Friday, April 23, 2021

Have you ever?

 I've had a spate of queries recently that start with a question like "Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a vampire?"


I haven't.

Which means I'm not engaged with your narrative, and that means PASS.

That's really not what you want, is it?

Don't start with a question that has a yes or no answer cause you really do NOT want to let the agent pass on you so quickly.

Instead, talk about how your character wondered what it would be like to be a vampire, and now she's getting the chance.


Mister Furkles said...

When you need to be persuasive, a rhetorical question is always a bad start. Usually, any question is a bad start unless the audience has no viable choice but to listen. In a college classroom, the professor may start with such a question because who will stand up and walk out thinking "No, that's not me." So, people are confused into thinking it is quite intellectual to start with a question.

KMK said...

SO glad to see you posting! This problem is a great example of why you tell writers to get someone else to look at their queries. That question sounds great in the writer's head (it would have in mine!) and they don't imagine someone saying no -- until the reader does. It's something I run into in headlines a lot: never ask a question unless you're SURE what the listener's answer will be.

Michael Seese said...

"Have you ever wondered what it would be like to represent a great guy like me?"

How could ANYONE in her right mind say "no" to that?

Steve Forti said...

The only "have you ever" question that is acceptable to open a query

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I love Janet Reid post that makes me giggle and then slink away in fear that I might have at one pointed committed such grievous errors.

And no, I have never wondered about being a vampire. Dragon? Heck yeah. Vampire. Nah. It's hard to do vampires well in this day and age although I am looking forward to the epic Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff that comes out this fall. So vampires can still be done to good effect but it's hard. Then again, so are dragons. So don't lead with questions about vampires or dragons. Especially in a glutted market. Got it.

How is everyone?

Claire Bobrow said...

I know that look well. My (overactive) imagination frequently conjures it up right after I hit "Send."

Amy Johnson said...

Have you ever wondered what it's like to get conflicting writing advice? I'll follow Her Sharkliness's advice (of course!), but I wonder if the queriers Janet mentioned may have been taught that starting with a question is a good technique to engage a reader. I was. Reminds me of our discussion last month about dialogue tags, when a couplefew of us said (lamented? bemoaned?) we were taught to use "creative" tags instead of "said." Agreeing with others: If we don't know the reader's answer to an opening question, it's better to use a different technique to engage interest.

Doing great here, Elise. Thanks for asking. :) Busy writing and eager to get my seedlings out from under the grow light and into the garden when the temps warm a bit more. Such a beautiful time of year! Hope everyone is doing well.

nightsmusic said...

I'd answer and say, "Don't have to wonder, I wake up like that every night. Sorry, it's a pass."

But that's me :)

AJ Blythe said...

Oh my gosh! The look on that lab's face. While you might be able to say no to a rhetorical questions, Janet, I bet you couldn't say no to that face ;)

Elise, as you know I'm in the query trenches... I think that says it all, lol. Although I will add it's getting cold in Oz and I am a lizard so already counting the days to spring (and we haven't even hit winter yet!).

NLiu said...

Knowing some typical querying errors, and knowing you mostly rep crime fiction, I'm getting the heebie-jeebies imagining queries like this:

"Dear Agent Janet,

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be abducted from your apartment in the middle of the night by a fanatical stranger? Maisie didn't - until it happened to her. Who will be next?

Rep me or you'll regret it!!! :)

Looking forward to hearing from you as soon as physically possible,
Your Biggest Fan muah muah muah I love you and I've stalked you on Twitter devotedly for ever, Jane Doe"

(Delivered by hand to your apartment at midnight along with an open vial of I-hope-that's-fake blood. Of course.)

Stay safe, Janet.

P.S. I'm suspicious the "Have you ever wondered...?" question stems from the author thinking that what hooked them into writing the book is the best way to hook readers for the query: vampires are so cool! How could anyone not wonder what it would be like to be nocturnal and have fangs?! That's why I wrote the book!! Etc.

Right now, I'm wondering what it would be like for an anxiety sufferer to land her first job at a magic school with a poor safety record and a suspicious lack of medical facilities.

But I digress.

Miss you all, reef peeps!

BrianH said...

Have you ever wondered if Mitch McConnell is a were-turtle?
Have you ever seen photographic evidence of him in human form on the night of a full moon?
A...umm...friend is brainstorming premises for his new novel :)

I'll see myself out.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

It's SOOO grand to see a new post - Hi Janet! And it's equally grand to read comments from the reef. Hi Reiders!

Y'all are funny. SteveF, BrianH - HA!

Have you ever wondered what it's like to move a herd of 20plus horses? Stayed tuned! The Proud Spirit Horses will be on the move as the sanctuary downsizes from 175 acres to 50 acres in the foothills of NC. After 30 years, it's time to think about the future and step away from active rescue work.

Craig F said...

I think that starting a query with a question would work better with an elementary of mid-grade book.

I am stealing from one of my favorite vommenters, but here goes.

What is that sound from the fields? It's Clara, the singing cow. Her song can pull the moon down from the sky.