Wednesday, June 13, 2007

New Beginning 293

Raucous laughter pealed from the cockpit at shorter and shorter intervals as the Liberia Airways 747 knifed through the darkness seven miles above the Atlantic. Captain Ibrahim stood in the center of the flight deck with Fadi Haruna, both men hunched over almost-empty glasses of Scotch from the first-class cabinet.

Haruna wiped the tears from his eyes. "I must go, boys. Really. I must get some sleep."

"Come come, Alhaji," Captain Ibrahim said, stressing the honorific, "one more drink."

Haruna waved him off. "No, seriously. I drive to my village as soon as we land."

Captain Ibrahim grabbed Haruna’s forearm and squinted at him with malaria-yellowed eyes: "You will have time to sleep when you are on the job." The other men burst into laughter and he continued: "You will have time to sleep when you are with your wife." They all laughed again, this time much harder, like they had never heard such a funny thing.

Haruna held up his free hand and eased toward the door. "I will go back to my seat so you can get some sleep, Captain. But please don’t forget your old friends when you are a big airline tycoon." He hoped the captain was less intoxicated than he appeared. Ibrahim was, well, a real ass, but there were worse things to be.

The door clicked shut behind him; a heartbeat later the first thud came.

The second thud, a moment later, drew Herb’s attention away from the cockpit door back to his wife.

“This freaking seat doesn’t work.” Marge jabbed at the control again and with another dull thud her body contorted into one more unnatural position. “What the hell kind of airline only sells its tickets on eBay anyway? ‘Let’s travel first class,’ you said. First ass, more like it. I need a freaking translator’s dictionary just to order a Scotch -- which I then can’t have because the freaking pilot’s already finished both bottles . . . ”

Haruna shot Herb a sympathetic glance as he shuffled past.

“ . . . and the fact you can’t pronounce the main course without ejecting phlegm doesn’t make me feel good about the salad dressing,” Marge continued, “and I can't use the freaking bathroom because someone's keeping a sheep in there. A sheep?! Well?”

“Hm? What was that, dear?” Herb played dumb, but he knew already the return trip, on Delta, was going to be even more trying.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: ril


Blogless Troll said...

Christ, is it Clipart Wednesday already?

I liked how this created tension right off the bat without being heavy handed. Pilots schnockered in mid-flight, you know something interesting is coming.

Bernita said...

I liked it too - it has "flavour."

Anonymous said...

Drunk pilots + racuous laughter + full airplane = a helluva lot of tension.

I'm assuming the 747 was carrying passengers. I liked this beginning because it was so unexpected. I'd definitely keep reading.

Anonymous said...

"Ibrahim was, well, a real ass, but there were worse things to be." Like a drunk, flying a plane?

Is Haruna co-pilot? Or when he goes back to his seat, are we to infer he's a passenger?

Love this: "malaria-yellowed eyes"

Anonymous said...

The use of language is hilarious. However, the first sentence is so long that it would take two breaths of air to say it.

Kate Thornton said...

Great beginning - now I want to know what happens.

The continuation made me laugh out loud!

Chris Eldin said...

Can author post the next 150 words? This was great! And the continuation was spot on!


Beth said...

This has tension and a potentially interesting situation, though in such a brief excerpt we don't have a lot of information to go on. Still, most readers would keep going, even if only to find out if the thud was the Captain passing out.

However, it's lacking something in execution. Personally, I think it would be both more tense, engaging, and informative if the author put us in Haruna's POV from the very start. The omniscient camera POV is popular in thrillers, both written and filmed, but because of that, it's also shopworn. And it doesn't connect us with the character.

Also, if the camera-swooping-in technique is used, we have to see everything the camera sees. And we don't here. I thought there were only two men on the flight deck (btw, all the flight decks I've ever seen are very cramped and leave little room even for standing) until Haruna said "boys," which confused me. Later, we finally get a reference to "other men," but we don't know how many or what they're doing. Are they all drinking? Or is someone actually flying this plane? So the camera cheated us by not showing us the whole scene.

Which leads me to my final point-- this feels hasty and underdeveloped. Unlike many openings that could easily lose the first paragraph or so, I think this one could've actually started a little sooner, and in Haruna's POV. Make this little scene pull its own weight. Maybe it's just an appetizer and that's OK, but I'm thinking it still needs a bit more substance.

Evil Editor said...

However, the first sentence is so long that it would take two breaths of air to say it.

Someone needs to quit smoking. It's 25 words. A glance at your blog, WW, reveals that your one-sentence profile is longer, the Nathan Bransford quote you open a recent entry with is longer, and the first two sentences of the post titled "Exopsition" contain 34 and 30 words. (Look who's talking--that sentence contains 40). Did you miss the period, WW?

Evil Editor said...

Can author post the next 150 words?

I don't think the author would mind if I revealed the next 150. I happen to have access to the entire book, as this is the opening of the auction winner--one of the more enjoyable books to come my way as an editor.

The door clicked shut behind him; a heartbeat later the first thud came.
The first noise was very loud, shaking the plane. A second followed almost immediately, this one muffled, then a staccato banging, like a wooden spoon being slapped hard against a pan bottom.

Then nothing.

“What the hell was that?” the Captain said.

Tahir Agom scanned the instrument panel from the right seat. The sound of the airframe pushing through the thin air seemed unusually loud, but that might be the blood rushing in his ears. “We’ve lost cabin pressure sir, and–”

The nose pitched abruptly down. Captain Ibrahim slammed into the back of Tahir’s seat and fell to his knees. He clawed his way to the left seat and twisted into it, fumbling with his harness. The other three sets of eyes devoured the glowing gauges. In the vertigo of the moonless night they knew only what the instruments told them: they were pointed at the ocean and going way too fast.

Cliff said...

I'm a little confused. Liberia Airlines is based in Liberia, West Africa but both the pilot and his friend have Muslim names. Liberians, mostly, are Christians. Or does this get explained later?

Blogless Troll said...

C'mon, the author gave two large to a worthy charity. Can't you give us the whole first chapter?

Anonymous said...

I'd keep reading.

Dave Fragments said...

I resisted commenting on this because my writing style is so different but with the 300 words, I can happily say that I like this opening. It sounds good and makes an exciting opening for a book. This could use a bit more tension but that requires fixing individual words. Nothing big. I am not sure of how this author creates tension.

I have one other thought - we stay inside the cockpit and "The door clicked shut behind him; a heartbeat later the first thud came" is just a touch ambiguous for my taste. And that is a matter of taste and style. I would say "Captain Ibriham felt the first thud" ... then again, I might leave the original.

none said...

That description of pressure loss doesn't convince. More research needed, I'm thinking.

Chris Eldin said...

I'm with blogless troll--
Can you post the first 2 chapters?

Anonymous said...

After reading all 300 words twice through, I have to admit that I don't give a damn about any of your characters. I suspect that Haruna may save the day in the next few moments of your novel, but I don't know who he is ( a villager/friend of the pilot) or what he does, so that conclusion is merely a guess.
The writing is fine, there's obviously tension and suspense and even foreshadowing. ("You will have time to sleep when you are on the job.")Since I was unable to develop any empathy for any of the characters, I can only hope that the (?inevitable?)crash occurs and the real story begins tout de suite.

Anonymous said...

I like this overall, and am willing to go along for the ride.

Just a couple of nits:

First, I don't mind the omni POV, but a little clearer image of how everyone manages to be huddled in the cockpit would be nice. As someone's pointed out, the flight deck is pretty tiny. There are also Ibrahim and three other sets of eyes devouring the gauges, so 4 men total by the time the plane is plunging, and I'm assuming Haruna has left the cockpit. That means 4 flight crew. I believe there's only 2 flight crew on newer 747's and, if this is an older model, then 3. Don't know where that 4th guy is sitting, who he is, or why he's there. Or perhaps "other" just needs to be stricken from that sentence if there are only 3 on the flight deck. Having more of a sense of there being 3 men would be nice by the time we're 300 words in.

Second, could be proper, but I just found it irksome that the pilot is always refered to as "Captain" Ibrahim or "Captain" in the narrative. Haruna is given an honorific, too, but just his last name is used. And then Tahir is called by his first name in the narrative and not his last. Just a little more consistency, please.

Otherwise, nice job!

Evil Editor said...

The flight deck of a 747 is hardly tiny. It has four seats, and that may not even include the "jump seat" which is reserved for off-duty pilots who need a ride when the plane is fully booked. This site gives a report from a man who got to fly in the cockpit:

McKoala said...

I wasn't quite sure if I was located inside or outside the cockpit; perhaps becuase the word 'flight deck' meant nothing to me. I wondered if they were all in the first class kitchen, but then...who's in the cockpit....aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Exciting opening, though.

Robin S. said...

I just saw this. Interesting openng and setup, interesting second 150.

Congrats, author, on both your work, and on having EE as an editor.

Personally- I wouldn't want the opening chapters posted, if I were you. I'd make us wait and buy the book. Please let us know when it comes out.

PJD said...

I can't believe I was so busy yesterday I skipped this one. I liked it, front to back. Can't wait to see it in stores. Just the word choice in the first sentence drips with tension and foreboding.

Anonymous said...

Good opening. I have a big nit, though. There is no way, one Arab/Muslim guy would make a comment to another guy about the guy's wife, making that sort of sexual inuendo and a fight not ensue, or at the very least, Haruna would be fuming and furious if he couldn't actually retaliate. That comment strikes at his honour.