Agent Query Help

ColGray

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Anyone have experience with writing effective agent query letters and/or who would be willing to help me workshop mine? I've read about them, read queryshark, read other postings, done some prior posts on the reddit /tradpub forum for help and the comments were.... unhelpful (lots of, Here's why your book is unpublishable, and very few, Here's how you could improve the query letter--the point where I deleted the posts).

The book is SF/F, 140k words.

I can post what I have, but I have 2 main challenges that I'm really struggling to overcome and this may help frame why I'm struggling:

Issue 1: Everything on agent queries says to focus on one character. I don't have one main character. The book follows 7 POV's. The interactions between three of them drive the plot.
  1. "MC" Options
    1. Eigyr: Middle aged woman who leads combat teams clearing cthulu-esque horrors from broken spaceships so they can be salvaged. Estranged from her twin sister, Ronna, she's the best at what she does because she's remained entirely focused on what she wants for decades. She's a smart-ass who can back up her mouth. 23% is Eigyr POV.
    2. Ronna: Middle aged woman and a career XO in a merchant polity who's sacrificed her career for her daughter's education. She is black-balled from the fleet and underemployed, working on a station and protecting her daughter, Maeve. She is nearly destitute and skipping meals so her daughter can attend school without incurring debts. Major political groups have offered her huge sums of money in exchange for her daughter and she has resisted them. 22% is Ronna POV.
    3. Maeve: 17 and brilliant, she is the first certified prodigy in physics in decades. She's neurodiverse and largely unaware of her mother's sacrifices and the threats they face, but Maeve is the driver for both the cause and resolution of the climax. 21% is Maeve POV.
  2. Prior feedback I've received: "You're wrong: you have a single MC and some other characters."
    1. I don't. I've had 12 alpha & beta readers. When I polled them on who the MC was, 4 told me Eigyr, 4 told me Ronna, 3 told me Maeve, 1 told me another character who isn't even a POV character.
  3. Prior Feedback I've received: The problem is your definition of MC. They can't all be an MC because the MC is the one who drives the plot forward.
    1. Right, agreed: One character doesn't do that--the interaction, the tripod, of the three of them drive the plot.
    2. If I remove one, the story falls apart because motivations fail.
    3. If I combined two, (any two) the story falls apart because motivations fail.
    4. If I decenter one, the story is significantly lesser (I tried this) because the stakes fall for the other two.
  4. Prior Feedback I've received: "You need an 'in' character and because it's SF/F, that should be a man. Query based on the man."
    1. There is one male POV and he's absolutely not the MC
    2. The 1 beta reader who gave an answer outside of E/R/M suggested another male character. He's the captain of the fleet and, in many books, would be the MC. He's intentionally not a POV character and not the MC.
  5. Prior Feedback I've received: You HAVE to choose one, so, who would be the character on the movie poster?
    1. I thought this was helpful and went with Eigyr as she's the POV character in the prologue and a reader favorite.
    2. This only contributes to issue 2, and provides a false sense of what the book is about

Issue 2: My inciting incident/prologue can read as MilSciFi. The book is absolutely not.
  1. The inciting incident/prologue is very good (beta reader feedback, not my opinion!) and it sets up the arch-plot, 2 mini-plots, a mystery and the stakes. It also takes place prior to the main story
  2. The story focuses on family trauma, the consequences of our choices and science's culpability for the things we invent.
Potential Changes
  1. Swap to Ronna as "MC". It becomes a story of sacrifice for family and getting caught up in things beyond your control.
    1. This feels maudlin and disingenuous: The interplay between Eigyr/Ronna/Maeve is why the story works. The cthulu-horrors alone are boring, but they serve as a great backdrop for talking about consequences, choices and outcomes.
  2. Swap to Maeve as "MC. It becomes YA-ish and a story about pushing the bounds of science and ethics and accepting that lines can be crossed.
    1. Again, disingenuous. Maeve is a plot fulcrum and one of the vehicles by which the climax is achieved and resolved, but its the tripod of interaction that steers the story.
  3. Use a different initial 250 words/5 pages/10 pages in the query package.
    1. Ronna is the POV character for chapter 1.
  4. Say, Screw it, and try and get all of this down to 250 words for a query.
    1. Aiming to be the exception, not the rule, is a poor strategy.

Thoughts? Advice?
 
And here's what I have:



Eigyr Bhatia salvages bent ships for scrap and tech. It’s lucrative. It’s exhilarating. It’s eating away at her sanity.

Wormhole generation technology gave humanity the stars, but any miscalculation contorts the ships and souls into bent, fractal horrors, trapped in time. So, of course, someone weaponized the outcome, intentionally bending ships and a planet. The act summoned the Tarantella, extraterrestrial enigmas who offered humanity a choice and then vanished: cease bending or cease existing.

Eigyr’s glimpsed the aliens lurking. Watching. She’s seen angry shimmers in her peripheral vision when she rescues healthy infants from bent ships—infants like the one she dropped at her twin’s door before slinking away. Fed up with playing custodian to misfortune, she accepts an offer to find the aliens and resolve the threat to humanity.

The bonds of blood intertwine with the threads of fate as Eigyr morphs her salvage operations into a deep space expedition. Harboring an anguished but unrepentant war criminal and his baby AI and reunited with her sister and grown-up niece, Eigyr navigates family relationships and finishes her final preparations only to find that her decades of work put a target on her back: not from aliens, but from human factions, eager to steal her tech.

Cornered and outnumbered by corporate ships, Eigyr’s only hope for survival involves pushing the bounds of ethical warfare. Hope flickers and reality shatters when the corporate polity bends a fleeing ship, summoning the aliens and changing the terms of survival—for Eigyr and all of humanity.

BENT (140,000 words, complete) is the first in a series. With a diverse cast that features LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse characters, BENT is a multi-viewpoint, sci-fi family story exploring guilt, responsibility and forgiveness. It will appeal to readers of Christopher Ruocchio (Sun Eater), Becky Chambers (A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet) and Craig Alanson (Expeditionary Force), especially those who enjoy audiobooks.
 
for me, this feels too loNg for a query.



Eigyr Bhatia salvages bent ships for scrap and tech. It’s lucrative. It’s exhilarating. It’s eating away at her sanity.

Wormhole generation technology gave humanity the stars, but any miscalculation contorts the ships and souls into bent, fractal horrors, trapped in time. So, of course, someone weaponized the outcome, intentionally bending ships and a planet. The act summoned the Tarantella, extraterrestrial enigmas who offered humanity a choice and then vanished: cease bending or cease existing. I don’t think the last line adds anything, cooler to have the hook of what might happen. You’ve laid the groundwork

Eigyr’s glimpsed the aliens lurking. Watching. She’s seen angry shimmers in her peripheral vision when she rescues healthy infants from bent ships—infants like the one she dropped at her twin’s door before slinking away. Fed up with playing custodian to misfortune, she accepts an offer to find the aliens and resolve the threat to humanity. Which then means this can go - although the last line could be reworked maybe
The bonds of blood intertwine with the threads of fate this is unclear and doesn’t feel fresh like the bit above, so I’d suggest focusing on Eigyr in the query as Eigyr morphs her salvage operations into a deep space expedition. Harboring an anguished but unrepentant war criminal and his baby AI and reunited with her sister and grown-up niece, very complex and confusing - this belongs in the synopsis where you can break it down and explain it Eigyr navigates family relationships and finishes her final preparations only to find that her decades of work put a target on her back: not from aliens, but from human factions, eager to steal her tech.
I’ve removed family stuff and decades of work to keep it snappy
Cornered and outnumbered by corporate ships, Eigyr’s only hope for survival a bit cliched. Up the stakes, make it more personal. involves pushing the bounds of ethical warfare. Hope flickers and reality shatters when the corporate polity bends a fleeing ship, summoning the aliens and changing the terms of survival—for Eigyr and all of humanity.

BENT (140,000 words, complete) this is a problem. Publishers are actively asking their established authors to lower the word counts to below this. Paper has sky rocketed in price. This is a debut. I don’t think any agent will look at 140000 words ninths current market. is the first in a series. With a diverse cast that features LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse characters, are you representative of any of these groups? If so, state it. If not, consider whether to include it. Agents are very focused on told narratives and own voices. BENT is a multi-viewpoint, sci-fi family story exploring guilt, responsibility and forgiveness. It will appeal to readers of Christopher Ruocchio (Sun Eater), Becky Chambers (A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet) and Craig Alanson (Expeditionary Force), especially those who enjoy audiobooks.I like the comparators but why focus on audio books? might turn an agent off if they think it’s only for the audio market
Okay it intrigued me - these are only thoughts, nothing more.

Joe Abercrombie managed to get a three way shared narrative published so it’s nothing new to publishing. The question isn’t about that - if you want to follow the standard format it’s about which one of the three to focus on in the query, and that is possible to choose. For the synopsis, then, you can go into all three. So I think you’ve made the right choice.

as to the purity of the story idea vs the query - forget about that for now. Hook them first. The most elaborate story means nothing to an agent until they’re hooked. One of mine was sold to publishers as an inverse District Nine with no mention of the underlying story that drove it. (Having said that, it failed to sell, so….)

comments above, suggested outcome below:

Eigyr Bhatia salvages bent ships for scrap and tech. It’s lucrative. It’s exhilarating. It’s eating away at her sanity.

Wormhole generation technology gave humanity the stars, but any miscalculation contorts the ships and souls into bent, fractal horrors, trapped in time. So, of course, someone weaponized the outcome, intentionally bending ships and a planet, opening the door to an alien threat.

Fed up with playing custodian to misfortune,I’d like this driver to be stronger. I’d she the only one with the skills to do this? Elgyr accepts an offer to resolve matters, only to find that she has put a target on her back: not from aliens, but from human factions, eager to steal her tech. already cornered and outnumbered, when corporate actions summon the aliens, the terms of survival change.

Eigyr must push the bounds of ethical warfare if she, and all humanity, are to survive.
 
I agree with Jo. The back-cover blurb on my copy of A Game of Thrones suggests that the entire story is from Eddard Stark's perspective. Personally, I would choose the most exciting-sounding character and focus on them for the query, and explain things more in the synopsis.
 
I'm not an expert on queries, so take with grain of salt. I think there's some interesting stuff here but it's swamped.

Eigyr Bhatia salvages bent ships for scrap and tech. It’s lucrative. It’s exhilarating. It’s eating away at her sanity.

(A query often has a tagline or something like this at the top. This one reads well, especially the rule of three usage, but I'm not sure the stakes in "eating away at her sanity" are high enough. It's also a bit long for that purpose. If this isn't the tagline but the start of the query proper, I think it's too divorced from the following paragraph; they should flow one to the other.)

Wormhole generation technology gave humanity the stars, but any miscalculation contorts the ships and souls into bent, fractal horrors, trapped in time. So, of course, someone weaponized the outcome, intentionally bending ships and a planet. The act summoned the Tarantella, extraterrestrial enigmas who offered humanity a choice and then vanished: cease bending or cease existing.

(I really like this paragraph. Fascinating ideas and promise of conflict.)

Eigyr’s glimpsed the aliens lurking. Watching. She’s seen angry shimmers in her peripheral vision when she rescues healthy infants from bent ships—infants like the one she dropped at her twin’s door before slinking away. Fed up with playing custodian to misfortune, she accepts an offer to find the aliens and resolve the threat to humanity.

(The crucial thing here is that Eigyr can see the aliens, that this leads her to being offered the task, and that she takes it. Maybe cut the rest. OTOH you need to bring her salvaging in somehow.)

The bonds of blood intertwine with the threads of fate as Eigyr morphs her salvage operations into a deep space expedition. Harboring an anguished but unrepentant war criminal and his baby AI and reunited with her sister and grown-up niece, Eigyr navigates family relationships and finishes her final preparations only to find that her decades of work put a target on her back: not from aliens, but from human factions, eager to steal her tech.

(I think this is both too involved for a query, but it's also quite vague. A query doesn't need to cover much of the plot, just get the agent to look further.)

Cornered and outnumbered by corporate ships, Eigyr’s only hope for survival involves pushing the bounds of ethical warfare. Hope flickers and reality shatters when the corporate polity bends a fleeing ship, summoning the aliens and changing the terms of survival—for Eigyr and all of humanity.

(I would think of ending with "ethical warfare", as this seems to be the critical-choice point in the story, but make it a bit more "dot dot dot...". Maybe try to end on those last few words.)

BENT (140,000 words, complete) is the first in a series. With a diverse cast that features LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse characters, BENT is a multi-viewpoint, sci-fi family story exploring guilt, responsibility and forgiveness. It will appeal to readers of Christopher Ruocchio (Sun Eater), Becky Chambers (A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet) and Craig Alanson (Expeditionary Force), especially those who enjoy audiobooks.

("Will appeal" sounds a bit overly self-assured to me, but I can't think what I've seen used in its place. Should appeal?)

You haven't said anything about yourself, either. Maybe you've left this out for the crit, but it's usual to have something in the actual query.
 
I agree with Jo. The back-cover blurb on my copy of A Game of Thrones suggests that the entire story is from Eddard Stark's perspective. Personally, I would choose the most exciting-sounding character and focus on them for the query, and explain things more in the synopsis.

Lol, when i stupidly engaged on Reddit about multi-POV books, i brought up GoT. Had a bunch of people try to lynch me for comparing myself to GRRM (I wasn't, merely using the series as an example) and others say GoT is a single MC (borderline on the first book but def not the rest).
 
Harboring an anguished but unrepentant war criminal and his baby AI and reunited with her sister and grown-up niece, Eigyr navigates family relationships and finishes her final preparations only to find that her decades of work put a target on her back: not from aliens, but from human factions, eager to steal her tech.

I really struggle with this sentence in particular because it both introduces the other characters -- an Oppenheimer type war criminal, a baby AI, Ronna and Maeve -- and then establishes the main conflict of the book -- they're trying to get this expedition on the road and major political entities are looking at them and saying, I want what you have.

Do i need both? Do i need either?

I've also gone back and forth about highlighting the "unrepentant war criminal". He's modeled after Oppenheimer and the idea at his core is, What if aliens came down after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and said, If you use atomic weapons we'll end humanity: how different would the last 80 years have been? Oppenheimer was vilified because he was anti-proliferation: what if, instead, he was pilloried and vilified for even creating atomic weapons?

He's a minor character by word count, but, I think, very compelling and he's a major influence and the core of the inner genre narrative of a morality/ethical tale.
 
I really struggle with this sentence in particular because it both introduces the other characters -- an Oppenheimer type war criminal, a baby AI, Ronna and Maeve -- and then establishes the main conflict of the book -- they're trying to get this expedition on the road and major political entities are looking at them and saying, I want what you have.

Do i need both? Do i need either?

I've also gone back and forth about highlighting the "unrepentant war criminal". He's modeled after Oppenheimer and the idea at his core is, What if aliens came down after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and said, If you use atomic weapons we'll end humanity: how different would the last 80 years have been? Oppenheimer was vilified because he was anti-proliferation: what if, instead, he was pilloried and vilified for even creating atomic weapons?

He's a minor character by word count, but, I think, very compelling and he's a major influence and the core of the inner genre narrative of a morality/ethical tale.
I think you're still too married to getting the purity of the tale across, to the deficit of the hookiness of the query. Your job here is to sell it so that someone looks at the rest and actually reads it. If it's not hooky, if it confuses, if it doesn't flow from the rest, it should go.
 
Cornered and outnumbered by corporate ships, Eigyr’s only hope for survival involves pushing the bounds of ethical warfare. Hope flickers and reality shatters when the corporate polity bends a fleeing ship, summoning the aliens and changing the terms of survival—for Eigyr and all of humanity.
(I would think of ending with "ethical warfare", as this seems to be the critical-choice point in the story, but make it a bit more "dot dot dot...". Maybe try to end on those last few words.)

That's a great note.

How bout something like,

Cornered and outnumbered, the pursuers ignore conventional weapon restraints and intentionally bends a ship, tearing reality, summoning the aliens and changing the terms of survival—for Eigyr and all of humanity. If Eigyr and her crew can escape, what will it cost them?
 
Really appreciate this and workshopping it. THANK YOU

Wormhole generation technology gave humanity the stars, but any miscalculation contorts the ships and souls into bent, fractal horrors, trapped in time. So, of course, someone weaponized the outcome, intentionally bending ships and a planet. The act summoned the Tarantella, extraterrestrial enigmas who offered humanity a choice and then vanished: cease bending or cease existing. I don’t think the last line adds anything, cooler to have the hook of what might happen. You’ve laid the groundwork

That last bit happened a couple centuries prior to the time of the novel and I included it to focus on the stakes: This is such a big deal that the consequences for doing it are extermination. This then factors into the last paragraph of the hook part -- someone breaks that rule.

The bonds of blood intertwine with the threads of fate this is unclear and doesn’t feel fresh like the bit above, so I’d suggest focusing on Eigyr in the query as Eigyr morphs her salvage operations into a deep space expedition. Harboring an anguished but unrepentant war criminal and his baby AI and reunited with her sister and grown-up niece, very complex and confusing - this belongs in the synopsis where you can break it down and explain it Eigyr navigates family relationships and finishes her final preparations only to find that her decades of work put a target on her back: not from aliens, but from human factions, eager to steal her tech.
I’ve removed family stuff and decades of work to keep it snappy

Good calls all around. So reduce this down to

Eigyr prepares and navigates estranged family relationships only to find that her decades of work put a target on her back: not from aliens, but from human factions, eager to steal her tech.

Cornered and outnumbered, the pursuers ignore conventional weapon restraints and intentionally bends a ship, tearing reality, thrusting them into a pocket of quantum horrors and summoning the aliens who declared the consequence of such a breach. If Eigyr and her crew can escape, what will it cost them

BENT (140,000 words, complete) this is a problem. Publishers are actively asking their established authors to lower the word counts to below this. Paper has sky rocketed in price. This is a debut. I don’t think any agent will look at 140000 words ninths current market.

Yep, I had been at 165k, then got it to 140k. I was just reading that 120k is the new 140k for SF/F, so I'm trying to find another 20k words to cut but... I'm at the point where it's like, What plot arc is going?

is the first in a series. With a diverse cast that features LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse characters, are you representative of any of these groups? If so, state it. If not, consider whether to include it. Agents are very focused on told narratives and own voices.

I'm neurodiverse and had LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse beta readers to check that. I did include it, but in the personal bit that i left out of this post. Here it is:


I’ve previously released a memoir, Born with Cancer, about pediatric cancer and parental grief over losing our daughter to neuroblastoma. The release generated $100,000 in donations for Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

I work in the legal technology field and studied anthropology at Hamilton College, where I won multiple awards for fiction and poetry. A neurodiverse man, I live in Massachusetts with my wife, son and dog.

I like the comparators but why focus on audio books? might turn an agent off if they think it’s only for the audio market

Part is that i know my dialogue is both stylized and what makes it work. Part is the growing share of sales audiobooks represent (I think Publishing Rodeo recently said it's up from <5% ten years ago to 15-20% today, with the trend expected to continue). Part is that Alanson is typically the top audiobook on Audible-- not top MilSci, not top SF/F: top audiobook on audible--because of his dialogue and narrator (RC Bray).
 
I would focus the blurb on the first character introduced. Otherwise, when someone starts reading the story and the blurb character isn't present, there is going to be confusion and a feeling that the blurb doesn't match the story.

I believe this describes the intent of the story:
The story focuses on family trauma, the consequences of our choices and science's culpability for the things we invent.

The science aspect seems to be touched on in:
Eigyr Bhatia salvages bent ships for scrap and tech. It’s lucrative. It’s exhilarating. It’s eating away at her sanity.

Wormhole generation technology gave humanity the stars, but any miscalculation contorts the ships and souls into bent, fractal horrors, trapped in time.
The problem I see is that the term 'bent' is undefined. I don't know what a bent ship might be or why being bent is bad. Perhaps use a standard term such as damaged? This doesn't hint at why or how science is culpable or what it is culpable for. What are the consequences to the ships and those on board?

The family aspect gets touched on by:
The bonds of blood intertwine with the threads of fate as Eigyr morphs her salvage operations into a deep space expedition. Harboring an anguished but unrepentant war criminal and his baby AI and reunited with her sister and grown-up niece
but this doesn't give any indication of trauma nor any bad choices made by Eigyr. And what consequences did she face? I'd focus on why she was separated from her sister and niece.

You seem to have a deeply thought out story, I'm just questioning whether the original statement of intent aligns with what is in the blurb. Consider describing the stakes that Eigyr faces and the consequences she faces if she fails. That would give me, as a reader, a rooting interest to see if and how she succeeds.
 
@Wayne Mack Thank you!

I'm not sure how else to define "bent" as it is both central to the story (i.e. the title, so i can't ignore/remove it) and then i try to define it here: but any miscalculation contorts the ships and souls into bent, fractal horrors, trapped in time.

Maybe massage that into something like:

but any miscalculation contorts the ships and souls into bents: misshapen, fractal horrors, trapped in time.

RE: Family trauma

It's the interplay of internal and external genre.

External genre: western adventure meets horror (genre archetype: in-society groups misstep and get on the wrong side of the powerful, and now fight for survival outside the law).

Internal Genre: Worldview shift from ignorance to disillusionment to wisdom

External genre is much hookier (if that's a word) so that's where I'm focusing for this. I need to come up with something hooky and catchy.
 
Fresh attempt (assumes I'll get the WC down to 125k)

Eigyr Bhatia salvages nightmares. It’s lucrative. It’s exhilarating. It’s devouring her sanity.

Wormhole generation technology gave humanity the stars, but any miscalculation contorts the ships and souls into bents: misshapen, fractal nightmares, suspended in time. So, of course, someone weaponized the outcome, intentionally bending ships and a planet, and opening the door to an alien threat.

Eigyr’s glimpsed the aliens lurking. Watching. She’s seen angry shimmers in her peripheral vision when she rescues healthy infants from bent ships—infants like the one she foisted on her twin before slinking away. Seeing the threat to the rescued children, Eigyr accepts an offer to help end the menace, only to find that she's put a target on her back: not from aliens, but from human factions, eager to steal what she has recovered.

Cornered and outnumbered, the pursuers ignore conventional weapon restraints and intentionally bend a ship, tearing reality, summoning the aliens and changing the terms of survival—for Eigyr and all of humanity. If Eigyr and her crew can escape, what will it cost them?

BENT (125,000 words, complete) is the first in a series. With a cast that features LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse characters, BENT is a multi-POV, literary scifi story exploring family trauma, the consequences of our choices and science’s culpability, told against a backdrop of adventure. I am a neurodiverse man and included neurodiverse and LGBTQ+ men and women in my beta readers. It will appeal to readers of Christopher Ruocchio (Sun Eater), Becky Chambers (A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet) and Craig Alanson (Expeditionary Force).

I’ve previously released a memoir, Born with Cancer, about pediatric cancer and parental grief over losing our daughter to neuroblastoma. The release generated $100,000 in donations for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

I work in the legal technology field. I studied anthropology at Hamilton College, where I won multiple awards for fiction and poetry. I am currently working towards my MBA at Boston University. I live in Massachusetts with my wife, son and dog.
 
Appreciate the feedback!

Just riffing (with this as the jumping off point)
Cornered and outnumbered, the pursuers ignore conventional weapon restraints and intentionally bend a ship, tearing reality, summoning the aliens and changing the terms of survival—for Eigyr and all of humanity.

What will she sacrifice to keep the nightmares at bay?

Watching the cosmos unravel, what won't she sacrifice to keep the nightmares at bay?

As the universe unravels, what's left to salvage but her own fragile humanity?

When nightmares become salvation, and salvation devours sanity, what's left to salvage but her own fragile humanity?
 
I think you're still too married to getting the purity of the tale across, to the deficit of the hookiness of the query.
Deserves quoting, we've all been there. :)

I think that’s much better but I would like more of a killer last line than the what will it cost them?

Seconded. :)
If Eigyr and her crew can escape, what will it cost them?
Can you relate this more specifically to the stakes you've already raised?
 
What can she sacrifice to overcome lust and avarice beside her own fragile humanity?

How can she address an alien threat when avarice drives humans to shatter reality?
 
Cornered and outnumbered, the pursuers ignore conventional weapon restraints and intentionally bend a ship, tearing reality, summoning the aliens and changing the terms of survival—for Eigyr and all of humanity. If Eigyr and her crew can escape, what will it cost them?
I think it has more impact without the question at the end. I'm not wholly keen on questions like that in queries anyway (though my opinion varies from day to day). The problem in your case is that because the story is quite complex, the question is likely to be either easily understood but a bit generic and bland, like the one I've quoted, or it's more closely tied to the story but sounds a bit tortured, like the two in your last post.
 
I think it has more impact without the question at the end. I'm not wholly keen on questions like that in queries anyway (though my opinion varies from day to day). The problem in your case is that because the story is quite complex, the question is likely to be either easily understood but a bit generic and bland, like the one I've quoted, or it's more closely tied to the story but sounds a bit tortured, like the two in your last post.
Yep, that's exactly what i'm running into. Trying to bear in mind the (very good) advice to not focus on the story but the hook, but... I dunno. I'll keep banging on it.

The question isn't whether she'll sacrifice her humanity, but how much?
Will she sacrifice her dream to prevent a nightmare?
 

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