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Present-tense Book Blurbs (Story Descriptions)

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

Someone just 'informed me' that ALL book blurbs should be written in present tense. When I asked, I got the standard lines: "That's just how it's done" and "it's more immediate and involves the reader more".

Not buying yet-another untested assumption (the market is full of ... them!), I'm asking here: has anyone ever noticed any difference between present and past-tense story descriptions? Particularly in how readers respond to them?

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I was told blurbs are in present tense so I checked some of the books on my bookshelf. They are.

Crumbly Writer

I was skeptical, the same way I am when hearing any untested mantra, but decided to try converting my newest blurb. Turns out, I'd been unconsciously doing it for some time. I'll have to check more of my story descriptions, but this one was all present tense. I'm presently tense about it!

paliden

I usually don't post here. For me it doesn't make any difference what tense (past, present, or future) the "blurb" is written in. Incorrect or words not spelled correctly are a sure indication that the story will probably be poorly written, probably to the point that it will not be enjoyable.

Bottom line - Regardless of the "tense", the story description is the first step in selling the story to me.

Dominions Son

As a reader I would probably initially expect the story tense to match the blurb tense, but I doubt it would bother me much if it didn't.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

As a reader I would probably initially expect the story tense to match the blurb tense,


My guess is you'd never notice it. Look at any blurb from a published book. All those in the random sample I did way back were present tense. I hate reading present tense stories, but never noticed the blurb being present tense.

Ernest Bywater

I never thought about it at all. However, looking at what I've written in the past I see I sometimes use past tense for the background material and use present tense for what happens within the key parts of the story.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

From my newest story description:

Phil, who fought invisible beings and cured mental illnesses, was 'relieved' of his ability by medical intervention. Regaining his abilities and recognized around the world, he's doubly cautious about his approach. In an attempt to remain under the radar, he doesn't inform anyone, and takes an unusual approach.


When I summarize the previous book, I use past tense, but when I describe the current book, I use all present tense.

This isn't the same 'fireside chat' version of storytelling, where you describe what happened to someone from the vantage point of when it's all done and completed, it's instead a story about what the book is about, and thus you describe it in the present tense

From my currently posting story:

A decade after the zombie apocalypse, Leza appears. An unusual young woman, she lives with, cares for, communicates and controls an army of the undead. She is a zombie medium and can teach the living how to survive. If the humans can only keep from killing her, that is.
Arriving during a final confrontation between a survivor refuge and an oncoming horde of the undead, Leza saves the day. She represents more than just another day of survival, but whether that portends humanity's rescue or the future of the undead is anyone's guess. She may be humanity's redemption or their ultimate annihilation.

All present tense. There's not a single "she was this, or she did that" in the entire thing.

Geez, these discussions make me so tense! I'm hoping to get past this and back into the present.

Ross at Play

Use of the present tense makes sense to me.
A story exists, now, so a description of it is not the same as a very brief summary of it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

A story exists, now, so a description of it is not the same as a very brief summary of it.

Both describe the story as it exists, so there's no sense using the past tense. The story IS. Within the story, what happened WAS.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

describe the story as it exists, so there's no sense using the past tense. The story IS.

Yeah. That's a much better way of saying the point I was trying to make.
There is a REASON for the seemingly arbitrary rule that blurbs are in the present tense.

sejintenej

With few exceptions the books on my shelves have the blurb in the present tense.

Apart from the second one below the exceptions are about the author's history. (The countries are those of origin and purpose)

1) (British) Peter Thompson WAS formerly ...... and is now ......
2)(A French book translated) You WILL FIND in this work ....
3) (USA) During ...13 years it WAS the top-ranked ......
4) (Australian) (author) WAS often called ....... He WAS also ........

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

Apart from the second one below the exceptions are about the author's history. (The countries are those of origin and purpose)

That's why I prefer the term "story description" rather than the more generic 'book blurb', since a blurb is merely whatever the publisher dumps on the cover. Many blurbs give NO detail regarding the story, instead just bragging about how many people LOVE the author. I consider those books part of the Trump school of literature (they're only in it to promote themselves, and don't consider the story to be of any merit). :(

I've found that the story descriptions are typically in the present tense, except where it relates to summaries of earlier books.

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