Please, No Rhetorical Questions


A pointless habit some writers have is asking rhetorical questions on the back cover text of their book. “Will Mary ever get over her broken heart to love Jim?” (Of course.) “Will Jim be able to save Mary from the dreaded stalker?” (Of course.) Why even ask? We know the main character/s will solve their problems by the end. We probably wouldn’t buy the book otherwise.

I can’t imagine any reader will think in genuine suspense, “Oh no, maybe the hero will die! Maybe the killer will prevail! Maybe Mary will have a broken heart forever!” Treat readers as smart and savvy … because they are. 🙂

Here’s how to end your back cover blurb (or description on a website):

Easy way: If you put questions at the end, make sure they can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”—but “I don’t know, and I want to know!”

Most effective way: Skip the questions. Just give readers so much tension that they’ll eagerly buy the book to see how the hero/s get out of these situations. (We already know they will, but we want to watch their ingenuity and courage in action.)

Here’s a made-up example:

DON’T WRITE:
“… Will Sue and Bob overcome their fears to trust each other in a dangerous life-and-death situation?” (Yes, of course.) “Will Sue be able to do the unthinkable to save others’ lives without telling Bob? (I’m sure she will.) Will their tenuous relationship survive this trauma?” (*yawn* Of course. This sounds boring. I need a more interesting book.)

DO THIS: Ratchet up the tension and leave readers dangling. Force them to buy the book to find out what actually happens.

“… Sue has to put herself directly in the killer’s path—immediately. There is no time to decipher the horrifying clues, and she can’t tell Bob her plan. He would try to stop her. Or worse, take on the killer to protect her, which would mean certain death for him … and she loves him too much to let that happen. Her family is next on the killer’s hit list. Sacrificing herself completely is only way to stop the madness. Or … is it?”

(Reader: I don’t know. How could a killer who leaves clues trip up Sue—a former detective! Why can’t she secretly get Bob’s help? What kind of danger could she be in that there’s no other way out? I’ve got to see what’s going onI’m getting this book!)

Congratulations! You just won a reader. 😀

Savvy Writer Tip:

Your back cover text should yank readers into suspenseful situations they can’t figure out. Build tension by telling us things will get worse and worse, and although the main character is doing everything he/she can, it appears impossible to stop something terrible from happening. In romance books, have the characters face insurmountable odds so that we have no idea how they will overcome them. Readers already know things will work out in the end—so don’t ask redundant questions. What intrigues us is how it happens. Tantalize us with perplexing dilemmas (and no apparent solutions) that provoke our curiosity so much we’ll buy the book and dive in! 🙂

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