QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Friday, January 9, 2009

Writing the Query Letter – The Consequence

The final element you need in your query letter is the consequence. What will happen if the MC doesn't solve the problem? Doesn't get what they want? Will evil forces achieve world domination? Will her brother die? Is it a race against time across Antarctica to find the long lost jewel of the Nile? What's the consequence?

In the queries I've read, this is what's lacking the most. The consequence. You've hooked me, set me up, explained the conflict that's keeping me from getting what I want, but…what will happen if I don't solve the conflict? That's the consequence. If you're having trouble identifying yours, it's time to go back to the revising stage—in the novel.

Let's examine my query letter in full. (Well, it's not the whole letter; I’m planning a bonus post on Everything Else for tomorrow. Yanno, word count, genre, bio.)

Sixteen-year-old Annie Jenkins must control the magic to balance the realm—it's too bad her unknown abilities are hidden beneath her inhalant addiction.

Whenever she's high, Annie has vivid visions of a death she can't remember and a boy she's never met. When she meets Jonathan Clarke, the ghostly boy from her hallucinations, she realizes her drug use has masked the abilities she's inherited from her magic-keeping mother. Wielding magic isn't everything it's cracked up to be; Annie discovers her newfound powers can't cure her terminally ill mother.

Annie learns she has the rare power to bring immortal beings (Shadows) living in another realm back into the human world. Jon has been searching for someone with Annie’s Mirror power for a century. He's desperate for her to restart his heart so he can become human again, but his Reflection can't be completed until she balances the magic. Their problems double when she learns there are evil Shadows who plan to kill her and take control of the realm. One of Jon's old friends is leading the resistance and attempts to recruit him, while Annie discovers one of her friends is really working against her. If Jon and Annie can't find a way to achieve balance, Reflections and potions won't do any good. There is no spell to revive the dead.
That last sentence is my consequence. You need one to complete the query letter. It should be just as "hooky" as the hook to leave the reader (AKA: agent) salivating to request the full. Also, did you notice how my consequence ties back to my hook? In the hook, Annie has to control the magic to balance the realm, and the consequence directly states what will happen if she doesn't. It's made a complete circle for full closure. That's what you want.

Your job: Separate your consequence from the rest of your query letter. Is it concise? Do you even have one? If not, this is a novel problem, not a query letter problem. Is it a cliffhanger? Enough to entice the reader to want to read the entire book?

Missed the other three parts of a query letter? Click to read The Hook, The Setup, and The Conflict. Tomorrow, I'm posting a bonus post: Writing the Query Letter – Everything Else.

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