Dear Sharkly One:
I have a quick follow-up question to your most excellent post of 30 October, about starting a book with the MC or not. I'm wondering - does your stand on this change, when the book is a mystery? It seems fairly common for mysteries, thrillers, and other books of that ilk to begin with the crime, not necessarily the main character and his/her problem(s).
So if I query you about Miss Detective and her New Cozy Quilt-'n'-Criminology Shop, which the local Knitting Society is trying to shut down, and my sample pages open with Chris Corpse, and how he came to be lying in a forest covered in shark bites, would you stop reading? Or would you keep going, assuming that Miss Detective will show up shortly to begin unraveling the mystery?
(Of course, my query would be about Miss D and her problems - quilting, sleuthing, or otherwise. I'm just wondering about your comment on opening the book with what appears to be a secondary - or even tertiary - character rather than the main protagonist.)
Thank you for your most excellent insight. I await your response with shark-baited* breath!
* Yes, I know it's supposed to be "bated," not "baited," lest I offend your grammatical sensibilities. But I couldn't resist the pun!
Why would you tell me how Chris Corpse came to be in the copse when Miss Detective will be trying to figure that out in the book? In other words, don't tell me more than your main character knows UNLESS that's what you're also doing in the book.
In the soon to be published DEATH AND THE RED-HEADED WOMAN, Fabulous Loretta Ross told me about Wren Morgan finding a dead body in the house she's preparing for an upcoming auction. She did NOT tell me how Mr. Corpse came to be there because that's one of the things Wren needs to solve very early in the book.
There is one rule, and one rule ONLY for effective queries: entice me to read on. Generally I try to give you advice that will steer you in that direction. Things like avoiding rhetorical questions, or don't give away all the plot points, or don't start with weather, driving or waking up. Those generalizations apply to 98% of all queries. If you're the 2% it doesn't apply to, well have at it.
The problem is, it's hard to know if you're in the 2% catetogory, and you're the worst judge of it. That's why you don't query everyone in the known universe on round one. Leave some wiggle room to change up your query if you're not getting the response you hoped for.