Dual POV Queries, Demystified

I love dual POV books. I love it when two characters' arcs intersect with and parallel each other, when we see two sides of a complex story. I love viewing my messed-up, messy characters through the eyes of someone who sometimes loves them and sometimes hates them. My two YA contemporaries contracted with Simon & Schuster are dual POV, and I imagine if I want to torture myself I'll write more in the future. Crafting a query for a dual POV book can be tricky, though, especially when most blogs about querying focus on a single character and her stakes.

Before I go on, I want to qualify this by stating there are many, many different ways to write a successful query, and all of what I'm about to say is based solely on my experience. So, now that disclaimer's out of the way, let me explain how I approach dual POV queries!

Typically, single POV queries are set up with this basic formula: character, conflict, stakes, with a paragraph devoted to each. (Yes, yes, of course you can deviate from this!) By stakes, I mean, what does your character have to lose, why should we care about her, why does the conflict need to be addressed now? One way to modify this for a dual POV query is like this: character A in paragraph 1, character B in paragraph 2, and the combined conflict and stakes in paragraph 3. 

This is the "query" I wrote for my 2019 book, currently titled A Year of Bad Ideas. Note: I did not query this book, but I love queries so much that I wrote one anyway.

Alex (character A) would do anything for her best friend Peter, who’s been on the waiting list for a kidney transplant as long as she’s known him. The world has been cruel to him, so they’ve created their own world, their own traditions. They’ve never needed anyone else. So when Alex turns 18 and learns she’s a match, she donates a kidney to give Peter a chance at a normal life. 

But Alex is also falling for Peter (character B), who she once thought might like her back. Peter, who can now get out of bed, go to school, function as a regular human for the first time. He has big plans to travel and finally learn the Arabic his family speaks but he doesn’t understand. He’s not expecting Chase, the cute—and male—student council president, to help show him everything he’s been missing out on.

As Peter drifts away, consumed by his confusing, thrilling feelings for Chase and renewed passion for life, Alex feels cheated. She’s convinced Peter owes her to be in love the same way she is. When she does something she can’t take back, they both must figure out whether their friendship is worth saving, or if the damage they’ve done goes far beyond the matching physical scars they now share. (Conflict + stakes: semi-love triangle, manipulation, the potential end of Alex and Peter's friendship)

Another option is introducing both characters' motivations in paragraph 1, conflict in paragraph 2, and stakes in paragraph 3. This is the query I used for my about-to-be-retitled debut, Fingers Crossed. I sent 80 queries and had a 1/3 request rate!

Seventeen-year-old viola prodigy Adina only feels whole with a bow in her hand. Even though her instrument's usually in the background, she's determined to become a soloist. Her fraternal twin sister, Tovah, has her own ambitions: MIT, med school, become a surgeon. (Motivations: we see each character wants something)

But the most important test they'll take isn't an audition or a college entrance exam. It's a genetic test for Huntington's, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. Huntington's is a death sentence, and Adina and Tovah have spent the past few years watching it make their mother stumble and hallucinate and forget their names. (Conflict: they have this test hanging over their heads, about to change the course of their lives forever)

When the test results reveal that one twin will develop Huntington's and one won't, they self-destruct in different ways. One sister realizes testing negative doesn't give her the freedom she thought it would, and her guilt sabotages her future plans. The other realizes testing positive means she can do whatever she wants—no matter the consequences. And then one concocts a dangerous plan that could change their family forever. (Stakes: one girl tests positive and one tests negative, wreaking havoc on both their lives)

We don't get too much information about the characters themselves in this query, aside from their ambitions, and though the book is mainly character-driven, this query is actually rather plot-driven. It focuses mainly on the book's hook: that when they take a genetic test for Huntington's disease, one twin tests positive and the other tests negative. 

If you want to be perfectly clear that your book is dual POV, you can add something like this:

THE BEST BOOK EVER is a dual POV YA contemporary complete at 60,000 words.

The key to a dual POV query is showing us why this book needs both characters and how their stories are linked. While I don't subscribe to the belief that there are any "rules" in query-writing, necessarily (aside from don't be a jerk, don't comp to Harry Potter, and don't say your book is guaranteed to sell millions of copies), I do think it's important to mention both character by the end of paragraph 2. Introducing a new character in paragraph 3 can get confusing. I also recommend limiting the number of named characters in the query to three, again to cut down on potential confusion! Any other insight into dual POV queries? Sound off in the comments below!