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zakariyamsherman
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Post by zakariyamsherman » June 10th, 2010, 2:43 pm

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Re: Bengali Girls Don't

Post by bcomet » June 10th, 2010, 5:17 pm

This sounds like a wonderful novel. I'm hooked. The query letter, however, could be cleaned up:
zakariyamsherman wrote:Hey fellow writers. Any advice would be most welcome.

Dear agent x:

But Bengali girls don’t…

Bangladeshi girl Lucky S. (spelledLuky) (you can clue the agent in on this later) wants to be like the English. And She wants to ditch her (please explain) hijab. Not to mention her bhaiya’s (please explain)or brother’s constant glare and unwanted attention, and get away from her Amma’s (please explain)or and mother’s purple smelly sari., You know the one all smeared with shutki,((please explain), dried fish, and curry.

But Bengali girls don’t…

In other words, she wants to be white (This might lose some people. Maybe you could go with something more like: She wants to be modern, like her English friends, and she definitely doesn't want to be forced to marry ot married to some Muslim man fifteen years her senior who resides in nowhereville Bangladesh with has an his evil mother whose one rule of thumb is to make pretty daughter-in-laws miserable. Which is why she does a runner She is told: Bengali Girls Don't Rebel. But she's not just any Bengali girl. She was born during the Shangram. Her country’s liberation war. In the year 1971. When the Bangladeshis fought against the Pakistanis? Well, what happened? Her life began with such so much promise. Children born then were thought to bring their own luck. (or something like that about why it is so promising.) Now, it's up to her to put her prophecy in motion. (or something like that)

(Question: is the Pakistani boyfriend the one she is supposed to marry or is he rebelling to help her too? If so, distinguish which one is after her if you include that part.)

For one she hated beingtold that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. For two she hated being told that Bengali girls don’t. From there it was all downhill. Or uphill depending on your point of view.

BENGALI GIRLS DON’T is my first novel and comprises complete at 97,000 plus words. The genre is women’s fiction and the audience adult literary women. It is based on a true story.

[personal note goes here]


I'd start with that. And from there, refine, refine again. Also, especially if this is for foreign readers who may not understand the culture you are writing about, bring them in, explain words, make the reader feel informed and smarter for learning these things.
Hope this is helpful.

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Post by zakariyamsherman » June 10th, 2010, 5:46 pm

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Re: Bengali Girls Don't

Post by wilderness » June 10th, 2010, 8:07 pm

zakariyamsherman wrote:Hey fellow writers. Any advice would be most welcome.

Dear agent x:

But Bengali girls don’t… This fragment doesn't have context. I think you'd be better off with a full sentence like "Lucky S. is sick of hearing the words, "But Bengali girls don't..."

Bangladeshi girl Lucky S. (spelled Luky) wants to be like the English. And ditch her hijab. Not to mention her bhaiya’s or brother’s constant glare and unwanted attention. And get away from her Amma’s or mother’s purple smelly sari. You know the one all smeared with shutki, dried fish, and curry. OK, so the thing is it will read much better if you only include Bengali words that can be understood by context. Just adding "or brother's" as an explanation stops the flow of reading and feels awkward. And it doesn't really matter what the word for fish is -- you can just say fish. Lots of multi-culti books drop in foreign words for a touch of flavor, but it should either be in a context where you can figure out what it is or, like below, something that can't be translated like "Shangram". There it is OK to explain the meaning.

But Bengali girls don’t…

In other words, she wants to be white. Not married to some Muslim man fifteen years her senior who resides in nowhereville Bangladesh and has an evil mother whose one rule of thumb is to make pretty daughter-in-laws miserable. Which is why she does a runner (or tries to, anyway), her Pakistani boyfriend right behind her. The order here doesn't make sense. Start with how she hates being Bengali, then go to her running away. Then reveal her obstacle. I'm assuming the novel starts with her running away, so what is the main conflict she will have to overcome once she's done that? Or does the novel end with her running away? Always end the query with the main obstacle.

But wait. Wasn’t she born during the Shangram. Her country’s liberation war. In the year 1971. When the Bangladeshis fought against the Pakistanis? Combine the fragments into a sentence, right now it doesn't read well. Well, what happened? Her life began with such promise.

For one she hated being told that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. For two she hated being told that Bengali girls don’t. From there it was all downhill. Or uphill depending on your point of view. This sounds like you're talking to yourself. Rhetorical question followed by your answer. So if the answers are all here, why do we need to read the book?

BENGALI GIRLS DON’T is my first novel and comprises 97,000 plus words. The genre is women’s fiction and the audience adult literary women. It is based on a true story.

[personal note goes here]
Hi there,

Sorry if I seemed too critical above. It's just that the flow doesn't work for me. The Bengali words need to be more integrated. Right now they seem a bit gratuitous. And the conversational bit at the end doesn't quite work for me. Basically all four paragraphs are about why she ran away. I think you should concentrate more on her adventures after running away and less on the reasons.

Sounds like an interesting premise though. I especially like your title. Good luck with it.
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't

Post by J. T. SHEA » June 10th, 2010, 8:21 pm

I like your query, Zakariya. Particularly the provocative tone, use of the second person, repetition of the title, and rhetorical questions. But people differ. For example, omit the rhetorical questions if you query Nathan Bransford!

Sorry to suggest more commas, put I would put one after 'For one' and 'For two' and 'Or uphill'. Also, I wouldn't limit your audience to adult literary women.

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Post by zakariyamsherman » June 11th, 2010, 10:21 pm

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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 2

Post by JMB » June 12th, 2010, 11:46 am

I love this kind of story, about a young girl torn between two cultures. Since it's been done many times though, it is critical that you show your story is unique.

The second version of the query is a better starting point, but it loses the significance of the title and leaves lots of questions unanswered.

I have no idea what the age of the protagonist is or where the action actually takes place.

I would not say it’s based upon a true story unless it is a memoir. In the closing paragraph I would just make it clear that this is time period/cultural experience you know well.

Plus, I am wondering if this is Women's Fiction —a lifetime saga-- or a few months of a teen girl's life -- Young Adult/coming-of-age.

How about something like (obviously substituting the real storyline for the stuff I've made up here). . .

Seventeen-year-old Lucky wants to fit in with the English girls in her school. She wants to wear short skirts, put on makeup and have boyfriends, but her parents won’t allow it. Despite emigrating to London when Lucky was 5 years old, they cling to old ways. Lucky is tired of hearing her mother always tell her 'Bengali girls don't,' so she takes to sneaking out after dark, going to parties when she's supposed to be at the library, and trading her sari for blue jeans the minute she leaves the house.

When Lucky’s father catches her out on a date with a Pakistani boy named {Name}, he flies into a rage. He'd rather his daughter be dead than date a Pakistani. But Lucky’s mother moves him to reason. They lie to Lucky, saying her favorite uncle has died and that the family must leave immediately for the funeral. But their real plan is to get Lucky to Bengladesh and married off to a proper Muslim man before she so disgraces herself that no decent Muslim man will have her.

In Bangladesh, Lucky discovers her parents ruse. Uncle {Name} is alive and well and her prospective groom, {Name,} is a mama’s boy fifteen years her senior. She has no intention of marry {Name} and moving into his family compound with his tyrannical mother and a gaggle of miserable sisters-in-law.

{Name of Pakistani boy} gets a letter from Lucky, hears her desperate plea for freedom and joins her in Bengladesh. They flee to the gritty streets of {City}, but that’s no place for a pampered London girl like Lucky who hasn’t even bothered to learn her family’s native language. And Bengali girls don’t defy their parents. Lucky’s Dad is determined to save face and deliver his daughter to her groom.

BENGALI GIRLS DON’T is a 97,000-word coming-of-age story. I . . . [explain why you are qualified to tell this story].

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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 2

Post by GeeGee55 » June 12th, 2010, 4:49 pm

Hi, Z:

I find your story intriguing. This version is much better, gives a much better idea what the story is about. If you saw Polymath's post about paying it forward, that's what I'm trying to do here. I'm no expert, but maybe I'll learn something by doing this. Take whatever comments you find helpful and leave the others.


Bangladeshi girl Lucky S. wants to be like the English, wear short skirts, I think a verb here would make it flow better makeup, and have boyfriends. In other words, she wants to be white, not East Asian. Which is why she starts sneaking out, visiting friends at parties, and trying to blend in. But when her father learns of her sordid decisions, that[/color]- I might omit this phrase for flow - but when her father learns she may be messing around with boys she may be messing around with boys, maybe even Pakistani boys (and her father hates Pakistanis), he purposely lets slip - not sure about this choice of phrase, does he let slip or does he demand that she must accompany her mum? that her uncle is on his deathbed and that she needs to accompany her mum to Bangladesh to help with the burial, which she does. The only problem? Her uncle is doing just fine, great in fact, better than ever, as is the guy they want her to marry, some Muslim man fifteen years her senior. - there's just too much going on in this sentence for me, it could be broken down Does she escape this deceitful trick and find freedom, or does she resign herself to fate? - I would included her fleeing to the streets of the city with the Pakistani boy and then wrap it up

BENGALI GIRLS DON’T is my first novel and explores the true life saga (is it based on a true story or it is a true story?) of a girl born during Shangram, her country’s liberation war, her subsequent teenage years in Britain, and her lifelong struggle for freedom. The book is complete at 97,700 words and the genre is adult woman’s fiction.

Here's an idea if you want to try something different, a different approach which would keep the title in the forefront:

Lucky S.'s Bangladeshian father says Bengali girls don't wear short skirts, or makeup. They don't have boyfriends. But Lucky wants to be like her English friends...and so on. Just an idea if you want to play with it a bit.

Good luck. I think you've got a very interesting story here.

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Post by zakariyamsherman » June 12th, 2010, 5:26 pm

f
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 2

Post by JMB » June 12th, 2010, 6:42 pm

Fascinating and unique. Definitely sound like literary YA rather than women's fiction.

The query doesn't yet do justice to the story. Consider including some of the details you mentioned in your last post--the flight from warn torn Bengladesh as a toddler, the tug between two cultures as a teen in the UK, tricked into returning to Bengladesh under the pretense of the sick uncle, forced into an arranged marriage at age 14 with a man 15 years her senior and, finally, her escape from the home of her domineering mother-in-law.

Good luck!

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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 2

Post by bcomet » June 12th, 2010, 7:10 pm

Your second query is much clearer. Your true story is compelling...a story that needs to be told, fiction based on fact, or memoir. Either way, it is a striking story about our humanity in the world.
I wonder, how did you meet your wife? I'd bet money that that is also an amazing story.
Best of luk and luck and keep it moving until it's in this world.

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Post by zakariyamsherman » June 12th, 2010, 7:42 pm

W
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 2

Post by wilderness » June 15th, 2010, 4:34 pm

Hi Zakaria,

The second query is much clearer; her father's ruse gives us a tangible inciting incident. However, I think you have lost your "voice" in it. The first query had more humor. I would try to combine the two tactics: humor and clarity in the story together. One thing you should mention right away is the original setting. Is Luky in England? I never realized that until you mentioned her father's ruse. Also, I don't think you need to say the pronunciation unless you include the bit about why it is missing the "C" (because her father can't spell) because that is an interesting detail. On its own the pronunciation is unimportant.

Good luck!

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Post by zakariyamsherman » June 24th, 2010, 12:34 pm

He
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Re: Bengali Girls Don't -- version 3

Post by J. T. SHEA » June 24th, 2010, 10:52 pm

I know you dislike commas, Zakariya, but your long first sentence needs them. Or you could divide the sentence.

'Lucky is a fourteen-year-old Bangladeshi girl living in England, COMMA with a penchant
for short skirts, makeup and boyfriends, COMMA as opposed to headscarves, face veils
and brothers, COMMA in the year 1985. But when her father learns of her relationship
with a Pakistani boy, which is a no-no in their community, he tricks her into
going to Bangladesh under the guise of a sick uncle in order to protect his
reputation.'

'under the guise of a sick uncle' means Lucky is pretending to BE her sick uncle. Your earlier versions explained it better. You do have the necessary commas in this second sentence, but I would suggest dividing this sentence as well.

'her prospective groom' appears out of nowhere in paragraph two. You explain this in paragraph three, but maybe you could say Lucky's parents are trying to force her into an arranged marriage before telling the age of the 'prospective groom'.

Like Wilderness, I thought the earlier versions showed your writer's voice better. What about a hybrid of the parts YOU liked best from each version?

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