Saturday, August 26, 2006

New Beginning 90

No one heard the gun shots that fired the two bullets into Russ Thorton's chest that Sunday evening. Aside from the murderer and Russ, the closest humans were at least half a mile away in a sports bar. At that time of year ESPN was running a football game. With all the screaming and shouting you would have to have had super hearing to hear the shots.

If you asked Russ, he would have said that it was like a tremendous explosion and then silence; plus it hurt like hell. Russ is dead now so you won't get that information from him, even if you wanted to.Russ got to his offices that Sunday evening to get some work done. Most people don't work on Sunday night, but business is business and he was expecting a visitor around 7:30 PM.

When he first got into his office, Russ picked up the phone and speed dialed his house on Lake Murry in South Carolina. The phone range four times and then the message machine came on.

Russ spoke slowly, "Honey, I'm in Charlotte a the office, I'll be home tomorrow after lunch, love ya, bye."

Jannie Thornton looked at the phone while Russ was leaving his message. Then she grabed her car keys and with a wry smile on her face, headed out the door.

If she drove like crazy, she could get up to the office, blow the bastard to kingdom come, and still have time for a facial and a salt wrap at the spa.

Russ didn't know it, but the visitor he was expecting was Jannie. And she was bringing a .45-caliber friend.

Continuation: Kate Thornton


PJD said...

Huh. That was the continuation I was expecting. If that's where the story is actually going, maybe it's too predictable.

Anyway, I'm distracted by the third person narrator and a few word choices. "... the closest humans"? Why is it important to specify humans? Will there be aliens in the book? Will animals or other non-humans play a role in the story?

The writing could definitely be tightened up. For example:

"No one but Russ and his murderer heard the two gunshots that Sunday night. At the sports bar a half mile away, rowdy Panthers fans celebrated a touchdown. Even someone with super hearing would have missed the two distant pops."

I do kind of like the "If you asked Russ" line, though again the writing could be tightened. I like it because it creates the narrator's voice: We know the narrator will occasionally drift into irrelevant but amusing asides.

A lot of the "detail" in here is unnecessary: "picked up the phone" and "the phone rang four times" should be left out. Why does Russ speak slowly?

It's sort of an odd, roundabout description of the sequence, too. First the shots, then asking Russ what he thought of them, then Russ arriving at his office and leaving a message for his wife. Although this has me scratching my head, I'll accept it for now as the voice of the narrator, and I'm hoping the rest of the story has this kind of quirkiness to it, too. But I'm still wondering who the narrator is.

I'm also wondering what business Russ is in that he has an office in Charlotte where the nearest people are at a sports bar half a mile away. Having been to Charlotte only once, I'm having a hard time visualizing such a location of an office.

Anyway, I think the murder and the phone message are probably the right place to start. But the writing needs to lose a little flab.

Bernita said...

Opening sentence bothers me in the mixture of cause and effect.
The sound did not fire the bullets.
Agree with PJD, some good voice, but some flab as well.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I felt that the writing was very amatuer, and a little childish. I got bored very very quickly. You need to tighten up your writing, edit and look back over your use of grammar. Plus, for some reason the sentence "you would have to have had..." really grated at me, I'm not sure why, actually.

I guess my point is, it's boring, predictable, and a little childish. You need to get a little more oomph in there!

Anonymous said...

I liked the voice, but agree this needs some polishing. Recast to avoid the clunky "have to have had super hearing" at the end of the third paragraph. pjd gave a good suggestion here.
I liked the second paragaph opening sentences.
What didn't work for me was the phone call and message in the third and fourth paragaphs. why speak slowly? Why tell his wife where his office is located? It would be more natural to mention the location in paragraph 2.(Also, note the typo.) If we don't need to hear about the message and Jannie now, move this to later. If the action switches to Jannie here, a few of these sentences could easily be condensed. "When he first got to the office, he left his wife a voice message. 'Honey, I'm at the office, I'll be home...'"

Anonymous said...

Eh, I would disagree with Anon 2:03 regarding the writing being childish. It's fine, and completely in keeping with the thriller tone the piece seems to have. I think the simple clear sentence structure works well here. There are a few places that could use some improvement, but that's true of all writing.

Anon, your comments are negative, but don't actually outline ways in which the writer could improve. You've dropped a big blog o' nasty on their head, and didn't even have the decency to offer constructive criticism along with it. That's pretty crass, in my opinion.

As for ways to improve the piece:

1) I also didn't like the last sentence in the first paragraph, but mainly for its use of the phrase "super hearing". A more imaginative way to say that would improve the tone. "(H)ave to have had" also doesn't sit well with me. Try a different way to phrase it? One with fewer haves and hads?

2) I'm not great at picking up typos, etc., but I did catch a few here.
- You need a space between "...even if you wanted to." and "Russ got to his offices..."
- "The phone range..." should be changed to "The phone rang..."
- " Charlotte a the office..." should be " Charlotte at the office..."
- "Then she grabed her car keys..." should be "Then she grabbed her car keys..."
- I think the comma after "Russ spoke slowly," should be changed to a period. That phrase reads more like a beat than a speech attribute to me.

HawkOwl said...

I agree with Anonymous 2:03 that it sounds childish, and I think that has a lot to do with "would have to have had super hearing." Super hearing? I'd just ditch that sentence altogether. You don't need an excuse not to hear gun shots over half a mile away. I might work the first paragraph like this:

"No one heard the gun shots that slammed the two bullets into Russ Thorton's chest that Sunday evening. Aside from the murderer and Russ, the closest people were at least half a mile away, watching in a sports bar, watching football on ESPN."

I would also say, "but Russ is dead" and maybe lose "even if you wanted to," and then have a line break. And like the others said, you have lots of typos to fix.

I don't know about Charlotte, but I can totally think of a place in Edmonton where on a Sunday night, the closest people are half a mile away in a sports bar, so that didn't bother me. And personally I didn't think the wife would come over to kill him. What I figured is she's leaving him, and in an unrelated incident (well, probably related by his personality), someone is coming to kill him.

I liked the "if you asked Russ" part, but I'm not sure this tone is gonna happen anywhere else in the novel. At least it looks like you're not a slave to the contrived point-of-view conventions du jour.

I doubt I'd read further, plot-wise, and I think you need to proofread this a lot more before thinking of submitting it, but I think you could grow into someone I might read.

Anonymous said...

This almost reads in reverse time: he gets shot, he makes a phone call, his wife hears the call (or is that his wife?), and what did she do before that? I don't see how you could write a whole book this way, and I'm not sure I'd want to read one, but someone could try.

Anonymous said...

I liked the setup; I mean when is it not a good thing to start a novel with a murder--the ultimate moment of change? But because it's been done and done and done, to do it again demands freshness and verve.

I do not think the writing was childlike; it was just too much like *writing.* Most of the posters before me gave good advice, tighten, rework, etc. I'll add this: get some brain rattling verbs in the piece. (I didn't find even one.)

Again, the setup is first-rate, it's the execution that falls somewhat short.

I would not read on--given its current draft.

McKoala said...

I'm sorry I wouldn't read any further. Similar reasons to some of the above. It wasn't the 'gun shot' that fired, it was the gun. 'closest humans' is odd, unless this is going to be a supernatural and that's not clear. 'super hearing' etc. etc. There are so many strange expressions here that I've lost confidence in the writer.

Talia said...

loved the expression "45 calibre friend" hehe

p.s. are the profile pictures new? i haven't seen that before. nice addition to the blog if it is new (otherwise pretend i've been drinking)

I agree that the "super hearing" comment sounds amateurish. i can see what the writer is trying to do and as a reader of murder mysteries i probably would have read on if i didn't have any other books around.

the story has promise but needs drastic editing. as others have pointed out the writing needs tightening. mentioning the office in charlotte is a clumsy way of trying to set the scene for the reader. i didn't think it was badly written (believe me i've seen badly written - try james patterson's beach road) so much as clumsy and in need of polishing. a good critique group would help

i don't have any suggestions (other than the crit group) because i think the others have covered it...

Anonymous said...

I've decided to give all my comments from here on out before looking at other comments.

So here goes:

I can't shake the feeling when reading this of a kid making up the story, slowly, piece by piece, on the spot, lying to a parent to get out of a jam. It seemed clunky. I wouldn't read on.

braun said...

One thing, and HawkOwl will kill me for this, but the change in POV in the fifth paragraph really bugs me. We've been with Russ for four paragraphs now, we've learned that he's about to die, and now suddenly we switch over to his (presumed) wife?


HawkOwl said...

LOL It's ok, Braun. As long as it's "this bugs me" and not "thou shalt get deep into POV because we need it that way." :)

none said...

I read this one while it was awaiting its continuation, and it really put me off, firstly by claiming that nobody heard the shots (what, not even the person who fired them?) and then by claiming that Russ did hear them. People who've been shot, knocked unconscious but survived have claimed they didn't even hear the shot that hit them, so it's unlikely Russ heard the shots if they killed him outright. That said, once past that, there's humour here to draw the reader in. I like the detail of the sports bar; it makes the writing convincing and also creates a nice separation between Russ, who's just been shot, and these people enjoying themselves, oblivious.

As some have said, however, the opening does try a bit too hard to convince the reader the shots went unheard. A slightly lighter touch might be better.