A rhetorical question is one that isn’t necessarily intended to be answered. It may be used to make a point by implying the answer is obvious, or it might be followed by the speaker’s own opinion. Sometimes it is simply a way of getting others to think about the topic. It is generally used to get attention, and acts as a substitute for a statement.
Examples: Is the Pope Catholic? Do pigs fly? Will my protagonist save the universe with her super powers and uber-intelligence? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel back in time and see how the American pioneers lived?
When you’re sending out a query, you may want to avoid including rhetorical questions as some agents hate them. Though many people think it makes the query more interesting, unanswerable questions take up valuable space that could be better used pitching the actual story.
Here are a couple of interesting blog posts by agents who don’t want to see rhetorical questions in their queries:
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2006/10/should-i-use-rhetorical-questions-in-my.html Agent Nathan Bransford
http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/07/rhetorical-questions.html Agent Jessica Faust
How do you respond to rhetorical questions? Have you used them in queries; if so, were they effective?