Lock the doors. Close the windows. Make sure the kids are safe. And for the love of Justin Bobby, stay away from the computer. There is a scourge sweeping the nation.
Normally I am a mild-mannered fellow. I always wave “thanks” when a driver lets me into their lane, and when pigeons hit me in the face with their wings when they fly by me, I blame myself. Pigeons just don’t understand how I walk.
Queries beginning with rhetorical questions, however… this I cannot bear.
And I have some bad news. I’m losing. The frequency of queries beginning with rhetorical questions keeps rising. Sweet Magnolia cupcakes, I’m losing!
I know, I know… What a strange battle to be shedding tears over (yes, I cry every time I receive one of these letters. Leave me alone). But I will riddle you this: there is no way to make a rhetorical question an interesting start to a query.
The more extreme the rhetorical question (Have you ever wondered if space aliens live in your underwear drawer?) the more I want to say, “NO.” The more mundane the rhetorical question (Have you ever felt sad?) the more I want to say, “NO.” Only the second no is more of a sarcastic no, like noooooo, rather than the first no, which is more of a serious no. It’s all about inflection, people.
Some have pointed out that very good ad campaigns have utilized rhetorical questions. Some have pointed out that movie pitches often use rhetorical questions. True and true. Query letters and rhetorical questions, however, go together like peanut butter and asphalt.
So I have a challenge for you today: maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I should surrender the battle and pledge fealty to my rhetorical question overlords. Should you have the talent, the wit, the hardy constitution, write a rhetorical question that would make a great beginning to a query letter. Let’s see if it can be done. I’m ready to be convinced.
Or you could craft the wildest, craziest, most hilarious rhetorical question that would ever grace an agent’s inbox. You know. Whichever one you would find more fun.
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Art: A swarm of locusts by Emil Schmidt