Monday, October 26, 2015

Face-Lift 1281

Guess the Plot

Little Boar

1. There is nothing interesting about you. You talk and talk but never say anything worth listening to. You never want to do anything fun. You never have any good ideas or suggestions. Plus, you look like a pig with a serious dental problem.

2. Little Boar has a problem: no one wants him in the neighborhood. Apparently, rooting, wallowing, and trampling are frowned upon by the domesticated hoity-toity farm animals, not to mention Farmer Brown. When the old man revs up the ATV for a feral pig hunt with the more than 5000 members of the American Pawnbrokers Association, it’s every hog for himself!

3. The true, tragic story of Edward of Middleham, Richard III's legitimate heir.

4. Little Boar is a pilot with the Red Army in WWII. Her career seemingly ended in a dogfight with Luftwaffe pilot Gerhard Rademacher, Little Boar becomes addicted to morphine. But she vows she won't rest until she gets reinstated and takes her revenge, even if it means flying missions while numbed out of her mind on drugs.

5. After the forest fire, Priscilla Porcupine leads the woodland creatures into Green Valley. Farmers chase them away until Priscilla and her friends rescue prize-winning piglet Little Boar. When Farmer Jack sells him to a new bacon restaurant, Oink's, Priscilla organizes a protest and Oink's switches to turkey-bacon. But the local gobblers protest so Oink's settles on tofu-bacon which everybody agrees sucks. After the restaurant's failure, it is replaced by Jim's Southern Bar-B-Que'd Ribs.

6. Little Boar lives in the prairie. Little Boar eats carrots. Little Boar plays with his baby brother. Little Boar gets hit by a truck on Ranch Road 2243.

7. Tommy is seven, over-privileged, and never has anything interesting to say. One day, he fails his spelling test, and as a punishment, his mother orders him to pen a sign to wear around his neck, identifying him as a 'Little Boar.' Then he joins the circus.

8. Little Boar has been separated from his family and must find his way home with the help of new friends that he meets along the way. He and his friends must out-wit the hunter and his pack of dogs to reunite with his family.

9. When a missile hits a Midwestern farm, the animals are bathed in gamma rays. A newly foaled pig is shrunken to microscopic size, and he wants revenge! It begins to crawl into human's bodies, eating them inside and out. Only his former master can find a way to stop . . .  Little Boar.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Nadezdah “Little Boar” Buzina, a pilot with the Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment, dreams of becoming an ace. Those dreams shatter after a dogfight with Gerhard Rademacher, a crack Luftwaffe pilot, leaves her as the sole survivor from her flight and too badly burned to fly in combat.

Struggling with survivor’s guilt, Nadya vows to shoot down Rademacher and give peace to her fallen sisters-in-arms. To that end, she secretly starts using morphine to manage her pain and succeeds in being reinstated as a pilot. Her drug use, however, turns into addiction, and she soon realizes she can’t safely fly while numb, but she also knows if she quits [without] the morphine, the returning pain will keep her forever on the ground [grounded] and Rademacher out of her sights.

To complicate matters, the skies are vast, making Rademacher impossible to find. [Trying to find the specific plane of the guy who shot you down by flying through the sky is like trying to find the specific whale that bit off your leg by sailing through the ocean.] Nadya, fearing she’ll never cross paths with the man again, takes her wingman on increasingly dangerous patrols deep into German territory where the Luftwaffe reign supreme. [You'd think a crack pilot like Rademacher would be flying missions over enemy territory, not defending the homeland. Apparently not.] After a few brushes with death, Nadya has to decide if killing Rademacher is worth not only sacrificing [risking?] herself but also the girl flying at her side. [Few are aware that the term "wing nut" originally referred to any wingman who agreed to fly with a drugged-up vengeance-obsessed pilot.]

While there are numerous World War II novels, none focus [focuses] on any of the all-female flying regiments of the Red Army Air [Force?] . [Not necessarily true, depending on whether you count this novel.] [Agent specifics, pub creds].

LITTLE BOAR is completed at 90k words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Are there nonfiction books about the 586th? 

Did you make up the nickname "Little Boar"? Seems like a strange nickname for a fighter pilot.

That one sentence at the end may not be enough to clarify that the Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment was the real deal. You don't want readers thinking you made the whole thing up. Perhaps if you began the query:

Few Westerners are aware that the Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment played a major role in preventing Nazi Germany from adding Russia to its early conquests.  My novel Little Boar is the story of Nadezdah Buzina, a pilot with the 586th, who dreams of becoming an ace. These dreams are shattered when Gerhard Rademacher, a crack Luftwaffe pilot . . . 

In searching to see if Nadezdah Buzina was a real person, I discovered real people named Nadezhda Buzina. I also was directed to a Goodreads Beta reader request in which you say:

Through the last half of 1942, she struggles against crack Luftwaffe pilots, a vengeful political commissar, and a new addiction to morphine, all the while questioning her worth and purpose in a world beyond her control. It’s not until the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad that she finds her unlikely answers, and only then after she’s saved the life of a mortal enemy and fallen in love with another who tried to kill her.

To me, some of that seems more interesting as a wrap-up than the decision of whether to risk her wingman's life in dangerous patrols (I assume if you became a member of the 586th, you expected to fly dangerous patrols) especially if the person she saves or falls in love with is Rademacher

Does Nadia consider the possibility that her enemy had been killed in a dogfight or that his plane took enough damage that he's now flying a different one? She could shoot him down and not even know it.


DD3123 said...

Hello! Author here, thanks for the feedback so far.

To clear up a few things:

On the non-fiction side, there are a handful of books dealing with all 3 female regiments of the Red Army Air, and they are mostly collections of interviews. In my research, I also found a number of general Eastern Front and WWII books that had some material on them as well, but those regiments were not the focus at all.

I did make up her callsign, and those are usually given to pilots by others for various reasons (personality, flying style, etc.) Nadya doesn't get her callsign till a little bit into the plot as she's originally called by her tail number, Red Seven. She's dubbed "Little Boar" because she's hot headed, stubborn, and charges her enemy (to her own peril).

As for knowing if she shot down a specific pilot, both sides often flew the same plane with the same markings throughout their career. In the plot, she's looking for White Eight from the Jagdgeschwader Udet unit (very distinct paint jobs on the tail and rear fuselage). Yes, she might not know initially if someone else shot down Rademacher, but she'd find out eventually if he was (or hopes).

The fighting centers around Stalingrad and its northwest front along the Don River. So she's not searching all of Europe to find him, and units assigned to areas generally stayed. When she takes her wingman deeper into German territories, its still near the front, but closer and closer to Luftwaffe airfields, hoping to ambush and/or tangle with Rademacher.

I liked my goodreads pitch when looking for beta readers ("Through the last half of 1942, she struggles....") but I wasn't sure if it was too light on the details, which is why I ended up with what I've got here.


Anonymous said...

Lots of this isn't making sense to me as is.

You say she's too badly burned to fly combat, but then you say all she needs is pain management to get reinstated.

The only Russian multi-seat fighter I could find (the Petlyakov PE-3) seats 2, but later you say fallen sisters-in-arms. Who all was killed how?

I find it strange she's relying on random patrols as opposed to military intelligence to find the guy she's after. Patrols in areas where he's been sighted would make more sense.

The description of patrols almost sounds like she's taking the plane out without permission, which I'm assuming isn't the case. Is she volunteering for recon missions? Enemy combat missions? Whatever she can get?

You've geared most of the query towards a revenge plot and then are having your MC worried someone might get hurt? That's a wussy note to end a war story on and makes your MC sound ditzy.

Lydia Litvyak (female Russian fighter pilot) has had several fictional works written about her. Yours also sounds more like a story about one person than the whole regiment. You might want to rephrase that last bit.

Also, I would suggest a different title.

Evil Editor said...

I assume that if her job is to shoot down Luftwaffe aircraft, she isn't flying around looking for White Eight and avoiding other enemy planes.

Your comment suggests that Nadia has a reasonable chance to find her target because he would stay in the same general area. But the query states that the skies are vast making Rademacher impossible to find. Is "impossible" the right word?

Anonymous said...

Change Nadya's callsign. EE is an expert at suggesting substitutes for place names and character names and such. He's inimitable, so I'll just throw out "Kim Kardashian."

I second EE's reordering.

If you could work in a vivid detail or two -- a guilt-induced nightmare, a burn scar, a particularly close call on one of Nadya's "hunting" missions -- it would help to bring out the cinematic appeal of your story, which appears strong to me. I'm envisioning the gritty, gutsy movie starring Emily Blunt.

I assume Gerhard Rademacher really is as unknowable to Nadya as a great white whale, and therefore his character is of little importance. I'd introduce White Eight along with Rademacher and use it in the rest of the query to convey Nadya's focus on pure, even-the-score revenge rather than moral outrage. Then let her conscience catch up to her as the complicating factor.

Matt said...

I'm forgiving of hazy plot details as long as the story piques my interest. When I read/watch/play historical fiction, what I look forward to most is being transported to another time and place. Child 44, for instance, made me feel like I was in the Soviet Union in the 1950s.

I suggest you try shining the spotlight a bit more on the setting — or rather, Nadya's existence within the setting. A revenge tale in the midst of a World War is exciting, but right now I'm not getting a sense of the "in the midst" part.

DD3123 said...

Her burns make it too painful to reliably work the controls (palms, forearms) and the morphine dulls things enough to where they don't bother her. Rademacher is threaded through the story and by th end his character matters. She doesn't fly a multi seat fighter. She flies the Yak-1. The others killed were the other pilots in her flight who were all shot down.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

The query's job isn't to faithfully recount the story but to entice the agent to read. So you can leave out details that are important in the book if they only cause confusion in the query.

Anonymous said...

Author, some of the details you're explaining here are ones you should include in the query. Others involve information that can be left out of the query so we're not asking about it. Basically, the only question you want the agent to have at the end is: Can I sell this for more than five figures?

This sounds like an interesting story. Please think things through, rewrite, and submit again.

khazar-khum said...

Author, I first though you were talking about the Night Witches, but they were a different group in the war.

Shouldn't she be wearing gloves when she flies? My Dad did, and yes, he was a fighter pilot in the Pacific.

Historical aviation buffs will read the print off the pages of books that are accurate, and you know they look for any little thing to pick at. It sounds like your research is solid.

DD3123 said...

This is where I'm at now. If anyone wants to chime in on this version, it would be much appreciated:

Few Westerners are aware that the Red Army’s women aviators played an instrumental role in preventing Germany’s conquest of the Soviet Union during WWII. My novel is the story of Nadezdah “Little Boar” Buzina, a pilot with the 586th all-female fighter regiment, who dreams of becoming an ace. These dreams shatter when Gerhard Rademacher, a veteran Luftwaffe pilot, blasts her out of the sky near war-torn Stalingrad, leaving her shaken and severely burned.

Seeking revenge, Nadya vows to shoot down Rademacher and secretly starts using morphine to manage her pain so she can better work her fighter’s controls. Her drug use, however, turns into a deadly addiction that slows her thoughts and reflexes. Only when a 20mm shell rips through her cockpit while on patrol does she realize she must quit, but she also knows without the morphine, the returning pain will keep her forever on the ground and Rademacher out of her sights.

As Nadya struggles with herself and the Luftwaffe, she questions her worth and purpose in a world beyond her control. Nadya finds her unlikely answers during the 1942 Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad, but not until she’s saved the life of a mortal enemy and fallen in love with another who nearly kills her.

Evil Editor said...

When you say she must quit, my first thought is that you mean she must quit her campaign to get Rademacher rather than quit morphine. Maybe she must quit cold turkey or she must get off the drug.

The second paragraph sets up her dilemma, but it feels like you're going to go on to discuss how she handles the problem. Instead Rademacher is dropped and we get a pretty vague finish. If this is the story of her quest for revenge, focus on that all the way through. Does she ever encounter Rademacher again? If it's basically biographical, maybe her recovery is the main story, the Rademacher part is backstory, and there's too much about the revenge aspect in the query.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I actually think this works quite well.

You might want to fix this:

Only when a 20mm shell rips through her cockpit while on patrol

Add "she's" before "on" and you'll get rid of the suggestion that the 20mm shell is on patrol.

Anonymous said...

Nadya is "shaken and severely burned." Shaken is how I might feel after a fender-bender or a bad performance review. I suggest you either get a MUCH stronger adjective or just go with severely burned; you get right to the revenge plot in the next sentence, and the connection is clear enough.

Like EE, I thought "quit" meant quit flying, not quit morphine.

The avalanche of internal traumas and climactic events in the last two sentences made me feel somehow left behind. I was wrapped up in Nadya's quest for revenge at all costs, and then she moved on to another trauma, saved the life of a mortal enemy, nearly got killed by another mortal enemy, fell in love with that mortal enemy, and found her answers. If her main struggle is to overcome her growing disillusionment with the very revenge for which she has sacrificed so much, I'd clarify that and tell how it drops her into a world of doubt and despair where she finds her answers after some surprising encounters with people who were supposed to be her mortal enemies. Well, that was a pretty windy sentence, but you seem to be a good enough writer to break it into something readable.

It promises something well written overall. But really, change her name. I guarantee, if you don't, your agent or editor will.

Matt said...

"…near war-torn Stalingrad."

You won me over with that image. I'd read the first pages just because of that.

Anonymous said...

Overall, I think this is coming along nicely.

At this point few westerners are aware of a lot of details of WWII, so I don't know that the opening statement adds much. Also, I don't think their lack of knowledge makes much difference to the story. Interested agents will realize the marketing aspect without being informed. Maybe cut it to "The Red Army’s women aviators played an instrumental role in preventing Germany’s conquest of the Soviet Union during WWII."

I think you can get rid of "My novel tells the story of". The sentence would become "Nadezdah “Little Boar” Buzina, a pilot with the 586th all-female fighter regiment, dreams of becoming an ace." which is a little tighter.

You might want to simplify along the lines of "uses morphine to dull the pain enough she can fly again" if the pain is keeping her out of the air. Also, then you don't need to explain so much later that going off the morphine will ground her.

The sentence about internal struggles makes it sound like the story takes a left turn into angst-land. If you can make it sound a bit more integrated, it might work a bit better.

The last sentence is vague. If Rademacher is one of the parties, I'd specify that since you've already mentioned his name, and maybe give a bit more detail on the other party. Agents say they generally prefer specifics.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I actually found the opening statement quite useful in providing context.

Other than the grammatical error I mentioned, I think this reads quite well. The quest for the perfect query can go on forever; this is good enough.

Evil Editor said...

That 3rd paragraph isn't doing it.

1. She just quit Morphine and is grounded forever, yet she's still struggling with the Luftwaffe?
2. I'd rather know what happens at Stalingrad that helps her find unlikely answers than what happens before she finds those answers, namely she saves a life and falls in love with unnamed people, either of whom may or may not be Rademacher.

I'd drop the third paragraph entirely before I'd leave it as is. There's no evidence that P3 has anything to do with Nadia's addiction or with Rademacher. Does she play a role in victory at Stalingrad by abandoning her quest for revenge?

DD3123 said...


Plot wise, she finds other ways to cope with pain and fight, but the initial problem to her is "if I quit, I'll never fly again" which is how she keeps rationalizing its use, despite the problems it causes.

For Stalingrad and her inner journey, the short of it is Rademacher throughout the book has several chances to outright kill Nadya, but never does. When the two cross paths at the end on the ground (they both bail from their planes when they collide during the last dogfight), Nadya gets the jump on him with her pistol and starts asking questions (why didn't you ever kill me when you could have?) instead of shooting first. He explains he's tired of the killing and wants to leave the war, and that he let pilots go when they were no longer a threat. He knows Hitler will lose the war as he's overstretched and he asks Nadya to let him go, promising he plans on running off to Switzerland (he's been looking for an out for months). There's back and forth, and Nadya ends up letting him go as she identifies with a lot of what he's saying (she wrestles with the same issues he does throughout the text) and she decides she wants to be someone who bets on life rather than death--a "Do I believe him or not?" kind of thing.

It works in the text, and I've had a lot of beta readers help in that regard. I can't seem to get it to work in the query without either blowing it up to two pages or leaving people scratching their heads.

Evil Editor said...

That's much more specific and it keeps Rademacher in the query. Just replace your third paragraph with a condensed version of this.

I note that you said earlier, "she must quit, but she also knows without the morphine, the returning pain will keep her forever on the ground and Rademacher out of her sights." Wrong. Apparently she doesn't quit, or quitting doesn't keep him out of her sights.

Anonymous said...

Aha. So she does become disillusioned with revenge after suffering mightily to pursue it.

Yes, you must apprise us of this and inform us that Rademacher deliberately and mysteriously whiffs his chances to kill her. Their final, climactic encounter on the ground ... Well, you write it and please show us. I bet this one will turn into a Success Story.

DD3123 said...

Well hopefully the final gets requests and offers :) I'm toying with ditching the morphine in the query as its a subplot so I have more room to expand on Rademacher, his actions, and Nadya's self discovery on who she really wants to be. In Arnold's immortal words, "I'll be back." Thanks again!

DD3123 said...

This is where I'm at. I focused on the main plot but it feels more like a synopsis since it spans most of the text. Thanks for the third look in advance!

Nadezdah Buzina, a pilot with the Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment, dreams of becoming an ace. These dreams shatter when Gerhard Rademacher, a crack Luftwaffe pilot, blasts her out of the sky near war-torn Stalingrad.

Nadya vows revenge, but each time she encounters Rademacher in a dogfight, he easily outflies her, forcing her home with a battered plane. Oddly enough, he never finishes her off, even when he can. Confused, Nadya racks her brain trying to understand her nemesis. This leads to her own self-discovery, and she realizes though she’ll defend her homeland with her life, she never wants to be remembered by how many she’s killed as she feels each death poisons her humanity.

But when Nadya captures Rademacher on the ground after ramming his plane with hers, she longs to execute her new prisoner since she recently lost her wingman to his guns. Rademacher, knowing Soviet POW treatment, refuses to return with her. He asks for mercy, explaining he’s sick of death and has never killed a fleeing opponent. He also promises to run to Switzerland if she releases him. Mulling her options, Nadya knows letting him go could cost her life, but shooting a helpless man could cost her soul. Whichever she chooses, her life will forever change.

Evil Editor said...

So, we're trying it without the morphine. I'd get rid of: Confused, Nadya racks her brain trying to understand her nemesis.

It's a bit weird for a prisoner to be able to refuse to go with his captor.

Also for a pilot to ram another plane in midair--they were flying, I assume?--as a strategy--or was it accidental? In any case, for both pilots to survive the collision.

Rademacher can ask for mercy without the refusal, and Nadya can capture him without the midair ramming.

Maybe if you tell us how many kills make her an ace in the first paragraph it'll make the not wanting to be remembered for the number of kills in paragraph 2 more meaningful.

I think the previous version, if its third paragraph had as much specificity as this one, would have been fine. Tighten them both up and see which one you like better.

Anonymous said...

I prefer the earlier version, as long as you fix the third paragraph.

I miss the first sentence, which 1) provided context before diving in on the Red Army’s 586th and 2) showed the uniqueness of your project.

The flow is rockier in this one. It's not clear why Rademacher blasting Nadya out of the sky ends her dream of becoming an ace; she's back to dogfighting in the next sentence. Her spiritual journey is a bit convoluted or rushed. It's probably worked out in your book okay but I don't get why her confusion over Rademacher's actions leads to her self-discovery.

I also think you need to drop us into the heat of battle. "Oddly enough, he never finishes her off, even when he can. Confused, Nadya racks her brain trying to understand her nemesis. This leads to her own self-discovery." More like "But why does he never make the kill? Nadya has shot plenty of hapless pilots out of the sky, and she feels each death has helped her country but poisoned her soul. When she and Rademacher both go down in flames and she captures him on the ground" etc. More blood and gunfire.

And that final confrontation is too detailed and lengthy.

For what it's worth, here are the elements that stand out to me:

Badly-injured Nadya is so bent on revenge against Rademadher that she fakes her health reports and gets herself a morphine addiction to keep flying. She kills every other enemy pilot in sight and risks the lives of her wingmen while Rademacher continually and incomprehensibly whiffs his chances to kill her. When Rademacher kills her wingman (or at some other breaking point?), she sours on the lethality of revenge, even though she'll still give her own life for her country. Finally, she's got Rademacher in her hands and it turns out he's in the same frame of mind as her.

I liked the morphine element. All the things it brought to mind -- agony, addiction, lying to the medics, stealing doses while her mates moan in pain, pushing her damaged body beyond its limits, maybe some loopy moments in her mind, her promises to herself that once this damned war is over she'll take the time to heal.

DD3123 said...

I'll try and marry the two versions this coming week.

And yes, it was actually pressed by Soviet brass that ramming another aircraft was a valid tactic, especially once ammunition was spent. Tankers were under the same orders.

I agree the final part is lengthy, but I'm having trouble cutting it down to make room for the rest--and I really want to include the morphine if I can, as while its not the main plot, it plays a big role. And yes, Anon, that is a much simpler way of putting everything that happens in the main plot. Maybe I can use that as a jumping point. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Mind you, I didn't mean to write your synopsis for you. I was just listing the elements that jumped out at me. If I got everything, great! It looks like a story that would sell.

Anonymous said...

Mentioning the year or WWII in the first para would probably help orient the reader a bit faster. Maybe a bit less than in the original, but not gone completely.

For the third paragraph, maybe something like

Time after time Nadya faces Rademacher in the skies and loses, yet he never finishes her off. When they both crash, she finally puts a gun to his head. But will finishing him off give her the vengeance she craves or destroy what humanity she has left?