3rd SR Crapometer #35

Dear Miss Snark,

Why you? You're snarkilicious enough to run the Crapometer and let us KY fans be a part of it. You're the rock star of Blogdom and I'm a groupie.

Here's my deal: post-college I set up shop doing book and magazine publicity. I was always happiest when I worked on young adult literature. Filled to the brim with a need to make a difference in the world, I went back to school and became a high school English teacher in bucolic eastern Pennsylvania. From New York to PA by way of Connecticut and Ohio, with dance clubs and border collies and horses and growing up thrown in, I knew I was ready to make my contributions to the world for teens.

I found that no matter how many books I fed to my students, they always wanted more, but they had criticisms. So I wrote the book I'd always known to be the truth of high school and added elements my students said were missing from what they read.

To that end, (title) is about Meredith, a seemingly perfect high school senior who hates herself because she bullies a girl at school by making farm animal noises at her. Character development is supplemented with illustrations, notebook covers, charts, graphs, and quotes (as per the requests of teenagers). (oh boy)

Meredith goes on a journey of introspection, feeling the mixture of self-loathing coupled with pure joy that is so true to all of us in our teenage lives. Recognizing that she needs to fix what she did to the girl she bullied, she seeks redemption for herself.

Regardless of whether or not you like (title), I want you to know that I appreciate how snarkarific the Crapometer is.

Yours in snark,

I hate it when people show up with art and illustrations for a text. Unles it's a picture book I'm going to be pitching on text alone, and authors can get really ..ahem..snarky, when you tell them their art work isn't going to the meeting.

Also, there's no plot. Meredith may go on a journey but we need to see what happens to her. If she hates her self for doing something, why doesn't she just stop? I hate lettuce so I stopped eating it. Pretty simple. And if it's not that simple, we need to see why not.

"Moooooo," I brayed as she passed me. I hated myself. Even as Darcy, Erica, and I giggled and sashayed, smiling hello to the swarm around us, I hated myself. There was no good reason to pick this girl out from the crowd and make barn animal noises at her. It really did begin in a spontaneous moment and she really was just in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time, a victim of random walk-by bullying. (you're pulling us out of the moment by giving us this commentary on the action)

We didn't even know her name. We'd never seen her before so she must have been a freshman. Enormous brown eyes with a bit of an almond shape to them were set perfectly on her round face and framed by thick, straight, chocolate brown hair that fell to her shoulders. What was her name?

It dawned on the girl that the sounds were directed at her and I knew she understood this because while she'd just been glancing around at numbers on classroom doors, those eyes pivoted and locked with mine. Those eyes will haunt me, I realized, as I flipped my blonde mane (oh dear dog) over my shoulder, arched my neck, let out a gusty "Cock-a-doodle-do!" and burst into guffaws, snorting like the hog I'd become. It was all so animalistic, barbaric even, and I was the one who'd started it.

To bust a move away from what I'd done, I grabbed Darcy's sleeve and said, "c'mon, let's go to Senior Lounge and get hot chocolate." I waved to Christopher as he turned the corner to go to his class.

"Mmmmm," she cooed, "hot chocolate. I'll see your hot chocolate and raise you a chocolate frosted donut, too."

"You're on," I replied and when I saw her turning back toward the freshman I'd just humiliated, I tugged again and said, "I'll buy today." That whipped her around fast and she matched my pace down the hallway toward the cafeteria.

Erica caught up to us half a second later and asked, "who was that girl?" I froze for a beat trying to think of a way to redirect their attention from my bullying and said as nonchalantly as I could muster, "who knows? Just some freshman. Whatever. Let's get to the caf before the soccer guys 'cause they'll eat all the donuts first."

"Ugh," Erica replied. "Those guys can be so gross. Did you smell them in the hallway before? They shouldn't be allowed to practice before school. I mean, they don't even shower after and it's disgusting sitting in class with them."

Darcy and Erica chattered all the way to Senior Lounge and I felt my palms lose the clammy feeling from sweating. What had happened back there? What had I done?

If you're writing in the first person, you need to inhabit her, let us see taste hear and smell what she does. And if she's self centered enough to describe her hair as a blonde mane (and not ironically) then she's probably not quite as sensitive as "what had I done" is meant to convey.

She can be a bitch even if she's the heroine. Seeing her change makes her interesting. My sense here is you aren't in her skin yet. It sounds like you came at this cause you wanted to write something, not that the characters or story started first.


Elektra said...

Why must the "perfect" girls always be blond? It always drives me insane that never, in all my years, have I come across a blond character who's just a nice, relatable, nothing-speacial-about-her kind of gal.

Alexandra said...

Yet, ironically, the three girls who bullied me the most were all blond.

Writerious said...

This sounds like what it is: an adult trying real hard to write in a voice that sounds like a modern teen. It doesn't work. What might work is to stop trying so hard and start listening to the character.

""Moooooo," I brayed as she passed me. I hated myself..." What I wanted to say to the MC at this point was, "Well, then stop it. And get over yourself." Which would have ended the book in the first paragaph.

Anonymous said...

Mooing isn't braying. Cows moo. Donkeys bray. They're not the same sound.

Sarah said...

"You're the rock star of Blogdom and I'm a groupie."



And it gets worse.

I could not, for all the tea in China, be a literary agent.

srchamberlain said...

Blech: "From New York to PA by way of Connecticut and Ohio, with dance clubs and border collies and horses and growing up thrown in, I knew I was ready to make my contributions to the world for teens."

This is so arrogant that I stopped reading immediately. Glad to hear from you other commenters I wasn't missing much with the actual writing. A certain amount of humility in a query letter signals to an agent that you know your writing can stand on its own, without the benefit of trumped up "experience." As it stood, this read like a bad college essay about "making a difference."

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Author, but I didn't find any of the excerpt believable.

When I was in school, I never saw any indication that the bullies felt remorse. They appeared to revel in successfully causing pain, and while they probably grew out of that behaviour eventually, I didn't see any evidence that it was happening at the time.

And animal noises? That's absurd; the bullies had much more sophisticated means of being cruel than that. Making animal noises could be turned against the bully too easily. Cool kids don't moo on a regular basis; once or twice for laughs might work, but not indefinitely.

Finally, I cannot find any sympathy for your main character, so I don't have any interest in being plopped inside her head. She's both a bitch and weak-willed. There's nothing there to admire.

I think you need to dig deeper, and make both the conflicts and characters more subtle. Really work on your conflicts, because they're currently too shallow to be either believable or engaging.

Anonymous said...

'"Moooooo," I brayed' is worthy of inclusion in that list of all-time funniest slush-pile quotes that I picked up from a link here a few months ago.

Anonymous said...

Was this one a joke?

Anonymous said...

Educated? I'll pass.

Katie. said...

Also, just so you know, the moo-ing (and bullies shouting other animal noises) has already been done in a Meg Cabot book (she wrote those YA books you might have heard of--"The Princess Diaries"). She also managed to do it much, much better.

Anonymous said...

From author: I sat up straight and paid close attention to what all of you said. Thanks for reading and commenting (even if you hated it -- sorry!) because it's the best learning experience I could ask for. This was exactly the feedback I needed to get what I was missing. Next Crap-O-Meter I'll leave my stuff out so someone else can have the spot.