If you want to derail a writer, ask them what their book is about.
“Well, you see, it’s about, um, there’s a girl, and she does some things, but it’s really awesome, well I think it is anyway, and I want to tell it to you, but I don’t want to give anything away, but there are dragons and people and there’s conflict and you’ll laugh and then there’s this big bad guy but I can’t tell you about him because that might give something away…”
And that’s, of course, after the writer gets their gears turning again. Because the first thing the writer thinks when someone asks, “What’s your book about?” is utter and complete gear lock-up.
Trust me on this. If you want to see me speechless, just ask what any of my books are about.
Why is that? Why do writers so often fail to be able to communicate what a book is about when they’ve spent hours and months and decades putting pen to paper to create a whole new world?
Well, it’s kind of like asking someone, “What’s the world about?”
What do you mean, what’s the world about? It’s a world. Well, see, there are people, and then there are a number of settings, and all sorts of conflicts. Can you, can you narrow down the question please?
An entire world dwells in the head of a writer. (Actually, usually more than one at a time, but let’s narrow this down a little bit, shall we?) And yes, a good book will have a narrowed focus. It will truly be about something specific. But it’s hard for a writer to take all that and give a succinct response.
Truly, saying what a book is about is a talent.
So in a few weeks my novel Dragons of the Ashfall comes out from Dark Owl Publishing. What’s it about?
I could give you the “writer” answer. It’s about dragons that eat stories and girls that are just pounded down by their society. It’s about what happens when a culture controlled by gears meets teen girls that suddenly have power. It’s about how stories transform people. It’s about a girl struggling with guilt because her best friend is horribly scarred. It’s about learning how to stand on your own feet. It’s about horrible monsters and dangerous people.
But… that really doesn’t tell you a whole lot, does it? You get little elements of the book. Maybe it piques your interest enough that you want to know more, but it doesn’t really tell you what the book is about, does it?
So, what is Dragons of the Ashfall about?
Let me try this in some way that makes sense.
In Londinium, the Gear rules. Orphans get ground out. They’re labor, nothing more.
But then Patty finds a dragon. She finally has the ability to make the Gear itself take notice. She has the anger to burn down the entire city.
What will she do now?
And there you go. Hopefully that tells you what Dragons of the Ashfall is about. And now you can stop trying to tangle my brainwaves. I have enough problems in my head already, thank you very much!
2 thoughts on “How to Confuse a Writer”
You are right about stumping writers with those broad questions. Usually I ask/suggest a more specific option that would be a bit easier to cover.
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I’m sure those authors appreciate it! I would!
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