Blurbing

May. 6th, 2009 11:28 am
katiefoolery: (The power of the beta!)
[personal profile] katiefoolery
I read a blurb on the book the other day that caused me to laugh out loud. Which, believe me, doesn't usually go down too well in a library... but I couldn't help it. The worst bit is that the subject matter is intended to be rather serious and heart-wrenching, so I felt bad about laughing at it.

For a second or two.

Then I laughed some more.

The blurb starts thusly: Willow O'Keefe is born with osteogenesis imperfecta...

Which is a huge laugh, right? Small child, constantly in pain. I wasn't laughing at that bit, OK?

It continues:
...[a]s her family struggles to cover medial expenses, her mother Charlotte decides to file a wrongful birth lawsuit against her obstetrician for compensation that might ensure a lifetime of care for Willow.

But it means Charlotte has to say in a court of law that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she'd known about the disability in advance. And the obstetrician she's suing isn't just her physician - she's her best friend.

It shouldn't make me laugh, right?

And yet, I can't help it. It's just one tragedy after another until it reaches ridiculous proportions. There's no way I could take a book like that seriously. I mean, you might as well write a blurb that says:
Adorable, pig-tailed child gets a kitten, which dies. She gets a new kitten which digs up the old kitten AND EATS IT. Then dies.

Blurbs are such hit and miss things, though, aren't they? One of my favourite books as a teenager was Obernewtyn and I almost didn't read it because of the blurb, which read like some stock-standard, post-apocalyptic story of the far future.

It also makes me think that I could come up with a pretty amusingly tragic blurb for that doomed first draft of Black Fiddle. Behold:
Jeannie lives a happy, carefree life with her music-loving family until a deadly plague begins to eat away at the land. She and her sister are sent to fend for themselves in the city while the rest of her family falls victim to the plague, leaving them as orphans among strangers. They face prejudice and starvation, forcing Jeannie to sell the precious family heirloom entrusted to her by her grandmother: the Black Fiddle of Barnet.

In a cruel twist of fate, Jeannie's sister is stolen away by Sidhe trapped in the mortal realm seeking a way home... and the only thing that can bring her back is the fiddle Jeannie just sold.
And so on and woe and wailing and woe on woe-tarts with extra woe topping.

Sure, we're all searching for a twist or to submit our characters to the utmost levels of torment in some vain attempt at retribution for ruining our lives and our sleep and our sanity with their insistence on having their stories written. But there's a point where it just goes too far and you break through the walls of tragedy and tension, straight into the realms of ridiculousness.

So has anyone else read any laughably melodramatic blurbs lately? Or, better still: how would you write a blurb of your current WIP (novel, short story, ficlet - whatever it may be) to make it so ridiculously tragic that people are already reaching for the tissues before they even open the cover?
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