A little background on this story:
A few years ago, Ben’s teacher requested that some of the kids in his class try to catch a crayfish at home and bring it to school. They wanted to feed and observe a few crayfish as a science project for that marking period. Since Ben takes all assignments very seriously, he insisted that his grandfather take him to the creek to find a crayfish.
After a few hours (or minutes that felt like hours) of searching, they located one under a rock. Ben named him Bobby. Two months later, while still in the throes of grief, he wrote and illustrated the story of Bobby’s life.
Below you will find that yet-unpublished story . . . along with my own editorial critiques.
After all, every book needs an editor.
Be careful when claiming your book is “based on a real story” in an effort to raise the stakes for the reader. Sure, they will be more invested in the book, but if your reader finds out that you lied to them, they’re going to feel cheated and they’ll probably leave you a bad Amazon review. I can verify, however, that BOBBY is a true story. He lived. He existed. And this little crayfish deserves to have his story told.
Your protagonist should enter the story early, preferably in the first chapter. Since he is introduced on the first page–and since his name IS the title–we can safely assume that Bobby is the protagonist of this story. He’s the guy we’re supposed to identify with. He’s the hero. The one we’re rooting for. I also love how the book begins with an action sequence that grabs the reader right from the start. Go Bobby!
I know what you’re thinking: Ben added that massive snake for dramatic effect, right? While it’s true that all good writers add unexpected elements to their stories in order to create more tension, the truth is that there ARE snakes living in that storage room and one almost certainly tried (unsuccessfully) to eat Bobby at some point during the night. Excellent tension-building!
This scene could use a little more description from Bobby’s point-of-view. We know about the rocks and the cave but what about the other crayfish? Do they welcome Bobby with open chelipeds or is he treated as an outsider? What about the classroom? How many students does Bobby see? What does the room look like? What does it smell like to Bobby? Eh, never mind. It’s an elementary school classroom . . . use your imagination.
Bobby could use a little more character development. We’re following his story, but why should we care about Bobby? He’s just a crayfish, after all. Tell us more about him. Sure, we know he likes to hide under rocks and eat moss and vegetables, but who is Bobby, really? What are his hopes? His dreams? What motivates him? What scares him? (Aside from those terrifying faces staring down at him).
Wow! This story takes an unexpected turn for the worse with the sudden loss of our protagonist! In this scene, we also see Ben’s dad emerge as the antagonist. Although it’s not bad as written, I feel like this ending could use a final twist. What if the reader learns that it was actually Ben’s mom who made the fatal mistake of not realizing that Bobby’s container had no air holes and was only intended for transport to-and-from school as opposed to overnight housing? And what if, in a blatant display of cowardice, she allows Ben’s dad to take the blame instead of owning up to her mistake? What if she becomes the real antagonist of this story?
The story wraps up with a fitting final scene where Bobby’s body is returned to the precise spot in the creek from whence it came. This scene could’ve been fleshed out a little more. Was a funeral service held for Bobby? (Yes) Were prayers said? (Yes) Were tears shed? (Yes) However, the best part of this scene is the chilling final line: “Ben was sad, but he had to remember, ‘Bobby would have been eaten, if they hadn’t taken him.'” Although it sounds like something a guilt-ridden mother would tell her kid, it really leaves the reader pondering the fleeting nature of life and the certainty of death.
Overall, not a bad first draft but it could use some work. This blog post is, of course, dedicated to the memory of Bobby the Crayfish.