Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Next Line 22


“I’m having a problem with bullies,” I said.

Mr. Wilson looked worried. The word “bullies” conjures up an image of testosterone-mad boys slamming you into a locker or cruel girls betraying your confidences. My bullies were a mix of eighth grade boys and girls, all one year younger and at least a foot shorter than I was. For bullies, they weren’t very intimidating.

“I can tell the principal,” Mr. Wilson said, “but it will be your word against theirs.” He leaned forward, lowering his voice, “Or, I could come out and catch them in the act. I can see the courtyard from the English office and I have that period free. Is that all right?”

“That would be great,” I said. “Thanks a lot.”

“If they’re with you, and I’m not coming out fast enough, if you don’t feel safe, just stand up and wave your arms like this.” He waved his arms over his head enthusiastically, having apparently decided that his lifeguarding experience was most applicable to my problem.

I nodded, thanked him sincerely, and turned to leave.

“Be careful,” he called after me. “Don’t go to the bathroom alone, in case they try to jump you.”

The next day, I was surrounded by English teachers. “Been conjugating any big verbs lately, smartass?” asked Mr. Van Horn.

“I saw what you did with that subjunctive,” added Ms. Taylor, "and it made me want to puke!”

Then Mr. Bradshaw grabbed me by the front of my jacket, slammed me against the flagpole, and said, “Diagram that, you little—”

I waved my arms wildly for Mr. Wilson, but then I spotted him--standing under the awning with the yearbook adviser, filming the whole thing.


Dialogue: Leah Libresco.....The Next Line: bunnygirl

12 comments:

amy said...

I gotta say, I'm very interested in where this is going. The writing is good, and the set-up makes me want to know more.

Robin S. said...

I really liked this, and would want to read more.

The continuation is fun.

Dave said...

“If they’re with you, and I’m not coming out fast enough, if you don’t feel safe, just stand up and wave your arms like this.” He waved his arms over his head enthusiastically, having apparently decided that his lifeguarding experience was most applicable to my problem.

I don't think this flows well. I'm not sure we care if Wilson was a lifeguard and now a teacher.
How about:
"If you feel threatened, wave your arms like a drowning man," Wilson said. Somehow that didn't fill me with confidence. I nodded, thanked him."
That covers the topic and moves forward without lots of words getting the the way of the action. However, is Wilson serious? Waving arms like that would look silly and funny. It would be an obvious sign for the bullies to disperse and give them ammunition for later taunts. Is Wilson trying to be sarcastic or is my mind working too hard?

And that first line “I’m having a problem with bullies,” I said. doesn't need the "I said" unless you want it to sound like Popeye the Sailor.

You set up the scenario that the bullies are a year younger and snorter than your character. Yet, Wilson sounds like the character is in mortal danger. Is this just my reading of an excerpt?

takoda said...

Hi, Are these supposed to be for fun, or are they excerpts from real books people are writing?

I'm going to give a few thoughts (humbly, of course). If these writings really are supposed to be light-hearted and fun, I apologize for taking it too seriously!

“I’m having a problem with bullies,” I said. ((Would a kid really talk this way?...."Those kids keep hassling me." I flipped through my notebook to avoid looking Mr. Wilson in the eye.))

Mr. Wilson looked worried. ((How did he look worried? Show, don't tell. For the next sentence, it feels like you're switching voices. Conjures up for whom?)) The word “bullies” conjures up an image of testosterone-mad boys slamming you into a locker or cruel girls betraying your confidences. My bullies were a mix of eighth grade boys and girls, all one year younger and at least a foot shorter than I was. ((If they're in 8th grade, the MC would be in 9th. How do they see each other? Isn't 9th in high school?)) For bullies, they weren’t very intimidating.

“I can tell the principal,” Mr. Wilson said, “but it will be your word against theirs.” ((This doesn't sound real)). He leaned forward, lowering his voice, “Or, I could come out and catch them in the act. I can see the courtyard from the English office and I have that period free. Is that all right?”

“That would be great,” I said. “Thanks a lot.” ((EE--I'm a learning minion. Didn't you say to avoid using 'that' in dialogue? Also, I expected more reaction from the MC))

etc. etc. Good start, I meant to be helpful and not discouraging with the comments.


Good luck,

Cheers!

Evil Editor said...

The dialogues are from real books, but this isn't a site for lengthy serious discussion. Rather than reprint and dissect pieces line by line, we prefer that you say, I didn't find it realistic when the teacher said, "It'll be your word against theirs." Also I don't think the kid knows what the word "bullies" conjures up in the teacher's mind.

Much briefer, and the other stuff was trivial. My high school was 10th - 12th grades. "That" is okay as the subject or object. It's in a sentence like I don't think that I'll go to school today, that people normally don't say it. Of course, this kid might just say, "Great."

Bernita said...

I liked it.
Particularly the conspiratorial Mr. Wilson.

AmyB said...

I liked this a lot. It was engaging, flowed well and made me want to keep reading.

Xenith said...

Didn't you say to avoid using 'that' in dialogue?

You'll see, in a few months, writers in crit groups will be telling each other not to use 'that' in dialogue.

Wonderwood said...

Great next line Bunnygirl!

I was confused by the opening. Couldn't get a sense of the protag's dilemma. It's been a long day and my brain is fried so it's probably just me.

batgirl said...

The opening sounds like fun. Just my opinion, but if there weren't a dialogue tag for the first sentence, we wouldn't know this was first person for a couple-three paragraphs, so 'I said' does serve a purpose.
The bullies all being shorter and younger makes me curious about what's going on - maybe the narrator is stuck with supervising the younger kids for some reason?

McKoala said...

I was a little confused. Does Mr Wilson know who the bullies are - he isn't told? Also, which period - Mr W says 'that period' but no specific period is mentioned?

I'm unsure why these small, younger kids are so intimidating (although, maybe like wolves, they hunt in packs...)and why Mr W should react so seriously as to warn him not to go to the bathroom?

So I ended up just bit confused.

Anonymous said...

Well, one reader's confusion is another reader's intrigue. I thought this was interesting. It was set up to raise questions, which is good.

Not all students in a grade are the same age. I was always a year younger than my classmates, and some kids are a year older.

~pulp