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Mommacrit June 2007 column


Crit Me!




First page by E.Hatcher, one writer who dared send work to Mommacrit.


     I knew Deacon Pearce was dead before ever touching his cold body. I fought back the panic that squeezed my chest.
     It was
8:00 A.M., and I had just entered my office at the Oak Ridge Baptist Church, where I was the secretary/treasurer. I hadn't seen him when I first stepped into the room that Monday morning. Reports lay strewn all over my desk and floor. What now? He was always so critical. What had he been doing at my desk? Why couldn't he go play golf with the other old codgers and let the rest of us earn our living?
     I sighed and made my way toward the side of my workstation and saw them: two wing-tipped shoes stuck out from behind the desk.
     I froze. My drink and bag of cinnamon biscuits fell from my arms. “Oh dear Lord.” My heart pumped so much blood to my temples, I thought my head would explode.  I pushed down the feelings of alarm and knelt beside him.
     A large ceramic clock, normally on the nearby credenza, lay beside him on its side, the back cracked open, revealing the inner works. The wheels clicked mechanically and strained to rotate but kept springing back. Time had stopped for Deacon Pearce at
10:39, when his head had come to rest in a pool of blood. Sinister fingers crawled up my spine, and the panic finally won. I feared whoever did this might still be in the building.
     I leaped up, still clutching my purse and ran out to the car. Jumping in, I locked the door, started the ignition, and backed across to the other side of the parking lot. I felt safer there, with the motor running, knowing I could take off if anyone suspicious-looking came out of the building.
     My hands shook as I fumbled in my purse for my cell phone and called 911. After hanging up, I tried to take deep, calming breaths as the doctor had instructed I do whenever I'm hit by one of my frequent anxiety attacks.
     Slow and easy. The heat drained from my face and the pressure in my head began to lessen. Finally, I was able to inhale one of those deep, cleansing breaths that signaled the end of the episode.
     Sadness washed over me as I leaned back against the seat and waited for the police to arrive. A myriad of emotions hit me all at once: anger, sadness, fear. Someone had taken the life of another human being. Yes, he was a crotchety old man, but who would actually want to murder him? Sure, there were times when even I had wanted to throttle him. Nevertheless, ever since my husband Joel's death, he had mowed my lawn each week, never asking if I needed it, never expecting anything in return.
     Regret and shame filled my soul. Why hadn't I appreciated him more? I'd looked at him as a miser who didn't want to give me a raise.

Title: Murder at the Baptist Church
Genre: Mystery
Author: E. Hatcher


Mommacrit may have to abandon her practice of drinking margaritas and wearing sexy black lace underwear while critiquing. Should she continue to get submissions like E.Hatcher’s, Momma may settle for Betty Boop jammies and hot chocolate. Why? Because E.Hatcher has mellowed the Momma!


Did E.Hatcher follow the guidelines? Heck yes! Title, author, genre not only included but nicely formatted. Word count within limits. The guidelines have been followed and Mommacrit congratulates this writer.


But let’s move on. Is this page a hook, a damn good beginning that lures Mommacrit to keep reading?


First off, E.Hatcher has plunged us into her story. There is no preamble about dental hygiene or feeding Fluffy the goldfish – the first paragraph tells us the “I” of the story finds a dead body and panics. Mommacrit admits to nosiness but what reader wouldn’t be lured into following up on a murder?


There is very little to throw the reader out with this first page. Mommacrit has a couple of nits (see below) but E.Hatcher has presented us with a clean, clear and polished 500 word hook. The “I” shares her feelings with the reader, luring us further into the story by making us identify with her eg “My heart pumped so much blood to my temples, I thought my head would explode.” E.Hatcher has used strong verbs and given vivid details to sweep the reader along.


Momma’s nits are these:


With the sentence “ I sighed and made my way toward the side of my workstation and saw them…” Momma suggests it would be more grammatical to have “I sighed, made my way toward the side of my workstation and saw them…


Here, “…whenever I'm hit by one of my frequent anxiety attacks...” Mommacrit believes the character is bordering on whining. Find another way to express it, so the reader doesn’t lose sympathy.


The Momma would definitely read more of this mystery, to discover whether E.Hatcher sustains the promise of the hook. Will E.Hatcher make us care that a crotchety, miserly old codger is dead? Will the clues be laid out for sleuthing readers to follow while the conclusion retains some surprise? Will E.Hatcher manage to weave plot, character, pace, tone and conflict seamlessly to create a satisfying tale?


Mommacrit hopes so and wishes E.Hatcher the best of luck!