The Teaser: The gateway between a possible reader and your book. It’s daunting to think that 200 characters are all you have to convince someone to give your work a try. You’ve probably poured anywhere between 6 months and 5 years, your heart, your soul, a relationship or two, and maybe even a few fifths of whiskey into this thing, and now you have to condense all that toil into one slightly long tweet? It seems impossible, but success means increasing your readership.
The path to a good teaser is riddled with many bad examples and worse advice. Thankfully I knew just who to turn to when looking for clues on how it’s done: Published Inkitt Authors! Looking through the original teasers of people in whose footsteps many of us hope to follow, I found three strategies that work pretty well when generating a good teaser.
Building a Mystery
A psychological thriller about a girl being held captive by her own husband. Although she has a strange power of unraveling truths, her own mental weakness doesn’t let her keep track of what’s real.
-Onaiza Khan, Caged
What’s going on in this teaser?! She’s captive, she’s got superpowers (maybe?), and she’s losing track of reality? What? This teaser has piqued my curiosity and now I’m eager to read more.
The classic teaser is one that takes the most tantalizing parts of the book and puts it on display. In the short space allowed Onaiza Khan has managed to provide just enough information to give a clear idea of the subject while filling us with enough questions to make us want to click.
Start with the basics: What are the most interesting parts of your story? Once you know that, try to look at the questions and notes you yourself had when designing those plot points Chances are the mysteries that first enticed you to write it will also lure others to join you. Sharpen the prose, add a hint of the unknown, and watch the reads go up.
Just the Facts, Ma’am
“An experiment goes wrong at The Oxford Academy of Science, giving certain people extraordinary powers which turns them into ‘Espers‘. An Institute is set up to teach Espers how to control these powers, and stop evil ones.”
-Egan Brass, The Esper Files
Looking at Egan Brass’ terse description of ‘The Esper Files,’ I immediately noticed that it’s a shame I didn’t think of the idea first. But the second thing I noticed was how directly it comes to the point. This teaser reads like the beginning of a newspaper article. The 5 W’s, the H, the WKOAIT (What Kind of Antagonist is There, if they didn’t cover that in your grade school). Everything you need to know is right there in 200 characters.
Sometimes less is more, but a case can be made for providing a full rundown of the central conflict. Anyone who reads this teaser knows what they’re in for, and that also means they’re more likely to be in for the long haul.
It really can be as simple as writing down a few basic question words and answering them. Who is the main character? What is the main setting? What big problem do the characters face? Put it in a logical order and you’ve got a teaser that’s smart, informative, and sure to pull in the readers who will read your novel from the first page to the last.
The coming out story that will completely change the way you look at love. Juliet represents the road less travelled. Will Lena take it?
-Charlotte Reagan, Just Juliet
What Charlotte Reagan accomplishes in three sentences is more than some can accomplish in three novels. Somehow she got me to care about the love lives of two characters that I only know the first names of, and I don’t even like romance novels.
What works here is the question at the end. It sets up the promise of drama and conflict. It creates a natural tension that begs a read just so people know that it all ends happily … or does it? Bah! Now I have to go buy a copy.
Start with the end in mind: What big question is at the heart of your narrative? Once you know that, it’s easy to pick the two or three points that feed that question. What characters are caught up in answering it? What themes are addressed? A good hook with a good cliffhanger can pull in even the most cynical of readers.
So get out there and start teasing … or, um, writing teasing … I mean teasers, writing teasers. Wow, that got awkward fast. Good luck with the contest and I can’t wait to see what you come up with.