Recently I've been studying queries by famous authors and found one that works well with my story. No, I'm not planning on stealing it, but I would love to use one sentence that sums up both his novel and mine. The sentence isn't part of the main story, instead the author is giving the ingredients for why his story works.
I know I can change his words to make them my own, but the way he says it is not only beautiful, it's perfection in setting the tone for both our novels. No, I'm not crazy enough to compare his work with mine. I'm simply using what he says is needed about stories in this category.
My question to you is, what would you think if you received a query that quoted a sentence from a super-duper famous best-selling author? Would you sharpen your shark teeth and chomp off my right hand for doing that? Would you adorn your queenly crown and banish me to the pits of Carkoon forever for even mentioning his name? Or would it not ruffle your finely toned fins one bit and you'll focus on what my story is about?
(Query letters are so damn hard to write!)
Let's step back a moment and review the purpose of a query:
1. Entice me to read your novel.
2. Show (not tell) you are not an asshat.
Since it's about the story, and not you, the question is then, will this comparison or metaphor or whatever it is entice me to read the novel?
If someone asked you about your novel, specifically "what's it about" is this sentence something you'd have memorized to make sure you said it right, and knew to say it when people asked that question?
If yes, use it.
If no, or not sure, don't.
You're so caught up right now in the crazypants part of querying that you've lost sight of a very basic fact: I don't care what anyone else says. I care about what you say, and MOSTLY I care about your novel.
If this sentence will entice me to read it, use it.
If it won't (or you're not confident) don't.
I'm not looking for ways to mark you down from A+ to B-. I'm looking for compelling stories that I simply must have because I desperately want people to read them and love them as I do.
Anything that illuminates your story and makes it enticing is good.
Anything that does not, should be left out.
Get off the rodent wheel, you're making the cat nervous.