Query Letters: One Phrase to Avoid

I can see several problems in using this particular phrase.
1.  You aren’t really telling the agent about your manuscript.  Unless your character is literally risking life and limb, happiness and the very universe itself, you are using a cliché that doesn’t really tell the agent anything about your character or story.
2.  What is at risk can tell us something about your character’s situation.  That means that this phrase denies the agent a chance to get to know your character. If your character is risking the chance to ever see his parents again, we will know that he has somehow been separated from them.  We may not know how they became separated or how long they’ve been separated but we know that they are separated and this is something your character would reverse if possible.
3.  What is at risk can also tell us what your character values or loves.  If your character is risking her dream of going on to vet school, we can assume that she loves animals and had planned to be a vet vs loving music and wanting to go to Julliard or loving art and wanting to visit the Louvre.
4.  It can disguise a problem with the stakes in your novel.  If you use this phrase instead of describing what is at stake for your character, you may be doing this because what is at stake doesn’t really matter.  It is small potatoes instead of something truly big and meaningful.
Look for this phrase in your query and then do whatever it takes, rewriting the letter or rewriting your story, to bring a better phrase into the spotlight.

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