Friday, November 30, 2012

(12) Women's Fiction: ROBIN'S A LITTLE HOOD

GENRE: Women's Fiction

Two front-line social workers are tired of the justice system giving abusive men slaps on the wrist, so they set out to shock some sense into them. Literally.

“How can that even happen? What kind of bull**** is that, Robin?” Julia asked as one of her legs bounced violently against the other.

I figured that her questions were rhetorical so I nodded my head to acknowledge them and didn’t answer. Not that I had anything useful to say anyway, because I’d barely kept my composure since Julia told me that the Crown Attorney’s office had decided to drop her rape case.

“I mean, he can just get away with it?” Julia muttered, her leg still bouncing.


“My word isn’t enough?” she asked.


“I’m sorry I can’t offer you answers,” I said, using all of my self-control to keep my cool. “I don’t know the reasons why the Crown Attorney chose to drop your case but I do know that it doesn’t mean what happened to you is any less significant.”

Julia shifted on the couch, not meeting my eyes. My office at Fredericton’s Sexual Assault Crisis Centre was hot—almost stifling and although putting my thick blonde hair in a ponytail usually kept me cool, beads of sweat rolled down the small of my back. And if I was hot in shorts and a t-shirt then Julia must have been sweltering in her grey sweatpants and hoodie.

“I should have reported it sooner, then they could have done a rape kit,” Julia said with her hands clenched in her lap. “Do you think that would have made a difference?”


  1. I am intrigued by the logline but wish the opening was more compelling. I want to viscerally feel this victim's shock and betrayal and the SW's helplessness and fury.

  2. As someone who works with trauma victims, the premise immediately caught my eye. I love that you named the main character Robin: I'm guessing this is a take on "Robin" for sexual assault victims?

    I do wonder if you started this in the right place. This is something that, tragically, happens too often. I can see starting here: yet another injustice has been done. But we all know this happens. Maybe starting it with Robin and the social worker she teams up with would be a little more compelling?

    Regardless, I want to read on. Good luck with the Baker's Dozen!

  3. Your logline is what drew me to read your opening, but like other commenters, I'm concerned that you haven't heard the story in the right place. I know I'm suppose to care that Robin's case was dropped, but I don't feel I know her enough to care this early. That said, I would keep reading because your book sounds intriguing. Good luck!

  4. My guess is this is a topic near and dear to your heart, but it comes off as a little clinical. I'd like to see a little more emotion from the narrator as she seems very detached, as does Julia. I want to care about both of them very much, but it's hard to do that when neither of them seem terribly invested in what's a very tragic situation.

    I think this excerpt could be tweaked emotionally to amp up the tension and reader connection, or perhaps as the other comments said, there might be a better place to start the story?

  5. I think this is an interesting twist on the Robin Hood story (though maybe consider a title and name that’s less obvious?), but I’m not completely sold on the overall vigilante idea. It seems like it’s been done, especially with scorned women, so the injustice isn't as strong a motive as it could be.

    And while I find the writing to be good, I can’t help but think recapping Julia’s case in dialog is a bit too expository. I’d rather see it as it’s happening, so we can get the full effect of the emotions and frustration with the system that I imagine propels the characters’ later actions.

  6. I too feel that the dialogue in this beginning comes across as a 'tell'. The only indication she is upset, other than the dialogue, is the bouncing foot (I assume she has her legs crossed to do this, although you don't actually specify this). Personally I bounce my foot for a number of reasons - boredom, impatient, annoyance, to name a few.

    I found the double reference to Crown Attorney's office one too many. The second time you could simply say "I don't know why they chose to drop..."

    Overall, I'd like to get a better emotional vibe from this opening and, like commentors above, would question if you have started in the right spot.

    Lastly - watch for typos - I said, using all of my self-control TO keep my cool. Small things make a difference when you're trying to impress with only 250 words.

  7. I really like the premise of your story. I agree that I felt detached from your characters, although I think this could be an easy fix. Instead of telling us exactly what's happened in the dialogue, perhaps you could have the victim be more visibly upset. Have the social worker walk over to her, feeling nauseous from her own disappointment and tell the victim that they can appeal (if that's even possible). What I'm getting at is paint a situation where the reader can guess what just happened instead of telling us...Overall, love the premise and would love to read on and see your character take matters in her own hands.

  8. Loved the premise, but it felt sterile. The reader should be able to feel the victim's pain and the social worker's frustration. I think you need to make clear in the first sentence that Julia informs her the case is being dropped. Julie's first question seems inappropriate for the situation.

    Again, I agree with the others; I don't think this is where the real story begins.

  9. I actually like this a lot. I see how both of them have pulled back their emotions because of a variety of reasons. A social worker who can't help and hates the system, but sees no point in sugar-coating the outcome to her client, much as she hates it herself (judging from the logline). Then the client who is used to everyone taking advantage of her and having no justice in her life.

    I would love to read this book. I could get really engaged here. Nice work!

  10. As a former social worker, I hear ya on injustice. I'm curious if this story goes as dark as it could. As for the opening, the phrasing "legs bounced violently" feels off. I get where you're going with it, but not sure "bounced" pairs well with "violently." I think you can drop the exposition about the Crown Attorney office since the MC explains it in dialogue to Julia a few paragraphs later; if you remove the redundancy then there's more room to show character reactions rather than have the MC explain things to the reader. It's such a tough balance, and these are more like tweaks that I think will strengthen the writing overall. Good luck!