Blog 63: The Abott Hotel

By Tristen Kozinski 6 comments

Blog 63

Hello everybody, today we have a piece titled The Abott Hotel by Violet on

Paragraph 1

My name is Tatiana, and I work as a receptionist at The Abbott Hotel. It was founded a few hundred years ago and remains one of the oldest operating hotels in the country, though you won’t find it on any travel or heritage websites. We’re a quiet, unnoticeable hotel to anyone who isn’t explicitly looking for us. Almost no one is ever looking for us.

As opening paragraphs go I have very little to say about this one; yes, there is a few instances of passive voice but as a whole the prose is concise and well-structured and there is little I can immediately do to tighten or improve it. That being said, something to notice is the lack of a strong or dynamic hook; there’s no immediate peril or action presented or alluded to, or anything remotely loud to capture or entice the reader’s attention. Emphasis on loud because this paragraph —and the way it’s written does three things— one of which is a soft hook. The most obvious thing it does is introduce the readers to the story’s setting, and thus orients the reader: by the paragraph’s conclusion we know where we are and have already formed a complex opinion of our main character (albeit incomplete and probably wrong in several areas). But the way it does this is important, specifically the phrases ‘oldest operating hotels’ and ‘almost no one is ever looking for us’ because what these phrases do is distinguish the Abott Hotel, subtly highlight that it’s unusual and just ever so slightly special, and that is a hook. It’s a subtle hook (this isn’t a loud story, though, so it’s fitting) but it still presents the setting of the story as something worth the reader’s attention. You also have the sliver of humor in the reversal of ‘almost no one is ever looking for us’ (and the reversal itself is also more interesting to read than if the author had just written “…quiet, unnoticeable hotel that hardly anyone ever visited”). The final thing this paragraph does (with the first two being introduction and hook) is set a pace and tone, two things that (if handled well) I find appealing. Effectively constructed tone is an expression of story, and that is another way of telling the readers there’s something here worth exploring. That it requires the author to have a grasp of their story (even if it’s only instinctual) is a good thing as well. As for pacing, I find a more patient prose style appealing (Patient in this context meaning intentionally slow rather than slow because of bloat or because the author had nothing to say and so just filled the page with fluff.) because patient prose is often a sign of confidence, confidence in what’s transpiring and where it’s going.

As for the technical improvements, I can only really advise changes to the last two sentences. The first change would be changing ‘anyone who isn’t looking for us’ to ‘anyone not looking for us’ because I think it reads a bit better and is slightly more active while also being less wordy. The second change is ‘no one is ever looking’ to ‘no one ever looks for us.’

Paragraph 2

We’re a modest size with only three full floors of rooms available for guests, and our guests tend to stay indefinitely. In fact, many have had their reservations longer than I’ve been employed here. Each guest is somewhat eccentric, but that’s to be expected in a place like this. They’re usually harmless and tend not to fuss at each other or at the small staff.

There’s a little more I can mention for this paragraph but the prose remains solid with little fat or extraneous details and nothing that would benefit from more vibrant descriptions because nothing that’s happening is particularly vibrant.

Some of things we can potentially delete are ‘full’ and ‘of rooms’ from the first sentence. The author’s meaning is conveyed effectively without these since the ‘rooms’ are largely implied by ‘hotel’ and ‘full’ is implied by the lack of modifiers to ‘floors’. (It’s the same as saying I ate a full peach; I ate a peach vs I ate half a peach.) 

Another potential change, though one I won’t be making, is swapping ‘many have’ to ‘most have’. The reason I considered this change is because I liked the way ‘most’ read better than how ‘many’. I think the reason for this is that ‘most’ has deeper phonetics and so compliments the slower pacing while also balancing the inherent energy of ‘in fact’ (which reads a little bit like an exclamation by nature because it emphasizes what follows). I won’t be making this change because it’s a significant meaning shift and probably isn’t appropriate considering future information.

The next change I would consider is changing ‘each guest is’ to ‘they’re all’. There are two primary reasons for this, the first being that ‘each guest’ reads a little bit more stilted as it’s reintroducing the topic of guests; it doesn’t flow from the previous sentence because it starts a new thought whereas “they’re” doesn’t reintroduce the guests just treats them as if we were always talking about them and there was no interruption, which there wasn’t. The second reason I like this change, though it’s less tangible, is that ‘they’re all’ is more familiar and friendly. ‘Each guest’ reads like a technical dissertation, it cut all emotions and connection from our narrative and what she’s recounting, but since she’s known these people for a long time (as revealed further in) I prefer the familiarity. (Her calling them ‘eccentric’ is also an expression of familiarity, so ‘they’re all’ fit a bit better from that context as well.)

A reason to not implement this change is that the next sentence also starts with a ‘they’re’ and the two could echo unpleasantly. Example—

They’re all somewhat eccentric, but that’s to be expected in a place like this. They’re usually harmless and tend not to fuss at each other or at the small staff.—

The ‘they’re’ do echo so we’ll need to putter around a bit and see if we can resolve that and the solution I ultimately devised was something like—They’re all somewhat eccentric, to be expected in a place like this, but usually harmless and tend not to fuss at each other or at our small staff.—

The main change was deleting the ‘but that’s’ from the adjective phrase in the first sentence and migrating the ‘but’ to replace the second “they’re”. I also changed ‘the small staff’ to ‘our small staff’ because I like how the ‘our’ makes Tatiana feel more part of the hotel.

I think that will be all for today. The blog’s a bit shorter than usual, but I’m sure we will all survive.

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