Friday, February 16, 2007
New Beginning 218
Jamie crouched on the planks beside a luxury yacht. Its giant hull blocked the breeze that drifted in from the water. She shivered and pulled her jacket tight around her as she hugged herself to keep warm. Taking deep breaths of the cool air, she tried to calm the fear that threatened to overwhelm her. She unzipped her jacket slowly to keep the noise down. She clutched her gun, waiting for a feeling of reassurance that didn't come. Boats bobbed in the water on either side of the pier. She looked at the sailboat across from her, trying to see something in the predawn shadows. The wooden boards gave an eery creak beneath her feet.
The water lapped against the boats, making a rhythmic slapping sound. Her ears strained to hear the sound of human movement. Standing up, she leapt from her hiding spot. Adrenaline rushed through her body. Holding the gun in front of her, she spun in a circle searching for her pursuers. No one was in sight; she ran down the pier. Hope filled her. The parking lot was only a few minutes away.
She took a deep breath and set off at a sprint for the car park. Her mind was racing. She should have known. How could she get taken in like this? How could she have been so stupid? Never trust a stranger, that’s what she'd told her kids. Was she too old to take her own advice?
This early, the lot was almost empty: just a couple of utility vehicles and . . . there in the corner, a sleek, red Ferrari. Instinctively, she knew it was his. It took only a quick check of the vanity tags to be sure. A luxury yacht and a Ferrari. Nice.
She looked around again. No one. She’d lost the guards. She sat down on the hood of the car. He’d be back here sooner or later, that snake-oil selling, good for nothing, profiteering, son of a bitch. She checked the ammunition in her gun, and waited. Screw everyone else. She was sure as hell going to get paid for her continuation.
Opening: Rashenbo.....Continuation: Anonymous
Posted by Evil Editor at 8:12 AM
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I love the continuation - laughed out loud at work - and here in Decorum Central, that's saying something.
Great job, anonymous person...
Author, I liked this, but it still needs some tweaking to really capture the tension, as well as some corrections to the action to make it make sense. The visuals, however, are clear and the setting well described; but the high tension I see you aiming for isn't quite achieved because the prose is a bit flabby here and there and the logic of the character's actions is a bit off.
First off, you call the yacht "a" luxury yacht, when I suspect it's a very specific yacht relevant to the story. So, at the very least, a "the" would be more properly used here. Even better, you might add a tiny something to indicate why she is hiding in the boat's shadow.
Second, there are a few overlong descriptions, such as "she tried to calm the fear that threatened to overwhelm her" can be clipped to something tighter and more tense. Maybe: "She took a deep breath. No time for fear, she had to think." When you are building tension, short and punchy sentences are often a good choice. Make the rythm of your prose reflect the rythm of the action.
Third and most important, the behavior as well as the blocking is seriously off. She leaps up (into the open) and spins in a circle...after she's been peeking to see if anyone is there to spot her. She's obviously trying to get away. Yet you have your protag jump up and present a silhouette to potential watchers instead of just having her sprinting for safety or some other bit of cover. If she is trying to escape and not to engage the enemy, why has she exposed herself like a target, probably made herself dizzy by spinning in a circle and waved a gun around when she can't possibly aim it?
As someone who actually has worked in law enforcement, I can tell you I would be diving for cover a.s.a.p. even with body armor on, not standing up and being a target. I would probably think getting in the water a much better option than exposing myself, unless it was cold enough to kill me. If escape is the point, then have her consider the most effective means. And if she's a cop, she'd be even more likely to pick a smart rather than a hasty retreat. Paraphrasing the Iliad, "run, run away and live to fight another day."
I hate to be picky, but the logic of the actions screams that you have probably based your visuals on television cop shows, and you haven't really considered why and what she's doing.
I also found a couple of nitpicky word choices. You say the parking lot is only "a few minutes away" when really it's moments. And "eery creak" doesn't work for me. Eerie means creepy, and what I'd expect would be your protag being worried it was too loud because she's hiding.
This opening doesn't quite work for me, and I'm having trouble figuring out why. Maybe because ... well, for one thing, I have no idea who Jamie is. She has a gun, which at first made me think she was the pursuer, but then she's fleeing for the parking lot, so I guess she's the pursued.
The structure of the sentences seems a little monotonous. All telling about what Jamie or inanimate objects are doing. None of Jamie's actual thoughts.
I'm not clear why she unzipped her jacket if she's cold. Was the gun in a shoulder holster under the jacket?
Not sure why you broke the paragraphs where you did. It seems to me the paragraph break should come when she leaps from her hiding spot ... and why does she leap from her hiding spot? Wouldn't she crouch as low to the ground (planks?) as possible? Spinning in a circle wouldn't help her if an armed man is behind her. By the time she made the 180-degree turn, she'd be shot.
I'm rambling, but that's all I can think of. You've definitely got Jamie in a frightening situation here and the scene should be full of tension. The tension just doesn't come through for me.
In addition to what Written wrote, instead of sentences like "The water lapped against the boats making a rhythmic slapping sound." try something like "The water slapped a rhythm against the boat hulls."
And we don't need to be told she held her gun in front of her.Where else?
Modern zippers are practically noiseless and wouldn't be heard above the water, so "to keep the noise down" reads as artificial stealth.
"Adrenaline rushed through her body" is telling - and unnecessary.The reader can safely assume, given she's apparently hiding, that she's geared up.
Brace yourself; I am sorry, but I didn't like this. I've given a line critique below, to outline why I wasn't drawn into the story.
Jamie crouched on the planks beside a luxury yacht. Its giant hull blocked the breeze that drifted in from the water.
Well, if the yacht blocked it, how does she know there's a breeze?
She shivered and pulled her jacket tight around her as she hugged herself to keep warm.
She can't hug herself at the same time as she pulls her jacket tight. Those two motions can't be done simultaneously. Also, you don't need to tell us that she's trying to keep warm. That's pretty much implied by the fact of her shivering, pulling her jacket tight and hugging herself.
Taking deep breaths of the cool air, she tried to calm the fear that threatened to overwhelm her.
Show, don't tell. Rather than telling us she's trying to calm a fear that threatens to overwhelm us, why don't you just show us that? That is to say, put more effort into conveying what she feels when you describe her taking deep breaths. That's all we need.
She unzipped her jacket slowly to keep the noise down. She clutched her gun, waiting for a feeling of reassurance that didn't come.
Sorry, but I rolled my eyes when I read the line about her waiting for a feeling of reassurance that didn't come. That sounded hokey. I also felt confused why she would expect such a feeling - you mean she expects the gun to make her feel better? That logic isn't coming across well in the prose.
Also, I think you were trying to imply that she unzips her jacket and takes her gun out. That also doesn't come across well. I didn't connect the act of her unzipping her jacket with the fact of her laying hands on the gun, the first time I read through. I also wonder why (and how) she pulled her jacket tight if it was already zipped...
Boats bobbed in the water on either side of the pier. She looked at the sailboat across from her, trying to see something in the predawn shadows.
Trying to see? Well, she saw the sailboat; she obviously succeeded in seeing. Maybe you want to be a little more specific about what she's looking for, if she can see, but obviously isn't satisfied with what she sees.
The wooden boards gave an eery creak beneath her feet.
Ahem. That's spelled "eerie". :-)
The water lapped against the boats, making a rhythmic slapping sound.
"(R)hythmic" is pretty much implied by the word "lapped". You don't want to be repeating yourself.
Her ears strained to hear the sound of human movement.
And...? She hears what? I think this would work better if you mentioned the sound of the water lapping and the eerie creak after you mention the fact that she's listening carefully. We want to be inside your heroine's head; when she listens, we should hear something. Currently, you have us hear things before she listens.
Standing up, she leapt from her hiding spot.
She can't simultaneously stand up and leap. Also, what hiding spot? As far as I could tell, she was squatting beside a boat in the middle of a pier. If there are crates, etc. around, you need to tell us about them. I can't picture the scene in your head unless you describe it fully.
Adrenaline rushed through her body.
How does she know that? Has she got a blood monitor for it? Show, don't tell. Make us feel her panic, rather than informing us that a hormone has been released into the heroine's bloodstream.
Holding the gun in front of her, she spun in a circle searching for her pursuers.
What pursuers? Everything so far has implied that she's completely alone. I honestly started to wonder if the woman was clinically paranoid at this point. So far, you've gotten across the fact that she's scared, but not why.
No one was in sight; she ran down the pier. Hope filled her. The parking lot was only a few minutes away.
This is all telling, rather than showing. It gets us through the moment quickly, which may be your intention, but it's also not as exciting as it could be. Also, if she has been frozen in terror on a plank for the past X minutes, why isn't she still frozen in terror at the prospect of running in the open for the next X minutes? That doesn't seem logical to me.
You could also just say that she "edged down her zipper to reach her gun" which tells you she moved slowly and why.
Well, darn. I was all ready to offer my highly intelligent insight here, but I was beaten to the punch by, well, everyone else.
Author, if one person has trouble with the events and the pacing, you can just put that down to him or her not reading carefully enough or, how I like to think about it, him/her being a total moron and what do they know about this publishing business anyway -- it's MY work and I'll damn well write it the way I want to.
If a couple of people have problems, well, that's when you start paying a bit of attention (and probably when you start making up all those defensive excuses in the back of your mind -- or the front of your mind or top of mind or wherever).
If a whole blogging community starts suggesting changes, it's time to pay rapt attention.
You start in the middle of the action, which is good. You vary your sentence structure (if not its length), which is good. So you've clearly learned some things about novel writing that some people never learn. Now it's time to think about logic and pacing and having each sentence say exactly what you mean without overstating yourself.
If I may so advise, I think you may be a perfect candidate for a critique group. An extra set or two of eyes is always helpful!
As for the contunuation: Can't I just see EE tooling along in his red Ferrari -- well, no I can't really, since I don't know what he looks like, but, well, you get my drift...
I want to know who Anonymous is! Won't you please come out and introduce yourself? Please?
Don't take these comments (at least mine) too personally. I just think this is still at the very rough draft stage. Beginnings are difficult!
Wow. This really didn't work for me, even though you've got a gun and a yacht.
I have no problem with the telling part, I think showing is overrated. Sometimes, a lot of the time imo, telling is just fine.
But our heroine isn't making any sense. She's standing and leaping, crouching and leaping etc.
In real life stuff happens at the same time, even weird stuff. In fiction, please make it nice and neat, one thing after another. If not you'll probably end up confusing the reader.
That would be me. confused
I'm afraid I don't have much new to add (agree with writtenwyrdd and whitemouse!), but EE, did you see that you got 6th in the preditors and editors poll? That's pretty damn impressive, if you ask me.
There's even a special plaque for the top 10!
Cool. Next year we try for # 2.
And for Book Editor? I assume everyone who bought Novel Deviations recognized that this project took more effort than the average trilogy.
Ha! Love the continuation!
*makes a few mental notes*
Nothing I can add that hasn't been said. Everyone had excellent points that I won't reiterate.
Wow, you've got a ton of good advice here to tighten this into something awesome.
In addition to the confusing and sometimes contradictory actions noted by others, I found the sentence structure repetitive. Most of them follow a "This Did That," format, with a similar rhythm and feel which quickly got old. It made what should be a tense situation feel tedious.
I've tried to rewrite it, but without a clearer sense of the action, I'm not having much luck. Or maybe I'm just too tired tonight. But do try to look for ways to break up the rhythm, maybe by getting in Jamie's head for a sentence or two, or varying sentence length a little:
"She scrambled to her feet, looking all around. Was that a footstep she heard, or was it only in her mind? There was no one in sight, nothing to make a sound except the waves and a bedraggled gull. Maybe she could pull this off after all. The parking lot was only a few hundred yards away."
Good luck with this!
This one has already been broken down and I don't have much to add to what's already been said, except this:
The water lapped against the boats, making a rhythmic slapping sound.
When you tell me the water is lapping, I hear a rhytmic slapping sound, no need to explain what "lapping" is.
Wooo, I got some long 'ole comments happening here :)
Yup, this was my very very first try at novel writing. Written circa 2000. This was only the second draft of it. It was and still is... crap :) I set it aside when I realized I had no idea what I was doing with it and set myself down to start learning the craft!
Alas, Jamie is not a cop. She's just a woman without much luck. Unfortunately she dies within the next 500 words or so.... A fairly melodramatic and completely inaccurate death scene if I do say.
I really do appreciate all the comments. I have no plan of ever doing anything more with it. I leave it as it is... to remind me of my weaknesses and where I started.
The continuation is quite good! Excellent job of running with the setting. *Clap* *Clap*
What? What? I went to all that effort to not crush a young writer's spirit and it turns out you already knew it was crappy?
My weekly iota of kindness, squandered. *sniffles*
At the same time, I am glad to hear this was a snapshot of your past mistakes. We've all got writing like this stuffed in a box somewhere, so it's always slightly painful to stumble across someone who's at that stage, but doesn't realise how far they have to go yet. Congratulations on being wise enough, back then, to recognise your weaknesses!
That, more than anything, implies you've got what it takes to become a published writer. :-)
I've got still got a few of my earliest efforts lying around somewhere, but I wouldn't inflict them on any sentient being. They make this beginning look like Nobel Prize material.
I deleted my first novel.
I had a blast writing it, but y'know... T'was not fit for public consumption.
Reeeeeally not fit for public consumption. Oh, the horror. Oh, the shame. :-D
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