Blurb Doctor: Dimension Lapse

Nicholas Davis asked me to look at his story, Dimension Lapse, so it’s getting a full workup from the Blurb Doctor.

Jeff Walker, a Martian colonist is trapped in another universe, and lands on an island on a far away planet. He is befriended by its inhabitants,the Lingworts and learns to live in peace. When an outside alien force threatens their way of life, he must join an intergalltic war that he wants no part of.
When a leader of a supposedly peaceful federation steals a weapon of mass destruction, Walker and his band of misfits must stop him, before all races are exterminated.
Unaware to Walker, however, is that the key to their survival lies deeply rooted in his own world’s past.

Let’s break it down:

Jeff Walker, a Martian colonist is trapped in another universe, and lands on an island on a far away planet.

  • OK, I’m willing to accept that he’s trapped in another universe, but how the heck did he get there?
  • If he’s in an entirely different universe, I think we can just assume the planet is far away.
  • It doesn’t seem relevant that he landed on an island, the word could be replaced with desert or forest or garbage dump, and wouldn’t affect the rest of the blurb.
  • If we’re going to keep some of the above wording, we need a second comma after the word colonist.

He is befriended by its inhabitants,the Lingworts and learns to live in peace.

  • We need a space after the comma, and another comma after “Lingworts”.
  • Why does he need to learn to live in peace? Was he homicidal before?

When an outside alien force threatens their way of life, he must join an intergalltic war that he wants no part of.

  • We probably don’t need both “outside” and “alien”.
  • “intergalltic”? I’m assuming this is intergalactic.
  • He wants no part of the war? If someone comes to town and starts pushing around and/or killing my peace-loving friends, I want a part of that war. I want a big, fat slice of that war. What’s wrong with this Martian?

When a leader of a supposedly peaceful federation steals a weapon of mass destruction, Walker and his band of misfits must stop him, before all races are exterminated.

  • I’m confused. Is this the threat from the previous sentence? Is it a third party responding to the threat in the previous sentence? Is it completely unrelated?
  • When did Walker get “his band of misfits”? If he doesn’t interact with them beforehand, and is just thrown together with them at the moment of crisis, then saying ‘a band of misfits’ could clear things up.
  • How will “all races” be exterminated? Is this a doomsday weapon, or is it a weapon that might draw an escalating response from enemies?

Unaware to Walker, however, is that the key to their survival lies deeply rooted in his own world’s past.

  • “Unaware to Walker” doesn’t actually mean anything. ‘Walker is unaware’ or the archaic ‘unbeknownst to Walker’ are alternatives.
  • Is the key to survival actually “deeply rooted” in his world’s past? If he just remembers a history lecture about mutually assured destruction, or a Discovery channel show about how to dismantle nuclear warheads, I wouldn’t call that “deeply rooted”. If Walker was from Earth, I would expect “deeply rooted” to be something fundamental to human genetics or behavior, but since he’s from Mars, I don’t even have a guess.

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

While on a routine flight to the dark side of Mercury, Martian pilot Jeff Walker is blown into another universe by a Solar flare. He makes friends and settles down on a planet which unfortunately becomes the hiding place for weapons of mass destruction. Walker’s half-remembered high-school history lessons could be the key to everyone’s survival.

Keep in mind I haven’t read the story in question; the above blurb probably has no relation to it. However, perhaps I’ve provided a template for a cleaner blurb.

The plot of ‘lone man stranded on an alien world’ always holds some appeal, but until I see a clarified blurb, I can’t say whether I’d be attracted to this particular story.

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6 comments

  1. Let me first start by saying thank you for your review of my story. I’m always welcome to other writers’ opinions and suggestions. I have found them helpful in the past, and they are helping me to become a better writer.
    That being said, I would like to defend my story as well. When I read a blurb on a book, it is just that. I don’t expect to know everything there is to know about the story from just the blurb. A blurb is just like a movie trailer, and when I see one, it makes me more interested in the story about what I don’t know about the characters.
    If you find my story confusing and uninteresting, I apologize. I’m obviously not as seasoned a writer as you are, being an authority on what you consider bad science fiction. But remember that even seasoned writers need a little editing as well. I have been told that my characters are both well defined and interesting by other local writers in my area, and some of them are traditionally published authors. I asked you to look at my story, and give an opinion of the story as a whole, not edit my work. Frankly, I don’t think the shortened blurb you provided did the story any justice, and by the revised blurb, I wouldn’t read the story either.
    I’m not trying to discredit your opinion, I just feel you’re being a bit overcritical in some of your reviews. My suggestion is that you stick to the subject matter of a story, and leave the editing to the editors. Thank you for your time anyway.

    1. Nicholas, I felt that looking over your blurb was the most helpful thing I could do. When potential customers run across your book semi-randomly (browsing at Amazon, clicking on an ad, etc.), they won’t “look inside” or buy if they don’t like your blurb. Even people who get a word-of-mouth recommendation or meet you at a book signing might be turned off by blurb with grammar or spelling errors. I think Thomas made some really good comments about blurb focus.

      If you have really interesting characters in your story, put something about them in your blurb. What’s unique about their background, or the challenges they face? If you’ve had traditionally published authors read your story, ask them to give you a quote, and put that in your blurb. That’s marketing gold.

      If you’re part of a writers’ group, you could suggest a ‘blurb night’ where everyone brings in their blurbs and the group recommends changes or points out areas for improvement.

      Let me know if you decide to update your blurb, I’ll post it here.

  2. Mr. Davis,

    I’M an editor. Am I permitted to have an opinion about the need for editing in that blurb?

    When I see a blurb with multiple punctuation errors, I assume that the story will contain multiple punctuation errors, too. I have yet to be wrong in this assumption.

    In terms of content rather than the technical stuff (grammar, punctuation, spelling), every thing mentioned by the Commander was something that I, too, thought needed to be addressed. I have seen many a good story suffer from a bad blurb, one that misrepresents the plot or emphasizes trivia over the important elements or just falls flat.

    A blurb is not supposed to reveal everything about a story, but it IS supposed to accurately represent the story as far as what it DOES reveal. Mislead the reader (either deliberately or through a poorly written blurb), and that person won’t come back for another story, even assuming they finish reading the first one.

    1. I’m sorry if I seemed abrasive, but it seems that I know some published writers who pick apart every sentence that a new writer writes. It’s nice to have a little constructive criticism, but I’ve seen few writers that are perfect, even well published ones. I can go through a lot of novels that have grammatical errors, ones that were supposed to be caught by their editors. Nobody’s perfect, and I feel that if some people are too critical of others’ works, they might feel that all their own hard work is worthless. All I’m saying is that you should point out the good as well as the bad, and not just focus on the bad. We all have to start somewhere.

  3. Here is my new blurb with the requested changes:

    Jeff Walker, a Martian colonist who becomes trapped in another universe after an alien encounter and crashes on another planet. He is befriended by its inhabitants,the Lingworts, and begins to live a peaceful life. When an alien force threatens their way of life, they must join an intergalactic war that they are forced to engage in. When the leader of the opposing peaceful federation steals a weapon of mass destruction from his own government, Walker and a band of misfits must stop him, before all races in the galaxy are exterminated. Walker is unaware, however, that the key to their survival lies deeply rooted in his own history’s past.

    I hope it clarifies things better for you.

  4. Happy I found this site. I am new to sci-fi and still feel unsure. Besides entertaining readers, which should be a priority, each genre has rules. I will be learning a few here. Muchas gracias.

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