Friday, April 25, 2014

Can I Hook an Agent with a Question? (A rhetorical blog of questions)

Why should you read this blog of questions?

Is it possible to make a point by not only answering every question with a question, but also taking this argument to the point to absurdity in this very blog post?

Do you want to see if I can do it?

For example, isn't the top complaint of most agents that there are too many questions in pitches and queries? If not the top, isn't it at least in their Top Ten list of pet peeves?

Would you start your novel with a rhetorical question? Why then would you start your query with one? Did I just give some of you a writers a challenge? Do you think it was unintentional? Why do you think I'm writing this blog in all questions?

Wouldn’t you like to hear about some of the kinds of questions agents especially hate? Aren’t you going to keep reading to find out? Don’t you hate it when people insert the opinion they think you should have into a question? Wouldn’t you like to yell at the author and say, “That’s not how I feel at all”? Didn’t you probably yell out the computer just now? Wouldn’t you rather I had just showed you an example and let you decide how to feel about it? Shouldn’t you do the same thing in your query?
Who likes to be told what to do? Do you? Do you think that any reader, agent, or editor likes to be told what to do? Isn’t even worse when you tell them how to feel? Isn’t it even more worse when you tell them how to feel and hide it in a question? Wouldn’t it be better if you just told them about your book and let them decide whether to be interested in it?

When are questions weak hooks? When do questions distract from the story? When do they become about the reader instead about the story? Does it unnecessarily repeat information you’ve already given? Is it an unanswerable question? Is the answer too obvious?
What if your question doesn’t have anything to do with your book? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to delete it? And what about jokes? Is it a good idea to break the ice in your query with a joke? If you were trying to get someone to go to a thriller, why would you waste your time telling them a silly joke? Even if you were trying to convince them to go to a comedy, wouldn’t you want them to know what was in the movie instead of what was in your head at the time?

What if you’ve written a satire? Would sarcastic questions be a classy way to introduce it? Can pigs watch an airplane fly over their heads? How many sarcastic remarks have you seen translate well into print? Can you write sarcastically without cuing the reader that you’re doing it? In any case, wouldn’t that be a pretty big risk?
Don’t you know you only have the reader's attention for 3 seconds? Do you really want to send them on a mind-wandering tangent during those precious seconds?

So, should you delete all your questions and never include them in my query? Doesn’t the presence of the word “never” answer this question? Is anything really “never” done well? Can’t you put a question in that is a strong hook, helps clarify the story, and keeps the reader wanting more? Wouldn’t that then be question you’d want to include in your query? If you do put in a question, though, shouldn’t you ask a critique partner (or several) before submitting?
What are strong questions in queries? Aren’t queries supposed to be about your manuscript for the reader? Can you craft a good rhetorical question that fits the bill? Can a pelican hold more in its beak than its belly can?

Should I tie this all together? Do you want me to stop with all these questions? How about a question that is disguised as a statement. That would be refreshing, right?