"So What's Your Book About?" Writing a STANDOUT Book Description Step by Step | Michelle Schusterman | Skillshare

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"So What's Your Book About?" Writing a STANDOUT Book Description Step by Step

teacher avatar Michelle Schusterman, Author & Creative Writing Instructor

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (44m)
    • 1. Introduction

      2:19
    • 2. One Sentence Pitch

      5:18
    • 3. The Query Formula

      2:30
    • 4. Character

      6:07
    • 5. Status Quo

      2:37
    • 6. Inciting Incident

      2:19
    • 7. Affect

      2:30
    • 8. Goal

      6:09
    • 9. Conflict

      2:09
    • 10. Consequence

      2:45
    • 11. Putting It All Together

      8:18
    • 12. Wrap Up

      0:32
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About This Class

Whether you're querying literary agents or self-publishing your book, you absolutely need a short, captivating description of your book that will HOOK your audience. Easier said than done, right? 

I used to struggle with writing descriptions of my books until a literary agent gave me "the query formula:" a simple, easy to follow template that helps you figure out exactly what information to include in your pitch—and which details you can leave out. 

In this course, we're going to break that formula down and study each component. We'll analyze book descriptions in several genres and identify what works (and what doesn't). Each lesson includes an activity or brainstorming prompt to help you develop your pitch. 

By the final lesson, you'll have a succinct description of your book that includes all the ingredients you need to grab your readers' interest. I hope you'll share your descriptions in the student project section! 

Meet Your Teacher

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Michelle Schusterman

Author & Creative Writing Instructor

Teacher

Michelle Schusterman is the author of over a dozen critically acclaimed novels for middle grade and young adult readers. Her books have received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher's Weekly and have received honors including multiple Junior Library Guild selections, the CBCC Best of 2019 List, ALA's Rainbow List and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers List, and the NC State College of Education Comic Relief Reading List. 

As a creative writing instructor and speaker, Michelle has led over 500 writing workshops and appeared on panels at DragonCon, Leviosa Con, The North Texas Teen Book Festival, The NYC Teen Author Festival, and Kidlit Con.

In 2020, Michelle launched a YouTube channel where she regularly uploads writing craft and traditional publish... See full profile

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: I love talking about my books, but I hate pitching them. And I think a lot of authors feel this way. After all, we're talking about a story that takes 50, 60, maybe even over a 100 thousand words to tell. How are we supposed to condense all of that down into just a few sentences? But the fact is having a stand out and succinct book description is going to determine whether or not your book finds an audience. I'm Michelle, she's German creative writing instructor and author of over a dozen critically acclaimed novels. I also have a YouTube channel where I talk about writing and traditional publishing and vlog, my own writing journey. If you're going the traditional publishing path, you're probably going to start by looking for a literary agent. And your query letter is going to need a killer description of your book. If you're going the self-publishing path, you need that same killer description to use as a jacket flap or back cover copy, as well as for online outlets where your book will be for sale. This course is for any writer at any stage in the process of writing a book. That's right. You don't have to have a finished draft before writing a great book description. In fact, it can actually help you to do it before you start writing your draft. I always write my query letter or jacket flap copy before I start even outlining my book because I find it serves as a sort of compass that's going to guide me and keep me focused. Something that I can turn to and look back on when I'm in the middle of drafting and things are getting muddy and maybe I'm going off course. And a if you have already finished a draft, first of all, congratulations. Second of all, this course is also for you. The steps we're going to walk through are going to help you filter out all of the unnecessary details and figure out exactly what you need in your description that is going to get readers interested. We'll start with the one-sentence pitch, which is really similar to the log lines you see for movies and TV shows. Then I'll share the formula for a perfect book description given to me by an experienced literary agent. And break down each component of the formula. Once we put them all together, you'll have a standout description to use for your back cover copy or query letter at the end of this course, I hope you'll share your book descriptions in the student project section. And now if you're ready, let's get started with the one-sentence pitch. 2. One Sentence Pitch: Summarize your whole book in one sentence. Yes, you can do it, I promise the one-sentence pitch. Movies have them, TV shows have them, and books have them check out pretty much any book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or any other online retailer, or crack open a hardcover and take a look at the inside of the jacket flap. It's that one single sentence summing up what the story is about, usually in bold or italics above the longer description. This is your hook. Know you aren't going to be able to explain the full complexity of your story in one sentence, but that's not the point. In fact, sometimes very frequently, a logline will just be a comparison. Two other books or shows or movies. Other times it'll just give the reader an idea of what the genre is. I think one of the biggest mistakes authors make here, especially early on in the journey, is they try to focus on what makes their story unique in the one-sentence pitch. But hear me out, that's not actually the purpose of this pitch. You're trying to find your audience, and at the moment they're not your audience yet. So where are they? Are they in the epic fantasy audience? Are they in the rom com audience? Are they in the psychological thriller audience? Maybe they're looking for absurdist literary fiction with a quirky voice. Let's flip this around for a minute. As a reader, audience or audiences are you in because I'm sure you're in more than one. I know I am for now, just pick one. Let's say you're in the legal thriller audience. You're in the right section at the bookstore or the online retailer. You're browsing the legal thrillers and one of the books you glance out when you look at that one-sentence pitch. It doesn't sound like a legal thriller. Maybe it even tries to tell you that it's not like all the other legal thrillers. It transcends the genre. Is that the book you're going to buy? I wouldn't, because at the moment I want a legal thriller. That's what I was looking for. What I'm trying to say is yes, readers are always hoping the next book they read will surprise them in a wonderful way, even if it's in a genre that they read really frequently. But when we browse, first, we're looking to see if this is the kind of book we like to read. And you want your one-sentence pitch to say, yes, this is your kind of book, then everything that comes after in this description that's going to be about what makes your books special and what makes your story stand out. So now that you get all that, Let's talk about writing a killer one-sentence pitch. The first and maybe most important tip I have for you here, because this works for me every time is to take at least 15 minutes to go look up and read longlines for other books, shows and movies that are in a similar genre or style to your book. For books, obviously, you can check them out on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or any online retailer. You could even go over to your bookshelf and grab a few copies of what you would consider to be comp titles to your book and see if there are one-sentence pitches on the back cover or the jacket flap. Another great option is to go to Netflix or Hulu or any streaming service and take a look at the log lines for various shows and movies. When you do this, switch out of offer mode and into reader or viewer mode. Ask yourself which of these books or shows do you want to read or watch based on the description? Why? If you find ones you really love, you might even consider using them as a template as you write your own. A few more tips. Keep this sentence as short as you can. Don't cheat by writing a run-on sentence that's actually a paragraph. Again, consider this from a reader perspective. When we browse, especially online, we swipe real fast. If something looks like it's going to take more than a few seconds to read and comprehend. We might not take the few seconds to read it. Sad, but true. Keep this sentence short. To don't use character names, describe them instead. John Smith, no. Criminal psychologist with a secret past? Yes, three, if your book has an ensemble cast, focus this sentence on the one-character with the most to lose in the story, or describe the group as a whole. For example, survivors of a plane crash or outcasts with telecom network powers don't try to describe each individual character. Save that for later, for hint at the conflict. What does this character or cast of characters want? And what's in their way? Throughout this course, I'm going to be developing my own example of a book description right along with you. It's an example that I've used a lot in the past and my YouTube videos, and I've never actually written this book, but maybe one day I'll get around to it. A reclusive boys dreams of asking the most popular girl in their small town to homecoming are thrown off course when aliens invade and claim her as their queen. If you have a good X meets why comparison? This is the time to use it, for example, to all the boys I've loved before meets Independence Day. I can't tell if that's good or if it's so terrible, it's great. Whatever you come up with right now, just remember this isn't set in stone. Just try to get something down right now. And as we work through the longer description, just know that you can always come back to this and tweak this sentence or just completely change it. If you figure out something that's going to work even better for now, get one sentence down, and then we'll move on to the query formula. 3. The Query Formula: This formula is invaluable. I highly recommend you save it and use it in the future when you start new books and you're in the brainstorming process because it's just really helpful in figuring out what the core conflict of your story really is. And it's a great starting point for writing. Synopsis, queries, outlines, your draft, everything. But again, if you've already written your draft, No worries. This formula is going to help you focus on what you want in your book description. As I said earlier, I call it the query formula because it comes from one of my closest friends who was a literary agent for nearly a decade. And again, a pitch for a query letter is going to be no different than a jacket flap or back cover copy. It's all the same thing. In fact, authors who write really fantastic query letters often find that their pitch ends up on the cover of their book when it's published because the editor and publisher thought it was perfect, as is, this formula is really great because to me, the most difficult thing about writing a book description is just to know what information to include and how to put it all in order that will make sense to someone who has not read the book, all you have to do is fill in the brackets. Character was status quo until inciting happens. And here's how that affects the main character's life. Now character must goal despite conflict or else consequence. When you're filling this out, don't worry about being Boise or even grammatically correct. The point is just to get these beats of the story on the page, I'll play with my example to show you what I mean. The reclusive Jack is working up the courage to ask Jill to go to the up the hill dance until aquatic aliens crashed land in their small towns Lake and claim Jill is the long-lost air to their planets sovereign power, which is now being challenged by a rival family, throwing Jack's plans for homecoming king and queen in parallel. Now Jack most proved the aliens have the wrong girl, despite increasing proof that Joel might be a little less human than everyone thought, or else they'll take her from Earth forever and Jack can kiss his homecoming, court dreams Goodbye. So this is an extension of your one-sentence pitch. Technically, it's to probably run on sentences, but that's okay. We're going to finesse this into a couple of short paragraphs. You can take some time now to try and fill this out. Or you can go ahead and go through the next several steps of this course because we're going to break down what each of these bracketed components mean and do a few exercises to help you brainstorm exactly how to best present them in your description. 4. Character: Ideas for books come to us all different ways. Sometimes it's a character, sometimes it's a world or a setting or a magic system. Sometimes it's a premise or just a conflict that we really want to explore. I know for me, rarely are my ideas actually characters. It's usually a premise or maybe a world-building kind of element that I want to get into. So when I start brainstorming a book, when I start really developing an idea into a plot, I spent a lot of time with the character because I really believe that your character and the transformation they go through in the course of your story. That's ultimately what's going to get readers to fall in love with your book are protagonists, are complex and the tough thing about writing a book description is that you want to give the reader a good idea of what makes this character compelling in just a few words. So we're talking about a lot more than just their name and age. Although certainly you will see a lot of pitches start with 16-year-old Nicole or something similar. But I think we can do even better than that. If you're familiar with the Snowflake Method, Randy increments and uses an example from his own novel transgression. A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the Apostle Paul. First of all, notice how incredibly short and to the point that logline is masterful. Now, look at the character. He doesn't give us the name of the character or his age or anything like that. He gives us two words, rogue physicist, just two words, an adjective and a noun. And that gives us a really exciting, vivid image of this character that compels us to follow him on this adventure. But this is easier said than done, right? I bet you can come up with 50 adjectives and 50 nouns that would all accurately describe your protagonist. So how do you know which ones to choose? Well, let's start by making those lists. First up, nouns. And when I say nouns, what I mean in terms of character is really identities. How would your character identify themselves? Make this list as long as you want. Consider their job or career, of course, although different characters may or may not actually use that to identify themselves. For some people, their whole lives are consumed by their careers, others not so much at all. Look for other ways your character might identify themselves. Are they, for example, an activist, a creator, a connoisseur of something. They might identify themselves by their work like teacher or captain or alchemist. They might identify themselves based on some emotional traits, like loaner or adventurer or free spirit. They might identify themselves based on a relationship with another character, such as parent or spouse or child. If you're writing a novel that features a protagonist with some sort of power, they might have a noun to identify that, such as telepathic or dragon's layer. Of course, it doesn't have to be a superpower. But some skill they have like woodworker or coder or a marathon runner. They might identify themselves based on a particular belief, a spiritual belief of religious belief, a political belief. Come up with as many of these as you can. Next, let's do the same thing with adjectives. Now you're thinking about your character's personality. Again, just write down as many of these as come to mind. Take a screenshot of this page and borrow as many adjectives as you need to consider both adjectives your character would use to describe themselves. Adjectives their friends and family would use to describe them, and adjectives their enemies might use to describe them. Book descriptions are with a few exceptions, written in third person, regardless of whether the book itself is written in first person or third or whatever. That said. The way the protagonist is described in the book description might be self-description, but it might be more of an omniscient, observational kind of description. And which way you go is going to depend on the style and tone of your book because you want that reflected in the description. What am I talking about? I'll give you an example. Imagine using the word dream boat to describe a protagonist in your pitch. Is that how the reader's supposed to see them? Is that how the narrator sees him? If this is an omniscient narrator, are they being sarcastic? Is dream boat how he sees himself? And is it accurate? The answer to all of these questions could be yes or no. It could work in any case, but it should be clear to the reader in context of the description whether or not the character is actually a dream boat. Take some time to mix and match adjectives and nouns from these lists and see if doing so sparks any new combinations or words or descriptions. Ultimately the strongest description is going to be one that shows conflict or at least hints at it. Consider rogue physicist. Again, the word rogue in and of itself implies conflict, right? So for my alien rom com, I'm going with a Gora phobic x swimmer for my main character. Agoraphobia definitely implies conflict because presumably my character is going to have to go outside at some point. And x swimmer makes the reader ask the question, why? Why x swimmer? What made him quit swimming? What made him stop going outside? And when you can get your reader to start asking questions like that, you're on your way to getting them hooked bow, you'll definitely find examples out there of great book descriptions that have more than one character, more than one protagonist. Keep in mind that we only have a few short paragraphs to work with here. And the more time you spend describing all the different characters, the less time you're going to have on the conflict of the story, it can really help to read the great descriptions of books with multiple points of view to see how they do it. Just like with the one-sentence pitch. You might end up using one of these as a sort of template for your own book. If you decide to go the route of describing the cast as a whole instead of one character, you can still do this exercise. List as many nouns as you can to describe the group as a whole. And again, you might go with profession if that's what unites them, or relationships. If their family or old friends or enemies or opponents, what unites them? Why are they together? And again, list as many adjectives as you can to describe the group as a whole. 5. Status Quo: Status quo, this is what's going on in your character's life at the start of the story. And right off the bat, I want to point out the most common mistake I see here, not just in the description, but in the story itself, the status quo should inherently need to change. Now the main character maybe doesn't know this in the beginning. In fact, they probably don't know this, but try to think of a book or show or a movie where at the very beginning, the protagonist is completely content with his life. He wouldn't want to change anything. It's great the way it is. It doesn't matter if it looks to you or anyone else like a good or bad life. The main character totally happy with things going on the way they are. I'm hard-pressed to think of an example where the answer is yes. Again, whether they know it or not and they very well might not. The main character needs to have their life shaken up. And that's why the inciting incident, whatever it is, will succeed and knocking them off that path and setting them down a new one. In other words, there's a reason they are the main character of this story. And there's a reason this inciting incident is going to have a profound impact on them and change the course of their life. Maybe they're keeping a secret from a loved one. Maybe their longing for something, but they're too scared to go out and try to get it. Consider the novel, everything, everything by Nikola you, a new boy moves in across the street from a teenage girl. That could be the start of a romance or it might not. But there's more to it in this novel because in this case, the main character is living in a bubble, unable to leave her home because of her medical condition and her overprotective mother. Her status quo quite simply can't go on like this. She longs for a life outside of her house. She might fall in love with the boy next door, but this catalyst of him moving in, It's about more than just romance. It's about a girl discovering the truth about herself and taking the step she needed to explore the world. The boy moving in next door was the catalyst because her life needed to get shaken up. My status quo for Jack, his life consists of going to school and coming home and never going anywhere else due to his agoraphobia, which manifests in high levels of anxiety when he's in unfamiliar places or settings and surrounded by a lot of people, occasionally leading to panic attacks. Jack has been nursing a crush on Jill, one of the most popular girls and his school for years. And he daydreams about asking Jill to the dance for homecoming, but he knows his phobia is going to just make that an impossibility. So what happens to shake Jack's life up and push him to face his fears? Well, that would be the inciting incident. 6. Inciting Incident: The inciting incident. This is the earthquake. This is the call to adventure. It's the moment that sets our whole story in motion. This might be something a big event that affects everyone in the world. It might impact just a small number of characters or it might impact only your protagonist. It's really the only point in your story where it's okay to have something just happened out of the blue to your protagonist. Everything that comes after this should be a result or consequence of choices and actions that your character is making and taking. Now that said, your inciting incident might be deliberate or it might just be circumstance. What I mean is that whatever this incident is, your character might find out later that this incident was planned all along by another character, maybe by your antagonist or maybe again, it's purely a coincidence. It's just a thing that happens. A hurricane, a natural disaster. Aliens invading, it might be the outbreak of war. It might be a pandemic. It might be the discovery of an object or a place that the character just happened to stumble upon. Think back to when you first got the idea for this book. You might have started with a what if question. A lot of book ideas start with what if questions. And if you're having a hard time deciding exactly which beat and your story is the inciting incident. It can help to think back to that. What if what if a kid with dyslexia and ADHD learned he was the son of the Greek god Poseidon. What if an awkward geek got bit by a radioactive spider that gave him superpowers. What if a tornado WR girl to a fantasy world? In fact, next time you find yourself wondering what your inciting incident is, think of Dorothy saying, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. What's the moment in your story where your character isn't in Kansas anymore. Whatever happened right there, that's probably going to be your inciting incident for Jack. That is going to be aquatic aliens crash landing in his small towns Lake because they believe their long ago kidnapped queen is among the humans. And now they're going to find her, restore her memory and take her home. Now, something like an alien invasion, much like a weather disaster is going to affect all, or at least most characters. Not just the main character, but our main character is our main character for a reason. And that's why the next part of the query formula focuses on how this impacts or effects him in particular. 7. Affect: Like we talked about in the previous lesson, your inciting incident might impact everyone in the world. It might impact a group of characters, or it might just impact one character. And the point of this part of the query formula is to show how it impacts that one character. I think this is especially important if you're inciting incident is large-scale, like an alien invasion. Because we can all imagine how an alien invasion might impact the world. We can certainly imagine how it might impact us individually. But again, your protagonist is your protagonist for a reason. How does it impact them? And here's the really important part. What action does he take as a result? Remember his status quo, there is a reason his life needed to get shaken up. Things can't go on the way they are, whether your character knows it or not, he needs a shove down a new path and your inciting incident is that shove. Take my example of Jack, the agoraphobia x swimmer whose life consists of going to school and coming home and never going anywhere else. And who has been nursing a crush on Jill, one of the most popular girls in his school, and daydreams about asking her to homecoming but not taking action. Imagine this kid who's already dealing with anxiety and panic attacks and some sort of secret past as a swimmer which he gave up for reasons we don't know yet. I'm thinking that he was even like winning medals and maybe he was on the swim team and something happened there. Aquatic aliens land in his small towns Lake and take up residence underwater as Jack gonna go running out to see them. Oh heck, no. This inciting incident is going to confirm all objects, spheres. He needs to stay inside and avoid everyone to stay safe. Except remember how the aliens are here because they're looking for they're kidnapped queen among the humans. Well, of course that's going to be jill. The aliens think they found the long-lost air to their planets sovereign power, and they need her help because they're under attack by rival aliens. Of course, Jill has no idea what they're talking about, but they grab her and drag her into their ship in the lake. And Jackson next swimmer remember, and a good one at that. But now he's got agoraphobia. He suffers panic attacks and crowds of people diving into a lake and boarding a ship full of aliens. Kinda sounds like this guy's worst fear. But they've got Jill and that's the push. Jack needs to take action to be the hero and rescue the damsel in distress. And that brings us to goals. 8. Goal: The inciting incident often makes the character's goals seem pretty obvious because the incident made things wrong and the protagonist wants to set things right and making things right. Whether it's rescuing something or finding a lost object, or just surviving or escaping something. Those are all pretty solid once. But here's the thing that's going to take your good book description and elevate it to great. Showing that in addition to your character wanting something, your character needs something and the even trickier part, she might not know she needs it. That's a big ask for a little book description, but I bet you can do it. And when you do your jacket flap copy or query letter is going to be irresistible. Let's take a look at a few examples. Here's the description for a novel called for the wolf by Hannah Witton for fans of uprooted and the bear and the Nightingale comes a dark, sweeping debut fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary wolf of the wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the wolf isn't the only danger lurking in the welder would, as the only second daughter born in centuries, red has one purpose to be sacrificed to the wolf and the wood in the hope you'll return the world's captured, God's red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can't control. At least she knows that in the welder would. She can't hurt though. She loves again. But the legends lie. The wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn't learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the welder would end her world hole. The ones is obvious, right? Read wants, she's almost relieved to sacrifice herself to the wolf and savor kingdom. But did you spot the need? It's right here. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. Read believes that she is plagued by a dangerous power she can't control. She needs to learn that this power isn't dangerous and she needs to learn how to control it. And that's the key to making this work for you. The thing your protagonist needs should conflict with what he wants. Things aren't as simple and straightforward as he thinks at the start of the story. To truly get what he wants, he's going to have to change his beliefs in some fundamental way. Here's another example from one last stop by Casey McClinton for cynical 23-year-old August moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right. But things like magic and cinematic love stories don't exist. And the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can't imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there's certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures. But then there's this gorgeous girl on the train. Jane, dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile showing up in a leather jacket to save August and say when she needed it most. August subway crush becomes the best part of her day. But pretty soon she discovers there's one big problem. Jane doesn't just look like an old school punk rocker. She's literally displaced in time from the 1970s and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it's time to start believing in some things. After all, this is a rom com and the protagonists want in a ROM COM is pretty much always going to be to end up with the love interest. But did you catch the need? In this case, it's the very last line of the description. Maybe it's time to start believing in some things. After all, the very first word used to describe August is cynical and that was delivered. August probably doesn't see anything wrong with being cynical. Life has probably taught her it's best to be cynical, to be alone, to not believe in love, falling for someone who has displaced in time. It's probably going to validate that belief for August. If she's going to get a happily ever after, she's going to have to overcome this deep-rooted belief and get to the core of why she's been clinging to it all her life. And let's do one last example. The ones we're meant to find by Joan heat see awoke on an abandoned island three years ago with no idea of how she was marooned. She only has a rickety house in old Android and a single memory. She has a sister and C needs to find her stem prodigy Casey, once escape from the science and home she wants trusted. The metropolis, Earth's last unpolluted place is meant to be a sanctuary for those committed to planetary protection, but it's populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now she'll have to decide if she's ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed, the people who mattered most. In this description, we have two protagonists. Sees description is brief and her want is obvious. Find her sister, Casey, who's need we see and how it ties into her want. We're told quite literally she wants to escape from the science and home. She wants trusted. And there's a strong hint here that this betrayal resulted in the loss of her sister. See, she needs to overcome that desire to escape and use her Protocol Skills to save humanity. And we can assume her sister as well, spend a few minutes brainstorming your characters need and how it's going to tie into their want. And as you do, you might find yourself revisiting those nouns and adjectives we worked on in that earlier lesson. Look at our examples again, stem prodigy Casey, cynical August. There are undoubtedly dozens of other words that would accurately describe these two characters and their personalities. But the author went with these particular descriptors because of how they tie directly into the need and the main conflict at the heart of their stories. As for my example, Jack needs to stop repressing whatever happened in his past that made him quit swimming and triggered his agoraphobia. He needs to confront the issue and learn to manage his anxiety in a healthy way. But protagonists are so unwilling to change at the start of a story, aren't they? That's what makes it so fun to root for them. And that is what gives us conflict. 9. Conflict: Now, if you've already written your draft, you probably already know the dozens of obstacles your protagonist has to overcome for the description, you want to pick the one that's most relevant to the stakes and even better, the most relevant to the protagonists. Personal stakes that work you did in the last lesson and figuring out your characters need and want and how they may be cause some friction when they bump them next to each other that is willing to pay off in conflict. So in my example, Jack's obstacles and the resulting conflict are already pretty obvious. He's afraid to go outside. He's an accomplished swimmer, but has some sort of past water-related trauma. Aliens have kidnapped his girl and taken her into the lake. Is there any way I can twist the knife even more? Make this a bit harder for Jack. Really tie together that need and that want. Well, what matters most to Jack in this story is Jill. So that need, I think that should be job related to I think when he does rescue Jill, she's going to be exhibiting some decidedly aquatic alien tendencies. And I think Jack is going to learn she had something to do with whatever water-related trauma he suffered in the past. There's an Oscar Wilde saying that goes, there are only two tragedies in life. One is not getting what one wants and the other is getting it when it comes to fiction, I'm a pretty big advocate of option number two. Let your protagonist get what they want only to learn it isn't at all what they thought it was going to be. I think Jack overcoming all of these obstacles and facing his fears and diving into the lake and fighting aliens to rescue the girl, only to learn she might just be their queen after all, would be a great way to get jacked to finally figure out what he needs in order to truly save the day and transform into a hero. And you don't want to spell all this out in your description. You don't want to give away the farm, but even just hinting it that making the reader say, whoa, whoa, okay, wait, housing in and get out of that one. How is a happily ever after or even possible for this guy? What will he have to do? What sacrifices will you have to make? What's going to be the consequence, which is the next part of the formula that is really going to get them hooked. 10. Consequence: To put it simply, the consequence in the query formula represents the Steaks. Steaks tell us why the story matters. What does the protagonists have to lose if they don't get what they want and figure out what they need. High stakes are great if you're writing that kind of book. But quieter stories have stakes too. They just tend to be a little more internal and a little more personal. But regardless of whether you're writing a quiet literary novel or an action-packed thriller, you're going to want a character with an external want and an internal need that crashed together and create the stakes of the book in my example about Jack, his pursuit of his external want of saving Jill from the aliens is going to force him to confront his internal need. But sometimes the protagonist spends most of the book focused on his internal need and his discoveries lead him to an external want. Let's take a look at the description of black bug by material ask a report which brilliantly illustrates this idea and unambitious 22-year-old Daron lives in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother who wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential as the valedictorian of Bronx Science. But Daron is content working at Starbucks and the lobby of a midtown office building, hanging out with his girlfriend so RIAA and eating his mother's home-cooked meals. All that changes when a chance encounter with RET Daniel's, the silver tongue CEO of someone. And why seized hottest tech startup results in an exclusive invitation for daring to join in elite sales team on the 36th floor after enduring a hell week of training, Daron, the only black person in the company, reimagines himself as buck, a ruthless salesman, unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and bug feels he's hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America's Salesforce, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game. I'm sure you noticed that key description of the protagonist at the beginning, unambitious Daron status quo is that he has big potential. He's clearly smart, but he's wasting it. And that begs the question, why we've got the inciting incident here with the chance encounter with a silver tongue CEO. And the effect is that Daron literally reinvents himself as a ruthless salesman, unrecognizable to his friends and family. We see conflict in the mention of a family tragedy that sends dare into his lowest point. Because being a ruthless salesman didn't work because he hasn't quite figured out what he needs yet. And this leads Daron to a new want, a bigger want that motivates them and helps them find a bigger cause, meaning in his life. The last line, help young people of color infiltrate America, Salesforce setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game. Kinda sounds like some pretty high stakes to me. 11. Putting It All Together: Hopefully by now you've got tons of notes and ideas for each section of this formula. All you have to do now is plug it in and you'll have to really poorly written Missy run-on sentences, but that's okay. The next step is just going to be finessing. It will take a look at what I ended up with for my story about Jack, a gaur phobic x swimmer. Jack spends most of his time daydreaming about asking the beautiful and popular Gilda Go to the up the hill dance until aquatic aliens crashing. And in their small towns Lake and clean Jill is the long-lost air to their planet sovereign power, which is now being challenged by a rival family. And to Jack Sawyer, they dragged her to their ship, deepen the lake. Now, Jack must overcome his fears and prove the aliens have the wrong girl. Despite increasing proof that Jill might be a little less human than everyone thought, or else the aliens will tear the Earth apart in their war and Jack will lose everyone he loves, including Jill. This is real messy, but the ingredients are there. Don't be afraid to write a really, really awful description to start with. This is the lump of clay and now you're going to shape it into a beautiful statue. If you're looking at your messy description and you still aren't sure where to start shaping it. Go back to those descriptions you found of similar books, shows, or movies to yours. Can you use any of those descriptions as a template to get you started? I looked up a few YA Elian romances. Did you know that was a genre? Well, you do know, and here are a few that I found alienated by Melissa landers two years ago, the Aliens made contact. Now, Keras Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. So this is Keras status quo. For the last two years, humans have been in contact with aliens, which we can imagine has changed things quite a bit, hand-picked to host the first ever layer exchange student. Kara thinks her future is set. So there's the inciting incident. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, She'll have inside information about the mysterious layers that every journalist would kill for. Keras blog following is about to skyrocket, still carry, isn't sure what to think, what she meets a helix. Humans and layers have nearly identical DNA, but cold infuriatingly brilliant. Alix couldn't see more alien. She certain about one thing though, no human boy is this good looking, and that's how it affects the main character's life. A classic Girl Meets alien tail. But when Keras classmates get swept up by anti layer paranoia, midtown high school suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appearing, cares locker and a police officer has to escort her and elites to class. Kara find support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Alex isn't just her only friend. She's fallen hard for him, but Alex has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange and it's potentially deadly consequences. Soon Kara will be in the fight of her life, not just for herself and the boys she loves, but for the future of her planet. Everything from the second half of the formulas here just scrambled up. Keras goal is to get the guy and defend her planet. The conflict is that she learns a secret about the alien exchange program and the consequences aren't spelled out, but we're told their deadly. And for a bat cover description that is more than enough. We know from reading this that everyone on Earth and the planet itself is at risk. And those are some high-stakes. Let's look at the fifth wave by Ricky and seen after the first wave, only darkness remains. After the second, only the lucky escape and after the third, only the unlucky survive after the fourth wave, only one rule applies, trust no one. This is a clever and ominous way to somewhat explain the title of the book. It also gives us a status quo along with the next line. Now it's the dawn of the fifth wave. And on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from them. The beings who only look human, who roamed the countryside, killing anyone they see who have scattered Earth's last survivors. Cassie, status quo is survivor and she's on the run. To stay alone is to stay alive. Cassie believes until she meets Evan Walker, beguiling and mysterious Evan Walker. Maybe Cassius only hope for rescuing her brother or even saving herself. Inciting incident is meeting the boy and the effect on Cassie is life is that he's her chance of saving her brother and potentially herself. But Casie must choose between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death to give up or to get up. Again, everything from that last part of the formula is here. And more importantly, we're told exactly how this ties into Kesey's need. Casie believes being alone is best for survival. She'll have to uproot that belief to truly survive, she'll have to trust someone else or else. Well, the consequences are life and death. One more, let's look at adaptation by Melinda low risk can't remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later, she only knows one thing. She's different. Now, here's an example of a book where you might argue the inciting incident haven't before the start of the story, recent status quo has already been dramatically altered. The problem is, she doesn't remember exactly why or how. So memory loss, that's how it's affected her life across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights and millions of travelers are stranded. All of this is still definitely part of the status quo for the start of the story. Race and her debate team partner and longtime crushed David or an Arizona. When it happens, everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctors won't tell them what happened, where they are or how they've been miraculously healed? I'll be honest, If I were critiquing this description, I would say cut the first paragraph and open with this one, then sandwich the second paragraph between these two. This paragraph repeats the info from the first paragraph and we want our descriptions to be concise so there's really no room or need to repeat. Things, become even stranger when Reece returns home, San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reece unexpectedly collides with the beautiful amber gray, heard search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret. So again, it's really pretty vague and that's fine because you don't want to give away all of your twists and turns in the description. Races, goal conflict, and the consequences are all wrapped up in this last part, a search for truth and exposing a vast global conspiracy. We also know that the beautiful amber gray has something to do with it. And I may be stretching things a bit here, but I'm going to say that maybe that's how races need and want also collide. I know, like I said, that's stretching it, but I will say this when you've got a main character with amnesia, it's kind of hard to show the reader with a need in that description, right? After all, they don't really know who they are. I highly recommend you look up books similar to your own, what you're going for with your story. Check out those descriptions and then use them as templates to create three or four, maybe even five different descriptions for your own book. I know that looking at what you have in the query formula might feel overwhelming like you maybe you're not sure how to sculpt it now into something really voicing and unique and playing around with the way that other authors have done it for descriptions of their books can help you see all the different fun ways. You can put all of this information together and ultimately find the perfect description for your book. It's also just really fun and can help you see your story in different ways. So I use those three alien Rome come book descriptions to create three different templates are three different descriptions For jacket versus the water aliens. Maybe my next course needs to be about creating better book titles. You can find the descriptions I came up with in a PDF along with the query formula that you can download below for reference as you take all of these pieces and put them together for your own book description. And again, I really recommend you try and write two or three different versions to. It really helps to experiment and play around until you find the perfect description. Plus, it's just really fun. 12. Wrap Up: While I was creating this course, I ended up spending hours reading book descriptions, TV show descriptions and movie descriptions. It's like watching movie trailers, which is something I could waste an entire day doing. So I mean it when I say, please share your book descriptions, however many of them you end up writing in the student project section below, because I would genuinely love to read them. Thanks so much for taking this course. And I can't wait to hear about your books.