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sgf
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- new version on page 3

Post by sgf » September 23rd, 2010, 12:08 pm

Hi Zakariya,

Here are my thoughts on your query:

When a dying Bangladeshi woman stares into a picture of her and her father, she relives her troubled past, beginning with the day her father gave her a pair of brand-new roller skates and ending with her forced marriage. It seemed like a lot of reliving happening during a moment of staring into a picture. Personally, I think the query would be snappier if you started it with the next paragraph.

Meet Luky: a Bangladeshi Muslim girl living in 1980s England. A lover of short skirts, makeup, and boyfriends, she hates when her parents say “But Bengali girls don’t . . .” every time she wants to do something fun, so she starts sneaking out after dark, going to parties when she’s supposed to be at the library, and trading her salwar kameezes for blue jeans the minute she leaves the house. Consider breaking this lengthy sentence into smaller ones. I think doing so would serve to hilight the interesting aspects of the character.

For example: Meet Luky: a Bangladeshi Muslim girl living in 1980s England. She loves short skirts, makeup, and boyfriends and hates being told, "Bengali girls don’t . . ." every time she wants to do something fun. She sneaks out after dark, and goes to parties instead of studying at the library, trading her salwar kameezes for blue jeans the minute she leaves the house."


But when her father catches her with a Pakistani boy, he tricks her into going to Bangladesh by telling her her uncle is dying.I liked this. Maybe it can be reworded to avoid the double "her her", which I think is disconcerting (others, of course, might be fine with it).

In Bangladesh, Luky discovers the truth. Her uncle is alive and well and the guy her parents want her to marry is a 30-year-old man who lives with his mother.Good. Consider tightened the 2nd sentence to: Her uncle is alive and well and her parents want her to marry a 30-year-old man who lives with his mother.

In a panic, she calls her boyfriend and tells him her uncle has taken her passport and her parents are planning to marry her off. There's some redundancy here. The query has aleady told us of her parent's plan.

Her mother tells her not to worry, that as soon as she gets married and her husband gets his visa, which shouldn’t take too long, she can go back to England. I think "which shouldn't take too long" could be removed.

But as the days and weeks go by and the wedding slips to the rear-view, I felt this was an awkward way of stating that days and weeks go by after the wedding...

Luky looks to her belly, which is eight months pregnant, Luky is pregnant, not her belly.

and then to the letter on the table, the giant red stamp that says Application Denied, and wonders if she’ll ever get home. I really liked this ending because it leaves the reader wanting to know what happens to Luky. But, I think you're using some details as part of the explanation, and I felt that specifically stating the plot, in this case, might work better. For example: Luky's visa application is denied. After she discovers that she's pregnant, she wonders if she'll ever get home.

Inspired by a true story, BENGALI GIRLS DON’T is my first novel.

Sounds like an interesting story. Hope this helps.

jmbrinton
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- new version on page 3

Post by jmbrinton » September 23rd, 2010, 12:34 pm

Great story (as I said before) and I think cutting the opening is probably wise, although no doubt was painful. I think the previous query was better, but could use a few ideas from the most recent version. Here's my suggestion for a mash-up.

Born in a remote village at the time of her country's liberation war, Bangladeshi girl Luky moved to England with her parents as an infant. Now a teen, Luky struggles for freedom and identity, scrapping her headscarf for sunglasses and trading her salwar kameez for blue jeans. She is tired of hearing "Bengali girls don't," so when her parents threaten to lock her up for dating a Pakastani boy, she runs away with him.

Armed with a pocket knife, Luky's father tracks her down. Instead of violence, he opts for deceit, telling Luky her uncle is on his deathbed and the family must leave immediately for Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, Luky discovers her uncle is alive and well, and her parents have arranged for her to marry a man 15 years her senior, a man who still lives with his domineering mother. Luky calls her boyfriend, and begs him to rescue her. Days and weeks pass, and the now married and pregnant Luky wonders if her boyfriend will ever arrive, and even if he does, will he still want her.

Inspired by a true story (my wife's), BENGALI GIRLS DON'T is a 96,000-word coming-of-age story. The irony of Luky's birth during a time of liberation and her name missing the letter 'c', is contrasted with her reality: never free, never lucky.

I hope you enjoy the story and request more pages.

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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- new version on page 3

Post by thewhipslip » September 23rd, 2010, 7:52 pm

I like jm's rewrite - but the query you originally posted was also very moving and effective. I would read just from that last line.
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elfspirit
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- Newest Version

Post by elfspirit » September 24th, 2010, 8:46 pm

zakariyamsherman wrote:After querying for a few weeks and getting some interest, as well as some rejections - - mainly because I didn't start the story where the story really starts (I've since cut out the first 73 pages - the whole war section) - - I wanted to run my latest query by you all. I've incorporated some of your suggestions and wanted to know what you thought?

newest version is below

Overall, I think you've really improved this, and you convey what is most important, a feeling of sympathy for Luky and her plight. The rest is details, but details are important.
Dear Mr. agent:

When a dying Bangladeshi woman stares into a picture of her and her father, she relives her troubled past, beginning with the day her father gave her a pair of brand-new roller skates and ending with her forced marriage.

I think this paragraph gives away too much of the story.

Meet Luky: a Bangladeshi Muslim girl living in 1980s England. A lover of short skirts, makeup, and boyfriends, she hates when her parents say “But Bengali girls don’t . . .” every time she wants to do something fun, so she starts sneaking out after dark, going to parties when she’s supposed to be at the library, and trading her salwar kameezes for blue jeans the minute she leaves the house.

I would eliminate "Meet Luky": but see what others say. The second sentence is much too long. I would break it into two.
But when her father catches her with a Pakistani boy, he tricks her into going to Bangladesh by telling her her uncle is dying.

Is she especially close to this uncle? If I were her, I'd hesitate, given that it would be easy to figure out that her father had other motives. In other words, it should be more compelling.

In Bangladesh, Luky discovers the truth. Her uncle is alive and well and the guy her parents want her to marry is a 30-year-old man who lives with his mother. In Bangladesh, Luky discovers that her uncle is alive and well and that her parents want her to marry a 30-year-old man who lives with his mother. SUGGEST THIS AS ALTERNATIVE WORDING
In a panic, she calls her boyfriend and tells him her uncle has taken her passport and her parents are planning to marry her off.

This might be the place where we find out she's pregnant, because I was confused when I discovered it in the last para.

Her mother tells her not to worry, that as soon as she gets married and her husband gets his visa, which shouldn’t take too long, she can go back to England.

But as the days and weeks go by and the wedding slips to the rear-view, Luky looks to her belly, which is eight months pregnant, and then to the letter on the table, the giant red stamp that says Application Denied, and wonders if she’ll ever get home. She is pregnant, not just her stomach

Inspired by a true story, BENGALI GIRLS DON’T is my first novel.
This is a story I would read, and I wish you all the best with it.

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zakariyamsherman
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Re:

Post by zakariyamsherman » September 24th, 2010, 11:05 pm

You
Last edited by zakariyamsherman on March 12th, 2011, 10:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JMB
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- Newest version on page 4

Post by JMB » September 26th, 2010, 7:21 am

I'll try not to take it personally that you didn't take most of my suggestions :-) Just the same, I am offering three more comments (okay, four) on your latest draft because I really like your story.

First, your opening line doesn't sound entirely accurate. The old woman's story doesn't end with the forced marriage, does it? Don't we get to see Luky escape and return to England?

Second, I wouldn't use Synopsis: or Meet Luky: It's non-standard and doesn't add anything. Just give us your hook and then tell the story.

Third, I would follow Janet Reid's advice on Query Shark and move the title, and word count to the end. Also, she says it isn't necessary to say you are seeking representation. That is obvious. Caveat: I know from my own experience, many agents post specific instructions on their website about exactly what info they want in a query and in what order. I always follow that. If there are no instructions, I go with the Shark's style.

Finally, I don't like where the query ends. It sounds hopeless and doesn't suggest an action or adventure to come. Just Luky looking at a denied Visa. It sounds like the story ends here, but of course it musn't because the old lady is in England. You have got to end the query at a point that leaves us wanting more, or feels like we are going to follow Luky on an exciting adventure, dangerous escape or rescue.

That's all for now. The query is pretty good, so close to being perfect.

priya g.
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- Newest version on page 4

Post by priya g. » September 26th, 2010, 6:46 pm

Quick summary of some points:

1. "Bengali Girls Don’t is the story of a dying Bangladeshi woman who relives her troubled past, beginning with the day her father gave her a pair of brand-new roller skates and ending with her forced marriage is a wonderful starting sentence: defines tragedy. just a quick question- in the coming paragraphs you mention her father's method of taking her away, deceitfully, offcourse. so this part- of the roller skates creates a bit of a conflicting picture.
2. You dont mention about her boyfriend again. Does she still yearn for him? England is her home, in one sense, true. But what is calling out to her? maybe you can put it in one sentence, maybe the lure of what she took for granted, one aspect of difference in lifestyle- other than her dressing sense, since you have mentioned it before.
hope this helps

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wilderness
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- Newest version on page 4

Post by wilderness » September 26th, 2010, 9:39 pm

I do like the latest version. Feels very clear to me.

I'm not sure about having the framing story about Luky dying. It's just a tad cliche, but perhaps it works in the novel. But if you are getting requests off your query and then rejections on your partial, I would consider removing the frame and just telling the story chronologically. Just my thoughts. Good luck!

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jzweig
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- Newest version on page 4

Post by jzweig » September 26th, 2010, 11:49 pm

In summary: Bengali Girls Don’t is the story of a dying Bangladeshi woman who relives her troubled past, beginning with the day her father gave her a pair of brand-new roller skates and ending with her forced marriage.
I like this but I don't. I think if you reworded it and did a tad bit of trimming it would be stronger. I would take out the dying bit at least.
Meet Luky: a Bangladeshi Muslim girl living in 1980s England. Born during her country’s liberation war, she struggles for freedom and identity. Caught between the world of her white friends and that of her parents, she scraps her headscarf for sunglasses, her sari for blue jeans, and runs away with her boyfriend.
I would say 'traded' instead of 'scraped'. It feels like an error was made and they're scrapping it, unless that's the Idea you're trying to convey. Again, a little reorganizing and trimming would make this stronger.
But when her father tracks her down and finds her, he opts for deceit over violence, telling her the family has to leave for Bangladesh immediately, because her favorite uncle is dying.
Same thing here.
In Bangladesh, Luky discovers the truth. Her uncle is alive and well and her parents want her to marry a 30-year-old man who lives with his mother. In a panic, she calls her boyfriend but can’t get a hold of him.
The rest was pretty straight forward and I think conveyed what you needed to hook a reader. I think you have an intriguing idea here, but I get weighted down by some of the sentience structure and excess word usage. I think if you did some pruning, it would come out stronger than it is now.

Good Luck!
"He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life." - Mohammad Ali

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