I don't like questions. Not on query letters. Not on book descriptions on Amazon or on back cover book blurbs. I especially don't like characters asking internal questions either.
You're probably wondering what I'm talking about, so let me give you a couple of examples:
From a book cover: He must win her love to save her life, but will he be able to convince her that he's her one true love before it's too late? Umm...should I care? Because I don't. I don't even know the guy. He could be a total jerk. Maybe she's better off without him.
From a query letter: Will she find her mother? Will her mother accept her now that she knows the truth? What will happen to Clara if her mother rejects her again? **** is a story about a mother/daughter relationship....yada, yada, yada
Narrative: Did she think she could calm the babe when none of the experienced Puritan matrons could? 'Twas not a punishable offense to offer one's aid, was it? Of what consequence was the woman's pride when the babe's life was in jeopardy? Was she listening to his hungry wails, her heart breaking as she watched him starve to death? I ran all these questions together even though this is not how it is presented in the book--but these questions are found within four consecutive pages. That's far too many. This particular book was littered with internal questions. It kept pulling me, as a reader, out of the urgency of the situation by making me come up with answers. Reading shouldn't be a test.
The problem with posing questions is that as a writer, you've taken the situation and reduced it's urgency. You are now asking the reader to "fill in the blanks" and most likely the answers you are hoping for won't be the ones you actually get.
Never underestimate the power of a STATEMENT. Every one of those questions could have been reworked and turned into statement that would have been far more powerful than any question ever could be. AND readers gravitate to powerful writing as well as agents and editors (take a a look at Query Shark and her reactions to query letters that pose questions as a means to hook the reader--she's not too fond of them).
So if you think that by posing a question in your book description on Amazon will hook your readers into buying it, or if you think adding rhetorical questions in a query letter will lure the agent into requesting a partial, you may want to think again. I am only one person, but I know I'm not alone when I say, rhetorical questions don't hook me--they turn me off from what could very well be a wonderful story.
Also, check out your manuscript where your characters are posing internal questions (questions they are thinking but not speaking out loud) and read that section--most likely you will find that there is more power to the writing by simply removing them all together. If you feel the question is helpful or necessary, why not try reworking it into a statement:
He must win her love to save her life, but he will need to convince her that he's her one true love before it's too late.
Now that her mother knows her past, Clara is afraid her mother will reject her again.
She hoped she'd have the ability to calm the babe despite knowing the other Puritan matrons could not.
(Okay, these aren't the best rewritten, but bear with me. Hopefully you can see what I was trying for).
So, the next time you see a writer pose a question, or you're thinking of writing one, ask yourself: Did this question produce the response the writer was hoping for? Did the question add to the narrative or distract? <---These questions are for discussion purposes, which is the action I'm hoping for :) Tell me what you think. I'd love to know.
The Reluctant Hook'er