However, I did see the original cinema trailer for Die Hard and...
Okay, it goes on longer than a written query, and the pictures and clips clearly help, but look at just the narrator's words --
It's Christmas Eve in LA. A New York cop John McClane has come to see his wife, instead he's going to have to save her. Within this skyscraper, high above the city, twelve terrorists have declared war. They're as brilliant as they are ruthless. Now, the last thing McClane wants is to be a hero, but he doesn't have a choice... He's an easy guy to like and a hard man to kill.
Yup, it only has a passing resemblance to the movie itself. Pretty much all the characters and all the subplots are gone.
Anyhow, slightly rejigging (for lack of vital expositionary excerpts not action ones) would give me --
It's Christmas Eve in LA, and New York cop John McClane has come to visit his estranged wife. But within the skyscraper where she works, twelve terrorists are turning their skills to pulling off an extrordinary robbery. They are as brilliant as they are ruthless, and McClane's wife is one of their hostages.
McClane doesn't want to play the hero but, if he wants to save her life, he doesn't have a choice.
Place. Protagonist. Threat. Stakes.
A skyscraper in LA. A New York cop. Terrorists commiting a robbery. His wife's life.
Now jmeadows is way smarter on this than me -- http://writeoncon.com/2010/08/writing-a-query-letter/
But it did occur to me while watching is that one of the problems I still have with queries is wanting to include the excerpts -- not literally but I try to hint at that sequence of witty remarks and explosions. This is not what a good query should involve itself with.
I'm not sure what Jodi would actually make of this but trying to follow her pattern...
It's Christmas Eve in LA and New York cop John McClane [protagonist] has come to visit his estranged [initial problem? he wants his wife back] wife. Hoping to mend their relationship. [his initial goal/idea? a face to face talk] But within the skyscraper where she works, twelve terrorists are turning their skills to pulling off an extrordinary robbery. [new problem complicating initial problem? they're stopping him having that chat] They are as brilliant as they are ruthless, and McClane's wife is one of their hostages. [rendering other solution useless -- if they kill her there won't be that reconciliation :)]
Already inside when the terrorists take over, McClane just wants to alert the local police to the situation and keep his head down. But with the phonelines cut, the elevators disabled, and the building sealed, that takes a lot more than dialing 911. It also lets the terrorists know he's in the building and they set out to hunt him down. A deadly game of hide-and-seek follows, during which McClane learns that the terrorists aren't planning to negotiate for a ransom -- killing all the hostages is an essential part of their exit plan.
With the LAPD laying seige to the building, and the terrorists wiring-up the explosives to destroy it, John McClane will have do that little bit more than play the hero to save his wife.
... eh, queries are haaaaaaaaaaaard.
[It also strikes me that this movie has slipped into being a period piece, because even if McClane didn't have one, soemwhere in that office block someone woule have left their mobile phone lying around while they partied. (And when Argyll hands McClane a card with the phone number on, I actually thought for two seconds he'd passed him a phone... because even though I don't have one I'm getting used to seeing them everywhere)
If they remade it they'd have to have a scene like in Inside Man where they gather up the mobiles... or else set up a jamming device]
Er.. but the point isn't writing a good query for Die Hard -- someone already did that. But sometimes it's harder to develop skills on your own work where it's easy to play with someone else's (and yes really while I was watching I was struck by how much of the plot wasn't there) And practice can be a good thing.
As a contrast, this is someone making a modernised trailer (no narrator and depending on excerpts and music to get the audience hooked)
It's pretty. But I wonder if anyone who didn't already know the movie would come away with anything but an idea of who was in the film and that things blow up. And I'm thinking that a lot of queries are written like this -- you'd understand if you already knew the film, or paid close attention and rewatched a couple of times, but potential movie-goers/agents may well not (and especially may well not if they don't get *something* from the first viewing/read)
As many an agent has said -- people take time writing books (errr, okay we'll let that one pass -- time is relative after all) and it makes sense to spend some time, and thought, on writing the query.
Even if it quickly becomes hateful and depressing (as you realise that your book, pared down to the bones, sounds like a lot of other books... when it isn't at all!!! really!!!) :D