It’s all so important—color, texture, shading…evocative elements that call up emotion…
But we’re not talking about high art; we’re talking about the query letter that you’re sending off to literary agents in hopes of getting a book deal. It’s one thing for your query letter to TELL the story of your book, but it’s an entirely different thing to create text that allows your reader to become immersed in the world of your story.
If your query letter is merely sharing what happens in your book, then it’s not doing its job. Fiction is about emotion, and your query has to not only convey your characters’ emotions, but invite the reader into them. You’ve got to make your reader care.
Here Are 5 Essential Strategies For A More Emotional And Evocative Query Letter
1. Show, don’t tell. You’ve heard this advice before in your creative writing workshops. But did you know it applies to your query letter too? Sure, a query letter synopsis requires lots of telling and summary, but when possible, add in concrete details. Instead of, “After hearing her dog died, Lara was sad.” Try “After hearing her dog died, Lara bought herself a pint of ice cream and headed to the dog park.”
2. The specific always trumps the general. Rather than saying “Defeated once again, Robert went home.” Try “Defeated again, Robert skulked back to his basement apartment.” Or, rather than saying your character wore magical shoes, say she wore ruby slippers (or steam-punk style hovercraft Keds).
3. Set the mood. Mood is a key ingredient that we see missing from many query letters. Sure, you can tell a story, but are you using language to evoke a certain mood—and all the emotions that go with that mood? Investigate your own choice of adjectives and adverbs (if you’re using any) and see if they’re doing a good job of evoking the right tone. Think of the difference between sad and forlorn. Between ebullient and glad. What mood are you evoking with your word choices?
4. Use your setting. Before you launch into your story, consider taking a moment to illuminate your story’s setting. Why? Fiction is all about the five senses, and when you offer a little bit of strong, compelling description, you give your reading something concrete to latch on to (and become immersed in) right off the bat.
5. Focus on high stakes. Now that you’ve got the tools to hook your reader with emotion, it’s time to focus on the story itself. Think of your protagonist. What’s the worst thing that will happen if he/she doesn’t succeed? That’s what’s going to make your reader feel an emotional investment in your character. You don’t want to give away your ending in your query letter (save that for your synopsis), but you do want to hint that it will be meaningful and full of momentum!
Writing your own query letter may seem daunting, but the experts at Writer’s Relief can help! For our Full Service clients, our professional letter writing team creates effective query letters that are skillfully crafted to entice literary agents and build interest in their books. If you’re a DIY-type, you’ll find an easy-to-follow, step-by-step blueprint for writing a successful query letter using proven marketing techniques in our book, The Ultimate Query Letter Tool Kit by Writer’s Relief.
QUESTION: Have you ever read a book blurb (like those on the back jacket of a book) that made you desperate to read the story? What made that blurb so interesting?
I really liked that paragraph about “High Stakes.” I’ve been writing a letter for over a week already, and I feel like really digging into what my character’s failure will mean to the world makes the ending really dramatic!
I’ve been finding it so challenging to do a book blurb. Sometimes after working on projects, I just need a break from them!
All of the strategies you mention are also elements of a good story. I write stories for young children, very short with lots of pictures, but your article was a good reminder for me as well. Thanks, Beryl
I always get stuck right the query letter, wondering how to begin. This helps out a great deal.
This information will help me a great deal, thanks.
I definitely will take your advice. Thank you!