Thursday, November 02, 2006

New Beginning 154

Only one man aboard the M/V Gesandt heard the speedboats approach. And he did nothing to warn the others.

Screams jolted Aksel Ravn from his dream in the top bunk. As he dropped to the floor, he shoved Olie awake with his foot. Something outside the cabin severed the light beneath the door; Aksel knelt to peer through. He recognized the goat tattoo on one of eight sandaled feet in the ship's corridor.

Olie sounded drugged. "What is it?"

Aksel raised a finger to his mouth. He knew his eyes adjusted to darkness by the alarm in Olie's face. Creeping toward the bed, he said, "Haitians. From the port."

Olie pulled a lead pipe from behind the lower mattress, and Aksel's stomach flipped when he realized why it was there.

"Pirates," Olie said.

"The Finn keeps an emergency radio down in the gauge room." Think. How do we get to it now? Think! Aksel latched onto the bunk's frame. "Help me block the door--"

"Too late," Olie said. "Open it, we'll take our medicine."

Aksel closed his eyes. Then he nodded at Olie and opened the door.

Outside were two men. Well-dressed . . . not pirates after all. The taller one said, "We'd like a word with you. Are you at all familiar with the Jehovah's Witnesses?"

Aksel chuckled. He looked over his shoulder at Olie. "False alarm," he said. "Hand me that lead pipe, would you?"

Opening: metal_maiden.....Continuation: Evil Editor


ScienceSleuth said...

Nice continuation. I liked it better than the original opening.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked the opening, although the first line needs work. "And he did nothing to warn the others" probably means he got killed; but there isn't enough info to know that. In the first sentence of a book, I don't want to guess or interpret. So please tweak so that it tells me what occurs.

Also, I am not sure about being able to see feet from inside a ship's cabin. I have not been in many boats, but I've never seen a door that didn't seal the hatchway; so I don't see how one would look out to i.d. feet.

Lots of great tension in the scene; and it does drop us right in the middle of the action...even though the piece did start with the dreaded *waking up*! In this case, I'd say that isn't the least troublesome, though. Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

My opinion is opposite of attemptingfiction on this one.

I want to read more. I like the way this is written. -JTC

acd said...

Continuation was super.

1: Aksel Ravn sounds like a bad 80's hair band.

2. I'm confused how Aksel would recognize a goat tattoo as Haitian but not recognize it as Haitian non-pirate Haitians often tattoo themselves with goats?

3. Olie pulled a lead pipe from behind the lower mattress, and Aksel's stomach flipped when he realized why it was there. That just gave me an unimaginably dirty mental image. Could just be my unimaginably dirty mind, though.

I'm having trouble getting this setting in my head. It must be at least modern era, because of the technology, but you have people referring to the Finn by his nationality, and pirates in sandals, and ridiculous names. Put this on the Crapometer, give us something more to go by.

word ver = dmnem = damn 'em!

Rei said...

He knew his eyes adjusted to darkness by the alarm in Olie's face

I've read this line about five times and I can't make heads or tails of it.

I think this opener is a good example of why "opening with action" does not necessarily a good book make. I don't know these characters. As a consequence, I don't care about them. I need to get to know them first in order to care that there are Haitians with goat tattoos on their boat.

Anonymous said...

I KNEW that was a Kate Thornton continuation. I scrolled slowly as I read, and knew it was our continuation diva after the first two sentences.

I like the beginning too. Although it's most likely not my cup of tea, as far as fiction goes, it's compelling and should engage readers of suspence.

Dave Fragments said...

I like this. It has many strong elements. However, you need to clean up a few problems.

The first two sentences (really should be one sentence) reveals a traitor. I like that but I don’t think that you can drop that line and then shift so fast to the interior of the boat. Perhaps it’s just added a phrase in the next sentence like “screams from the passengers as they were yanked on deck jolted…”

I gather that Aksel and Olie (bunkmates or cabin-mates) are crewmen rather than passengers. If they are passengers, why (how) do they know about the radio in the “gauge room?” You should establish that. I don’t know if these two are your heroes or merely fodder for the Pirates. Although, you are telling the story from Aksel’s POV. That’s like a tell in poker. I’m betting Aksel’s going to live through this and make it to the end of the novel. I say that because you’re taking time to paint a bit of Aksel’s character and I seriously hope you aren’t going to kill him in two pages. Of course, the plot twist there would be that his surviving relative comes back to take revenge on the pirates. The other plot twist is that Aksel and Olie (who might die) thwart the pirates and discover other dread plotlines.

Other problems: “Something outside the cabin” – that’s a boo, hiss, boo, hiss. It’s passive (not tense, but action). The corridor went dark. No light shone beneath the door to their cabin.
“He knew his eyes adjusted to darkness by the alarm in Olie's face.” - - Again a passivity that works against action and tension. It sounds wrong to me when I read it aloud. Try something like “He could barely see the fear on Olie’s face.”

This is a nice line – “and Aksel's stomach flipped when he realized why it was there.” I think it has too many words but I like the implication that Olie prepared for pirates or self-defense and Aksel didn’t.

I know the constraints of 150 words but “help me block the door” seems to wedge them into one cabin and it assumes that the pirates won’t just batter the door down to get at them when they find a locked door. I hope you see what I mean about this. The reader isn’t prepared for a second exit from the cabin because you didn’t describe the cabin. Not that 150 words gave you a chance. However, this is just anticipating what has to go on.

Take the pirates viewpoint -- they board a ship, search for passengers and crew, and then beat the doors down to find all the people onboard that they didn’t get in the first sweep. Obviously, Aksel and Olie are going to exert themselves to staying alive. That’s ready made action and a nice start for a novel. But you need to think about the actions of the pirates, and maybe the really brutal ruthless pirates.

One of the CSI type shows had an entire plot where they found a dead body that was the only evidence of a dozen crew and passengers tied together and thrown overboard with concrete weights. Pirates are really bad, bad men (and a few women for plot twists).

I just finished reading Troup’s Bad Twin and you already have half the amount of action in your 150 words than he has in 258 pages. I like that, keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

This certainly gets the story going in a hurry and sets the scene equally fast. I quite liked it. However, I would like to have more of an emotional connection with Aksel. What's he feeling? The scene lacks immediacy because we have no reason to empathise with Aksel yet.

Also, I think the word "had" is missing in the following:

He knew his eyes (had) adjusted to (the?) darkness by the alarm in Olie's face.

One thing my brain tripped on was the fact that the baddies are so close to the door that Aksel can see an ankle tattoo by peering underneath that door, and yet the baddies aren't breaking through immediately. There's time for Aksel and Olie to have a short conversation and drag a weapon out.

If the baddies are basically on the other side of the door, then why aren't they either bursting in or barricading Aksel and Olie in? I would think the first order of business when taking over a ship is to open up all the rooms and neutralise whoever you find.

Anonymous said...

Pirates are cool and I love the name Aksel. I like the line about dropping to the floor and shoving Olie awake. MR

Bernita said...

I know what you intend to convey by "raised a finger to his mouth" but look at the sentence.
For all we know he's about to suck his thumb.
Think you're telescoping your action a bit too much.
It's dark apparently ( 'his eyes adjusted") but somehow Olie can see his finger?
The comment "Olie sounded drugged" suggests nefarious stuff in the evening meal, yet Olie is quick/alert enough to haul out a weapon. This sort of apparent contradiction/false lead confuses your reader.
Sounds like an exciting story though, and i liked the use of feet, both to wake Olie and the tattoos.

HawkOwl said...

Hehehe. Good ending. :)

The original - too much information, too much unrelatable drama, and it lacks rhythm, or flow, or something to that effect. I know the minions on average advocate this style, but I don't care for it. Pass.

Mazement said...

He recognized the goat tattoo on one of eight sandaled feet in the ship's corridor.

At this point, I was looking forward to a story about a minion of Baphomet manifesting in the form of a giant spider.

But pirates are OK, too, I guess.

(Verification word: I hit refresh three times before I got something that could be the name of a minion of Baphomet manifesting in the form of a giant spider. It's 'clzjgk'.)

Anonymous said...

If the light beneath the door was severed by something outside, how could Aksel recognize a goat tattoo peering under the door? That would be a trick even if the light was still on.

Other than that, I liked it. Loved the continuation. It reminded me that we still have some milk duds...see ya!

word ver: wakfvzx (what Aksel's foot did to Olie's face to awaken him)

Anonymous said...

minion midwife --

If something severed the light under the door, the person peeking under the door would better be able to see what's on the outside.

The Metal Maiden said...

Great job, Kate!

This was my beginning. Later in the scene, the reader discovers who the man was that didn't warn the others. The freighter's new captain has planned his own abduction and intends to split ransom money with the intruders.

I recently cut ten pages from the intro after multiple rejections. Aksel's last night in Denmark fell away. So did a brief interaction between the Haitians and the crew at the last port (which explains how Aksel recognized that creepy tattoo). After reading your comments, I may bring the full intro back, for clarity's sake.

Many thanks for all your feedback. Minions are definitely a writer's best friend.

Anonymous said...

I don't exactly get what his eyes are adjusting to, or from. If a sleeping person awakes in a dark room his eyes are already adjusted to the dark. Or did his eyes have to re-adjust after looking under the door, or was a light on in the room? I don't know, it is confusing. But a modern pirate story sounds fun. I can't get "Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou" out of my mind though.

Anonymous said...

I liked it, and I didn't mind the obviously nordic name Aksel Ravn. I liked the continuation, too.

That said, there are some ambiguities. Did the one man who heard do nothing because they killed him, or because he's working with them. I'm guessing we'll find out soon, so it doesn't bug me too much.

He knew his eyes adjusted to darkness by the alarm in Olie's face. I can make heads or tails of this sentence--he knew his eyes had adjusted because he can see how alarmed his friend is. But it could--and should--be reworded to better effect.

Think. How do we get to it now? Think! Okay, this just irritates me. It reminds me of Captain Kirk-esque inner dialogue. I'd prefer something along the lines of: But how to get to it? The gauge room might as well be the other side of the ocean. and instead of "Think!" he could think something much more realistic, like "shit!" or "crap!" or "We are soooo screwed." But that's just me and my rabid Kirk-hate. (Please don't hurt me, I can't help it that I hate him. It's something I struggle with every day.)

These are little nitpicks, however, and don't mean too much, since I did like it enough to read more, and it doesn't even seem to be my kind of genre. So, well done.

McKoala said...

Another neat continuation from the masterly pen of Kate Thornton!

I found the original confusing - you start with the 'one man' then jump to Aksel without telling us happened to the one man, so I thought that you meant Aksel and was then confused because he had just woken up! There must be a big gap under the door to see all those feet - and plenty of time to count them too. I didn't follow that sentence about the eyes and the alarm at all; it didn't seem to make sense either grammatically or logically. To 'latch' on to the bed frame seemed weak here; a stronger action verb like 'seize' or 'grab' might work better.

But it's all exciting stuff; keep the adventure moving!

Anonymous said...

I swear, if it's not one thing it's the other. Whitehouse, your usual comments are "Where's the action? Where's the tension?". So now someone gives you tension, and you say you like it but then you want empathy, want to know what he's feeling. Then you proceed to say the pirates ought to be breaking in faster. Do you realize it's 150 WORDS? You can have action, or character development, but now you want both in 150 WORDS? Geez.

Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. Some of these comments sound like "You're breaking a rule in a 'How to Write' book that I read".

As for the opening, I liked it. I like the tension, but I think the execution needs some work. I was tripped up by the jump from the "one man" in the opening paragraph to Aksel in the next. I also don't care for this line:

"He knew his eyes adjusted to darkness by the alarm in Olie's face."

I understand the imagery the author is trying to convey, but the execution doesn't work for me.

I loved the continuation! Awesome job, Kate!

GutterBall said...

Please don't hurt me, I can't help it that I hate him. It's something I struggle with every day.

At least you are aware of this lapse in judgment, Kis. As GI Joe says (and dear God, did I just bring THAT back up??), knowing is half the battle.

This...has been another installment of...Kirk Haters...Anonymous. Please...stay tuned.

I'm sorry! I couldn't help it!

Word ver: xmxhfzys - I am SO not kidding. I couldn't make that up if I spilled a Magna-bet set on the floor.

Anonymous said...


I gave my opinion. The author is free to ignore it if the comments were not helpful to her.

Action can be conveyed through the filter of the POV character's fear or anger, and thus it is possible for a writer to invoke empathy while still careening through an action sequence.

For example, Metal Maiden notes that Aksel's stomach flips when Olie drags out the pipe. More of that sort of thing would be nice, and such descriptions can be worked into the action in economical ways. Dave's suggestion of "He could barely see the fear on Olie’s face" also works to connect the reader emotionally to the characters.

As for tension, excuse me for not saying it bluntly:

Metal Maiden? This scene has great tension! :-)

Anonymous said...

I liked this - it's got action and I'm intrigued by the Haitian pirates - not people you meet in fiction every day. Other writers have mentioned problems with this sentence -

He knew his eyes adjusted to darkness by the alarm in Olie's face.

I'd go with "He knew his eyes had adjusted to the darkness when he was able to see the alarm in Olie's face or something to that effect."

Good luck with this!

HawkOwl said...

Irritated - you know what irritates me? People who criticize others anonymously. Let's you and me form an irritated readers' club.

Anonymous said...

The goat tattoo info?
I don't mind not knowing about it -- yet.
Certainly, you don't have to go back and resurrect a previous opening to explain it up front.
I think what you have here really is your opening, and that is really backstory.
All I'd ask as a reader is that eventually I understand it, not that it pop up in the first 150 words.
You don't lack clarity here -- don't fix what isn't broken.

Anonymous said...

I thought it moved nicely and was a bit out of the ordinary. The goat tattoo threw me somewhat, because I read it as being like a tribal or society tattoo and that Aksel was schooled in that sort of secret sign. If it just means he saw the guy before, maybe that information could be slid in? Or could it be something like a missing toe?
I was a little puzzled by Aksel's reaction to the pipe. It reads as if it's the pipe that brings the threat of pirates home to him, but he's just been looking at them right outside his door. If his alarm is because he now realises Olie isn't going to just surrender, maybe that needs to be brought out a bit? Though I seem to be the only person confused that way, so it may not be an issue.

The Metal Maiden said...

"The author is free to ignore it if the comments were not helpful to her."

Guys, *everybody* provided helpful comments. My hubby encourages my writing endeavors greatly, but he won't read a word. (He's strictly a non-fiction kinda guy.)

The line about his eyes adjusting...having read it a million times, it made perfect sense to me. A fresh set of eyeballs was sorely needed to help me realize how clunky it was.

BTW, just so you don't think that I zipped in here to get a continuation and critiques, I do post comments under Sundae Best. I do this because Hubby's wonderful about letting me hog the computer for writing and research. However, he may feel a little slighted if he knew I was gorging on writers' blogs instead of brainstorming. (And sweetie, if you ever do read this, I went *right* back to work after posting, I swear!)

Thanks again to all of you.

Yet Another Kirk-hater :-)

writtenwyrdd said...

Re piracy, you can check out the "Piracy Report" which lists piratical activity world wide at

HawkOwl said...

Ha! No piracy in MY area at all! Now I'll sleep soundly at night. :)

Anonymous said...

Where are the sharks? And the m* f* snakes? Do they show up later?

GutterBall said...

It would take a miracle for pirates to operate in my neck of the woods. I'm landlocked smack in the middle of the country. Unless they wanted to terrorize a lake or something....

The Metal Maiden said...

You guys presented dozens of intriguing ideas that would have never occurred to me. But sorry, Chumplet, no sharks or mf'n snakes!

There great possibilities here for short stories if this manuscript doesn't fly. I loved Batgirl's idea about the tattoo being a tribal sign. This could take the story (and the backstory) in a completely different direction.

And Mazement, if you write horror fiction, I suspect you could do amazing things with a similar setup, even if you were only kidding with the Baphomet idea.

Anonymous said...

If I gotta put sharks under my Zamboni, you can put them under a boat!

C'mon! I can just see all them little sharks lining up for the cattle call when the movie comes out.

Ever since Jaws played itself out, there haven't been enough jobs for poor Bruce. Except for Finding Nemo.

The Metal Maiden said...

"If I gotta put sharks under my Zamboni..."

Crap! How did I manage to miss that one?

Evil Editor said...

Possibly because it's Face-lift 23, and you haven't read the complete archives--yet.

The Metal Maiden said...

On my way. Thanks, EE!

HawkOwl said...

Gutterball -