Every query letter is different, but I've seen a lot lately with the same problems. It looks kinda like this:
Paragraph 1: Hook.
Paragraph 2: Innocent World.
Paragraph 3: Inciting Incident (often repeating the Hook).
All his life, Po wishes he could be a kung fu master, but he gets more than he bargained for when he's mistakenly named the legendary Dragon Warrior.A few reasons why this doesn't work:
Po has spent his whole life in his father's noodle shop. Blah blah [his father's a goose] blah blah blah [Po plays with kung fu action figures] blah blah [he doesn't actually want to cook noodles] blah blah, etc.
- The hook is repeated and redundant.*
- The reader is forced back in time at the beginning of paragraph 2.
- Paragraph 2 is setup and backstory. There is no plot.
- The query stops before it tells us the meat of the story.
- There is no difficult choice for the MC and, therefore, no stakes.
A BETTER WAY
What you want to do with your query is more like this:
Paragraph 1: Hook, Innocent World, AND Inciting Incident.
Paragraph 2: The struggles that occur as a result, leading up to...
Paragraph 3: The Sadistic Choice
Obviously the three paragraphs are just a guideline (mine had four; your story might do it in two). The point is to start with your inciting incident and end with your sadistic choice. A compelling choice is what will make agents want to read more.
Let's look at Po again:
All his life, Po wishes he could be a kung fu master instead of making noodles, but he gets more than he bargained for when Master Oogway names him the legendary Dragon Warrior by mistake.(See? The inciting incident IS your hook, and you don't need to spend more than a few words on the innocent world. Now the rest of the query is free to talk about what agents really want to know: the story. Moving on.)
Unfortunately, Po suffers from weight and incompetence problems. The Furious Five mock him, and Master Shifu is trying to get rid of him. Even so, Po is determined to learn everything he can, and his refusal to give up eventually earns the respect of the Five, even if his kung fu skills do not.
Master Shifu receives word that the powerful Tai Lung has escaped from prison and is on his way to seek his revenge. He runs to Master Oogway, the only master who has ever beaten Tai Lung, but Oogway insists Po is the one who will defeat Tai Lung. When Oogway passes away, Po must decide if he will risk his life based on the ramblings of an old man, or if he should run away, risking the destruction of the entire valley.
What do you think? Is this helpful? How would you handle things differently?
* The concept of a "hook" paragraph comes from query help sites like this one. It's a sound idea, but often misunderstood.