12.17.2006

HH Com 123

Meet Abby Blue – first year teacher, new mother, recent wife, ambivalent failure. Her tattoos have been covered, her salty language sweetened, and her penchant for insubordination held mostly in check – for the moment, anyway. It didn’t matter, she told herself, that she hated her job. What mattered is that it paid the bills. For the time being.

But when her favorite student meets a grisly end in the Varsity locker room, everything starts to change. The school, quietly divided by color and subdivided by class, pulls apart, and (this is where you lose it) Abby finds herself desperately hanging on to both ends. After promising a tearful mother to search for the truth when the police would not, Abby is hurled into a world of gang violence, land lust, regular lust, and slick public faces. She visits the prison, steals from crime scenes, tracks down lost parents, and lies more times than she could count in her quest for answers. As Abby edges to the brink of the truth, the rash of violence looms ever closer, bites at the edges of her life, knocks at her door.

You had energy right up to "desperately hanging on to both ends". You lose it cause you lose specificity. You need an antagonist here, not just an amorphous situation.

Focus. What does she hope to find out? Why can't she? What's going to happen if she doesn't.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

tense problem in the first paragraph? shouldn't it be present tense? "it doesn't matter she..."

Anonymous said...

So this is a story about Abby who climbs the social ladder then volunteers to jump back into the pool when her favorite student dies? Why would she do that? Once a person "escapes" the tattoo, salted, insubordinate life it generally takes an act of God to get them to return. Abby's motivation is unclear now and the most vital element you need to make this story work. Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

I wondered at first how a favored student running into an ugly football player in the Varsity locker room had any bearing on the situation.

Then I got it.

HawkOwl said...

Yes, the "layman solves crime while dealing with personal situation" canned plot. But on top of that I found the character contrived and unsympathetic. Not least because teachers don't happen overnight and for her to be a first year teacher now, reflects several years of commitment to that career choice already, which I doubt she'd have pursued if she hates it. Make her a happy, committed person without the "I wish I were a bad-ass bityatch" attitude and I might root for her.

Laura K said...

I think you probably have an interesting plot here, and the genre is right up my alley, so if you don't mind I'll try rewriting it a bit in a way that would make *me* more likely to want to read it.

Meet Abby Blue – first year teacher, recent wife, new mother, [ambivalent failure]. I am not sure what you mean by the last two words and I am assuming that being a wife chronologically came before being a mother. If not, why not? Her tattoos have been covered, her salty language sweetened, and her penchant for insubordination held mostly in check. We'll figure out pretty quickly that her penchant for insubordination quickly slips its bonds; you don't have to tell us. And as a former teacher, I don't want to know she hates her job until I know a lot more about her, so don't tell me that now. But when her favorite student meets a grisly end in the Varsity locker room and Abby rashly promises his mother to look into his death because the police have failed to do so, everything begins to change. The school, once quietly divided by race and class, begins to spin apart. And as Abby edges toward the truth she is drawn into a world of violence and deception.

As Miss Snark says, a definite antagonist would certainly help, but there are also too many extraneous details, too much verbiage. Keep in mind that she has a couple hundred more crapometer entries before she gets around to mine, so you might want to take my comments with a grain of salt.

Best luck!

Anonymous said...

The drastic tense change threw me right away, too.

I am beginning to understand how specificity helps a hook. It seems the less specific you get, the more cliches you fall into.

Used to be a teacher said...

Actually, first year teachers can be a lot like Abby. Especially these days with bigtime teacher shortages. This could work.

wonderer said...

I agree with Miss Snark. You had me through the first half; tighten up the second half as she suggests and you'll have an intriguing hook. Good luck!

Kit Whitfield said...

I like the sound of Abby. One question - if she hates teaching, what did she really want to do before she failed at it? But she sounds fun; the description makes you anticipate the moment when her real personality comes roaring out.

carlynarr said...

I liked this for a reason nobody has mentioned so far-- because it implies, very subtly, that Abby will actually start to care about teaching and her job once she's unwillingly thrown into the investigation of her favorite student. That is, that she will CHANGE, a lot. That's why I think it is actually important that the author mentioned Abby's hatred of her job. So, yes, I like this. More specificity and I'd say it'd be a winner.

Anonymous said...

As a reader, I need to have more details before I can decide if I want to flip to page one or not. You've introduced your protagonist, but you need to do more to introduce the conflict that she's facing. What is it about the killing that has the police stymied? Who are the other suspects? What possible reasons could people have to want that particular student dead? Where does the class and race part come into it?
I agree that Abby's motivation for teaching needs to be explained. Does she hate the grind of teaching, but loves the kids, especially the rebellious, loser kids that remind her of herself when she was their age? My impression from the first paragraph is that she is ambivalent about teaching and thinks that she made a mistake with this new career.
Rewrite this hook starting with the murder and I think that might make it work better for you.