“What’s Your Book About?” Mary Deal Asks this Important Question on the Child Finder Trilogy

What’s Your Book About?

by

Mary Deal

How to capture a potential reader’s interest with few words.

In our day-to-day lives, our simplest personal actions say something about our motivations, temperament, and mind-set. Stories and their plots reveal much more that can be stated by quoting the story synopsis when a potential buyer asks, “What’s your book about?”

In my adventure/suspense novel, The Tropics, the plot is about the dangers of island living, cloaked from tourists by balmy breezes and swaying palm trees. It’s about people fighting for survival and finding inner strength to go on in spite of life-threatening situations in which they find themselves. It’s about inner strength.

In my paranormal Egyptian suspense, The Ka, the story is not just about archaeologists discovering a tomb and becoming affected by mysterious spells and magic. What it’s really about are two characters who, in spite of having intense mental and intuitive capabilities way beyond the norm, struggle to maintain lives in a setting that threatens to forever alter their understanding of sanity.

Once you know what your story is really about, you will easily distill it down to very few words.

If someone asks me what The Tropics is about, I don’t begin to reveal the plot synopsis. I say it’s about the ability to survive against all odds. Or I say it’s about the myths of stereotypical islands of paradise being shattered.

Readers want to know what they will get from a story. They want upbeat endings. If I tell someone The Tropics is about survival in spite of all odds, the reader knows these characters face some life threatening and dire situations before they save themselves. In surviving, the reader then looks forward to an exciting storyline knowing they will get their happy ending.

When potential readers ask what the The Ka is about, I tell them that it’s about believing in yourself even though the rest of the world thinks you’re nuts; even in the face of knowing you are different.

These can be distilled down to still fewer words. The Tropics is about “the desire to live.” The Ka is about “knowing when you’re right.”

As you can see, some of the descriptions have nothing to do with the plots. When people ask What’s your book about? they want to know what knowledge or lesson they will derive from reading the book.

In my award-winning thriller, River Bones, about a serial killer terrorizing residents in California’s Sacramento River Delta, when people ask What’s it about? I say, “It’s about forgiving old hurts and making a new life.” Or I say “It’s about renewal.”

My newly released thriller, Down to the Needle, is about a woman facing lethal injection for a crime she didn’t commit. When asked, I say, “It’s about standing firm when you’re right.” Or I also say, “It’s about the justice system gone wrong.” The shortened version of what I might say would be, “It’s about justice.”

Readers need to know what they will derive from your story. Instead of telling them the story synopsis, which may be lengthy and cause them to lose interest, give them a few words first to spark their interest. Then, elaborate by telling them what the story is about.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.

About Mike Angley

Mike Angley is the award-winning author of the Child Finder Trilogy. He retired as a Colonel from the Air Force in 2007 following a 25-year career as a Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). He held 13 different assignments throughout the world, among which were five tours as a Commander of various units, to include two Air Force Squadrons and a Wing. He is a seasoned criminal investigator and a counterintelligence and counterterrorism specialist. In his last assignment, he was Commander of OSI Region 8 with responsibility for all of Air Force Space Command. He’s fond of saying, “If it entered or exited Earth’s atmosphere, I had a dog in the fight!”
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