HH Com 590

Sara arrives in Oxford determined to prove she's smart enough for the world's most prestigious university. As a bonus, she'll finally convince her mother that studying Victorian novels doesn't mean wasting her life. And she'll accomplish everything in a storybook home to life: the towers and cloisters once inhabited by the real Alice in Wonderland.

(your hook starts here)
Three weeks into term, she's sure of nothing except how close she is to failure.

She's always loved literature, but now she's churning out weekly essays and defending her ideas to a roomful of students—all of them smarter and better prepared. Just as she thinks she's catching up, her tutor assigns a remedial reading list. She tries to find supportive friends, but she's surrounded by touchy librarians, snooty Rhodes Scholars, and classicists who set their books on fire (yea!!! wait...not their hair??) Even the university bewilders her: of course it should have plenty of dusty historical archives, but is she really the only person who thinks it's dangerous to stack toxic, pornographic film negatives above thephotocopier?

The day Sara admits failure, she makes a poignant discovery in the library stacks.

As Sara struggles to address her weak points and honestly face up to her motivations, she's confronted by an unhappy student intent on destroying everything Oxford represents—including Sara herself. The only way she can prevent tragedy is to prove she's learned how to untangle the myths of Oxford from its reality.

What the hell is "toxic, pornographic film negatives" and can I have some?

Long on events, short on plot, but there's a fire so there might be hope. Start over.


I Said said...

Agreed; too much on the "oh, this is too much for me but I thought it was the answer to my prayers," and not enough on the "hint" of the poignant discovery or the sudden inclusion of the bad guy. Maybe spend some words on his motive and how and why they cross paths.

Virginia Miss said...

Is Sara concerned that the photocopier will ruin the pornography film?

If I understand this correctly, tragedy will ensue if Sara can't tell the difference between legends about her university and the real world. Huh?

Anonymous said...

I keep trying to make this sentence make sense and I can't do it. "And she'll accomplish everything in a storybook home to life: the towers and cloisters once inhabited by the real Alice in Wonderland."

Is there a word missing? Was this copied and pasted incorrectly? Could the author enlighten us all?

And I, too, would love to know what "toxic, pornographic film negatives" might be.

Proofread proofread proofread. And then have someone *else* proofread your work to make sure there aren't words missing.

Dave said...

My first year at University (1968), I was amazed by the number of women students who dropped out because they couldn't stand the thought (and reality) that they weren't number one in the class. They needed psychiatric help. They had been through high school at the top of their class and now hit a University full of people smarter than them.

This isn't a put down of anyone merely the statement that the plot is old and stale. Like over 35 years old. The only way you go to a college or university and come out on top, is to be a genius or by sandbagging your education. Everyone struggles.

Anonymous said...

I would like to add something here except I got stuck at the porn reference. My husband says there is no such thing. How does he know? hmmm...

Twill said...

Old film is toxic, even occasionally explosive.

I recall there was a scandal of some sort with Ivy League college(s?) taking naked measurement photos in the 1950s - a huge trove of biomorphic data which was later destroyed (unfortunately for posterity) due to privacy and other ethical concerns. Dont know if this was what the write had in mind.

Shannon said...

As someone who is currently attending Oxford, I can tell you it's still a location worthy of novelization. So you have one person with some inherant interest. However, you have to do something truly original with it considering the number of times it's been used over the years (most recently as the setting in Phillip Pullman's books, as the basis for Harry Potter). Similarly to other commenters, I'm far more interested in what Sara finds in the stacks than her personal struggles - especially considering students don't have access to most of the stacks! Now, if she's a library assistant (possible as grad student, but not so much undergrad) and this involves a midnight chase through the winding, underground library tunnels , I'd pick this up in a minute. Personally, I want to know what's actually down there!

Author, also it sounds like you go to Oxford/know of people who have, but if you have any questions feel free to e-mail me (check my livejournal).

Shannon said...

Sorry, an add-on to my comment. I too was somewhat confused about the importance of the differences between myth and reality of Oxford. The hook might be clearer if you tell us specifically what myth she has to sort out and why it is so important. Quite honestly, the place is weird enough that it's hard to tell the difference between the two sometimes, but I don't think it's putting my life or academic career in danger any time soon.

dancinghorse said...

I went to Cambridge (you know, That Other Place) back in the Cretaceous, and this was fairly standard stuff then. Went there, did that, wore out the t-shirt. Unless it's written vividly, from an angle I haven't seen before, I'm unlikely to get past the first line or two.

Show us your new, fresh, unusual take on the old trope of Undergraduate Angst, and we'll come back for more.

McKoala said...

I'm sorry, but I'm not sure about your student characters; they seem a little cliched to me.

Pisica said...

Hallo, author here. Thanks for all your comments; it's always good to know where other people get confused!

Anonymous 1: the word is 'come', not 'home' and I have just checked the e-mail I sent to Miss Snark. It was correct when I sent it. I have no idea how things like this happen, but they do. (I once received proofs which showed that, somewhere between my sending the finished copy to the editor and her sending it to the printer, my middle initial had been changed. No one knew why.)

Toxic film = cellulose nitrate negatives, which not only burn and produce toxic gas, but can do so without an external oxygen source (they produce their own oxygen). They can therefore burn underwater or in airtight rooms. Pornographic: depends on your definition, but I'm using Victorian/Edwardian 'nubile young men frolicking on Mediterranean beaches'.

dancinghorse: I completely see your point (and would be interested in any book titles if you have them - most of my Oxford novel research has turned up mysteries, which rarely involve students), but I suspect my angle might be different than those works - I'm deliberately writing for an American audience, not for Oxford students (though I hope they would find the novel interesting).

Thanks again!

Michele said...

Is this chick lit set in grad school? Is Sara English or American?

The ordinary travails of a grad student don't hook my interest, but if any of these are part of your story, perhaps you could emphasize them:

* "storybook come to life" - Is it coming to life in a fantasy way? Is there a time portal hidden in the stacks?

* Stacking film above the photocopier - does a fire with deadly gasses break out? Does this lead Sara to heroics and/or critical choices?

* What's the poignant discovery?

* Is the jaded student threatening to blow the library sky high? Has he abducted Sara?