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If you haven’t already read our article about how to choose the right point of view for your query letter, now’s the time. Because in this follow-up article, we’ll take a closer look at how point of view (POV) specifically affects query letter book blurbs for novels and memoirs.
In our previous POV article, we discussed using very straightforward POVs for book summaries—focusing on only one or two points of view. Paragraph breaks can be used for these basic POV shifts.
But if a POV shift is not orchestrated carefully, it can disrupt the flow of the query blurb. And many new writers will shift POV in a query letter book blurb without even realizing what they’ve done. The shift may be only a phrase or a sentence long—but it is still a shift in perspective.
Let’s look at an example of a query blurb with multiple secondary characters offering their POVs on the main action. Each time there’s a shift in POV, we’ll denote the change with a new color:
When Julie “Sass” Krough opens the doors of her bar one summer evening, she expects a typical night filled with bikers, truckers, and women looking for trouble. What she doesn’t expect is a full-scale sting operation going down on her dance floor that ends with her and her bartender Joan being thrown in jail for a drug-trafficking crime they definitely didn’t commit. Joan believes that someone wants to cause problems for Julie, and she decides to do a little digging on behalf of her friend.
(Editorial note: Why use Joan as the lens for this information, when Julie is the person with the most to lose? Better to show the action through Julie’s eyes.)
The path leads to Dylan, an ex-marine and the former owner of Julie’s bar. Dylan has always been jealous of Julie because of her success with the bar, believing that she shortchanged him during their negotiations. Julie can’t believe Dylan would do anything to harm her; in fact, she sometimes has wondered if they might have chemistry. Joan convinces Julie not to trust him, but Dylan insists that Joan is playing them both because she wants the bar for herself. Now, with angry drug-traffickers looking for answers, Julie has to decide who to trust—and the wrong decision won’t just mean losing the bar: she could lose her life.
This book blurb starts out clearly in Julie’s POV, but we lose the ability to sympathize with her because critical information about the conflict isn’t provided from Julie’s viewpoint. Instead, we get bits of information through secondary characters, and the blurb loses emotional momentum.
You might ask: Isn’t this blurb simply an example of omniscient point of view? And yes, it is. But since elements of the action are filtered through the eyes of various secondary characters instead of the primary character, this is considered a shift in POV.
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Point Of View: Tell The Story—Don’t Talk ABOUT The Story
In a good query summary, the reader is so engrossed in the story that he or she almost forgets he/she is reading. A good query pulls readers into the story—it doesn’t remind them they are reading.
In the (very bad) novel blurb below, we’ll highlight the phrases that are unnecessarily self-referential, intrusive, or reflexive. In a revision, these phrases should be eliminated.
In my story Title Here, a sassy bar owner meets her match in a local band of vigilantes led by an ex-marine. The book opens when we meet the heroine—she’s trying to kick the hero out of her bar, and the fireworks fly. Soon, this relationship [note: as opposed to their relationship] eventually brings them both to the realization that if they want to clean up crime in the neighborhood, they’ve got to join forces. In the end, the two must confront a dangerous drug lord to reclaim their turf, leaving readers with a feeling of breathlessness and surprise.
Follow Your Instincts
Not all books will accommodate a query letter blurb that focuses on only one or two POVs. Sometimes, POVs must jump around. Villains need their moment in the sun. Secondary characters sometimes offer key insight into elements that the main character can’t comprehend. But in situations where the information must come through a secondary character, concentrate on keeping the tension high for your main character. Then the point of view you choose should be fine.