possible meanings, so it needs to be clarified. Was the character on the run in the past, and he’s now settled down? Or does he hide on this station between periods of being on the run?
  • The blurb’s previous sentence established that the scope of the story is galaxy-wide, we don’t need to bring up galaxy again here.
  • Assuming Fed is short for Federal something, then the apostrophe needs to be removed, the antagonists are ‘Feds’.

That all changes when he is doubled crossed by his latest boss, a pirate who valued wealth over everything else.

  • “That all changes” comes right after the part about him being on the run, so it’s potentially misleading as to what changes.
  • “doubled crossed” should be ‘doublecrossed’ or possibly ‘double-crossed’.
  • Having our pirate value wealth over everything else? That’s probably an extremely common attribute of pirates. How about a pirate who has a spy in every spaceport? Or a pirate who feeds people into his ship’s plasma drive – feet first. He must have some distinguishing characteristic.

Now Red Haven was under attack by the Fed’s themselves.

  • Again, we’ll just use ‘Feds’.
  • If the attack is by the Feds “themselves”, this implies there has been at least one previous attack by some sort of proxy. If this isn’t true, then we’ll lose that word.

Kye must use his contacts and skills to pull off an escape before the rusted space station explodes around him.

  • He can just escape, he doesn’t need to “pull off an escape”.
  • If he’s facing imminent death, he’ll use his contacts, skills, assets, weapons, and everything else; we don’t need to specify what he’ll use.
  • This is the first mention of the station being “rusted”, this needs to be mentioned earlier.
  • Technically, I don’t think the station can explode “around him” unless there are lots of separate explosions. It could ‘disintegrate around him’ or some other equivalent bad thing can happen.

Here’s an ultra-rough first draft of a rewritten blurb:

Kye shares the rusted space station of Red Haven with the lowlifes of the galaxy, but it beats being on the run. After he’s double-crossed by his boss, Kye’s presence draws the attention of the Feds to Red Haven, and he must escape before he’s vaporized along with it.

As I haven’t read the story, some of the facts are likely now incorrect, and I’d rewrite this anyway until it sounded more polished and professional, but I think it might serve as the core of an enticing blurb. I know that some of this blog’s readers outclass me in writing skills; perhaps one of them will take a stab at it in the comments section…

The good news is: once I boiled down the blurb, this sounds like a story with potential. I think readers might want to know what led up to the double-cross, and how Kye will try to escape.

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7 comments

  1. Thanks again for featuring my story blurbs on your site. I am always looking for feedback and improvement on my writing and I know I have a lot to learn. Thanks four your input, I really appreciate it. (Re-blogging!)

  2. Reblogged this on Order of Dynast and commented:
    Planetary Defence Commander takes a look at book blurbs and offers up a critic and helpful advice.

  3. Tajima Jenkins · · Reply

    One of these blurbs would get me to read the story … the other would not. I’ll let you guess which is which.

  4. To me the first sentence made little sense (and a few others). As you said your suggestion is a rough draft, but I think the author will find it to be a more solid foundation to build off of then the previous one.

    Often when I write a blurb for myself I get stuck on the first one. I’m so busy trying to “fix” it with little changes that I forget that sometimes this is what is needed, a major strip down and rewrite.

  5. Great job! The only thing I’m not sure about is whether I would want to know about the station being potentially vaporized…it feels a bit like a plot giveaway. I like having some intrigue in my blurbs rather than knowing everything ahead of time.

    1. That’s a very good point. In my mind, I was envisioning that the escape from the station was just the start of the adventure, rather than the climax. (I have no idea where I got that idea). But you are correct, if the escape from the station is the ending, then that last half-sentence needs to go.

  6. I enjoyed the re-write of the blurb, although I think the double-crossing needs a little expanding, as in, why should I care Kye is on the run and got double-crossed by his boss? Just my two cents.

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