Friday, September 07, 2018

Face-Lift 1381

Guess the Plot

The Flight of a Demented Bumblebee

1. Like Donald Trump, Bali is enrolled in military school at the age of thirteen. Bullied by older cadets, who call him a demented bumblebee because he can't take the heat, Bali must decide whether to quit school or stick it out and one day become president and take revenge on the entire planet.

2. He goes up, he goes down. He goes all around. It's Fizzlebutt, trying to find his way home. Fizzlebutt needs to take pollen to the Queen but it's so much harder when you're demented. There must be something he is good at. Robbozip hires him as an apprentice assassin. Killing humans was his calling all along, but can he hold down two jobs at once?

3. Julian has been attending violin lessons all his life. When his teacher disappears, strange things happen, even stranger than no longer hearing that same frigging scale over and over. Its refreshing.

4. A comic coming-of-age-for- a -lonely- misunderstood- teen story, right up to the chapter where she takes an axe to her obnoxious school bully Biffy.

5. The completely and totally absolutely legal way to create psychedelic, aka "mad", honey with tips on bee keeping, growing rhododendrons, and not accidentally poisoning the neighbor's dog, pig, cat, or hamster. Also, an appendix on lucid dreaming.

6. One demonically possessed piano, two harmonically challenged after-school clubs, three classes uninterested in the finer points of music--this will be new high school teacher Nikolai Reem's finest hour . . . or the opening of an inter-dimensional portal to hell.

7. When the magic Swan-Bird tries to change Prince Gvidon from bumblebee back to human form, things go horribly awry. Tragedy ensues. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Bali Zutshi has seen more than what any thirteen-year-old boy should. From communal riots in Anantnag to name callers and dodgy astrologers in Jammu. From his fragile single mother to a father he has never met. [Has he seen his father? If not, maybe his father shouldn't be on this list of things Bali has seen.] Like a battered silver ball in a pinball machine, Bali never feels in control and has learnt to choose inertia over action. When his mother promises him a better future at the prestigious military boarding school in Haldwani, Bali reluctantly agrees.

But it doesn’t take long for the school’s hierarchical structure, strict codes of conduct and intense inter-house rivalry to take a toll on Bali. Entangled in the clutches of a senior bully, who gets him into trouble, [Specific example?] and his House Captain, who makes him go through [endure] rigorous boxing training for the coveted Inter House Boxing Championship, Bali buckles. When he gets severely punished for someone else’s mistake, [What was the punishment and what was the mistake? Specificity is good.] it’s the last straw.

Now he has two options. Either he digs in and becomes the man his hopeful mother wants him to become. Or for the first time ever take matters into his own hands, escape the rough and tumble of boarding school and screw up his life. [I'm not sure it follows that escaping this boarding school would screw up Bali's life, but if that is the case, his two options are become a man or screw up his life. It would feel like a tougher choice if it were between pleasing his mother and being happy. If his mother can afford this school, maybe she can afford a more bearable school?] [If nothing else, say "possibly" screw up his life.]

But, the pinball plunger has already kicked the silver ball into action and [whichever], irrespective of the choices Bali makes, he will have to eventually stop running away and play the game called life. [That's a bit vague. You said Bali had two options, dig in and stay, or run away. Now you suggest that he's running away no matter which option he chooses.]

THE FLIGHT OF A DEMENTED BUMBLEBEE (~89,000 words) is a coming-of-age story grounded in the harsh realities of a military boarding school in India. I survived five years in one to be able to write this story.

I am an MBA and a Marketing Professional. This is my debut novel. I took a sabbatical to complete it. I write because a good story can be a cathartic experience and give poetic justice to those who have been denied.

Would you like to see more of the book?

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Author's note:  Regarding the Title: The term 'demented bumblebee' is given to cadets in the military boarding school that are fickle and cannot take the heat.


When you reach your "last straw," you've been pushed past your breaking point and are going to take action. You're out of this place, or you're going to poison the bully or blow up the school. Instead Bali's merely deciding whether to take action, so it wasn't the last straw.

The red words aren't necessarily wrong, but aren't needed.

The words you added after your signature (not shown) aren't helpful.

A pretty good query once it's cleaned up. A lot of US agents claim to be looking for books set in other cultures. Even if you're looking to publish in India, this boarding school is probably a little-known setting to most readers.


AK. said...

Dear EE,

Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to facelift my query. I have taken note of all your comments (as well as those from your archives). I will be working on improving the query until I nail it. Hope to send you a revised version soon! Also look forward to comments from your other readers.


PS: I didn't know there was a famous song similar to the book title. I gather that is where the inspiration for many of the plots is coming from :D.

khazarkhum said...

EE--you need to fix the submission for the GTP. Right now they're all out in the open, which takes away much of the fun.

Iamanoldvampirechild said...

I liked the first half of the query,

'screw up his life' read badly to me because if he had the foresight to comprehend that leaving the school was screwing up his life, it wouldn't be an option, so I doubt the MC veiws it like that. If he does, then I still wouldn't put it in query like that because it warrants explanation you don't really have time to give, especially since other things need expanding.

I also want an expample of what the bully does.

'Entangled in the clutches of a senior bully, who gets him into trouble' is the most boringly put thing in your query, yet it's supposed to be where the tension and stakes stem from, so i'd try to use a specific example like EE said.

Maybe instead of saying 'entangled' you can give an example of what entangles him. ie; why doesn't he just tell the principal = goodbye expelled bully?

I also really think it would help to know about the mistake the gets him into trouble because it will make query more interesting and make reader feel more for him. The word 'mistake' itself falls flat because mistake size varies

AK. said...

Lamanoldvampirechild, you have caught me red handed. This is what drove me to seek EE's help in the first place.

A few challenges I am facing:
1. It is difficult to explain certain character actions without the context of the school setting/culture/codes of conduct (especially the relationship between the different levels of seniority in the cadet hierarchy). But so far I have found it challenging to get into those details without confusing the first time reader in a query.
2. The 'screw up his life' part has not been written from the MC's point of view. So yes, you are right. I will fix that.
3. Explaining the 'bullying', 'mistake' and 'punishment' part would involve a lot of other characters. Hence, I was forced to be a bit vague about it to keep it simple. But it seems it is taking away the punch from the query. WIll work on it!
4. While the MC goes through a lot at boarding school, his batchmates go through most of it as well. But the MC's background and worldview make him react to it differently. The crux of the story is how the school challenges him and brings out his best once he learns to commit himself.
5. I didn't mention comps in the query since I couldn't think of any books. The movie 'The Karate Kid' comes to mind though.

Thanks again for your comments!

Anonymous said...

Author, the musical score you're unfamiliar with is called "Flight of the Bumblebee." Check wikipedia for more info if you're curious.

for item 1, you might be able to get away with simply stating there is a class/seniority hierarchy that causes xxxxx without needing to go into details.

If you're planning on querying agents other than in India, you might want to squeeze in that that's the country where this takes place near the beginning.

good luck

Iamanoldvampirechild said...

You might have to sacrifice some of the things you like in the query in order to make room for the punchiness. ( like the pinball metaphor. I like it but without stakes evident it's wasted anyway ) The hierarchy sounds interesting to me...I feel like you left out the most interesting bits. The things that make your book unique so I hope you can play around with it and come up with something

St0n3henge said...

Hi, author.

First, I noticed you are mixing metaphors. Your character starts out as a pinball in a machine, which is fine and I like it, but later he "buckles" under "the last straw". A pinball can't do that. It has no back. Try sticking with the pinball through the whole thing, or leave it out.

I agree there needs to be a better choice for the MC than stay in school and make his mom proud or leave and become a bum on the street. I see where you were going with it. You meant the choice was to stay in school and become the adult his mother expects, or leave and take his fate in his own hands. That choice needs to be clearer, though.

I also agree that you left out the specifics that make your book unique. Exactly what is at stake, what the "mistake" is, and so forth.

Repost when you have a new version.