12.27.2006

HH Com 482

It all started with a red editor's pen after a night of whiskey and remorse. The pig standing behind her, breathing his hot stink down the nape of her neck, had harassed her for the last time. As the ballpoint punctured his inner thigh, she knew her career was over.

Norah Blythe thinks she's paying penance when she takes an assignment to write a piece on the local asylum, slated to run front page. Only in her first interview does she learn she was a victim of a scam, tricked into enrolling as a patient and stuck there until the lead doctor deems her fit to leave. Now she must convince the staff of Shady Oaks that she's sane, write something Pulitzer-worthy to save her job and make it home in time to snare Jack Strong, the sexy bartender who's been dancing the flamenco on her heart since her fiance left her. Only problem is, she may not be sane. Nobody Girl is 50,000 words.

Well you've got schizophrenic tone all right. You sound like chick lit half the time, and then "she may not be sane" pulls us right out of that voice and into the rose garden you never promised.

The only way this works is if you're writing from her delusional point of view in places or all places and the reader comes to realize that. There's no way to convey that in hook other than just saying so.

If she's not delusional and in fact just "undercover" then the signed herself in and she can get out any time she wants to. If nowhere else, we all learned that from Ken Kesey.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, signing yourself in doesn't necessarily mean you can sign yourself out, as my niece learned the hard way. It took her parents and the courts to get her released after two weeks of hard fighting.

Anonymous said...

I'm a newspaper reporter, and the odds of a reporter, in this day and age, signing herself into a mental hospital like this are slim to none. The whole "undercover reporter" thing is a relic of another era, especially involving something where the reporter would be interned in a hospital 24/7.

Virginia Miss said...

Brilliant first paragraph!
I was loving this until the "she may not be sane" line. I wasn't sure how to take it; is it meant to be funny (like being in the nut house is making her think she's losing it?). If you meant it seriously, then I misread the tone of the earlier parts.

Unlike Miss Snark, I could totally buy the "can't check herself out of the asylum."

Anonymous said...

The narrator is at fault here. The narrator starts off just as misunderstood as Norah believes herself to be. Then the narrator drifts into a tagalong journalist role to record Norah's activities. When this happens to me it's an indication that I'm actually hearing the story in first person in my mind, but have switched to third person on paper for some reason.

Decide who the narrator is and what relationship he/she has to Norah. Personally, I'd stick with the misunderstood one, but that's just me.

good luck.

December Quinn said...

...pulls us right out of that voice and into the rose garden you never promised.

Heh, I love literary allusions.

carolyn said...

Bent on winning a Pulitzer Prize, a journalist commits himself to a mental institution to solve a strange and unclear murder. But can he stay sane long enough to do it? Sam Fuller directed the film Shock Corridor in 1963 -- it wasn't bad.