Monday, July 20, 2009

New Beginning 664

It was a gully in the forest, far from the city but not far form the rail lines and highway between cities. Rains had come and washed away topsoil and a hiker now in custody had happened upon the find.

Now, wooden pegs and string made ten by ten blocks of the whole area. A couple experts dug through the soil, sifting carefully for anything that might be of value. A photographer made certain to record every bone's position /in situ/.

Police in uniform stood guard on the perimeter, making certain everything went forward undisturbed. Not always with success.

“Detective Castillo.”

“No media, Ms Casey.”

“The public want to know...”

“The public probably wants to see you naked, doesn't mean it's going to happen.”

He motioned and four uniformed police officers came up and seized the reporter and her cameraman.

“What am I being arrested for? What's the charge...”

“There's no charge, charges are for people who have rights. We're just holding you until the military gets here. They'll decide what to do.”

"Is it true you found a kilo of cocaine with the body?"

"You already found out about the nose-whiskey? That's it, get that talking pair of tits out of here now!"

"You can hide behind your sexist remarks all you want, sir, but there's no denying the fact that beneath your rough exterior is a sensitive soul waiting for an independent woman like myself to come along and show you how to love again so we can bump into each other while investigating this case--gradually falling in love as we unravel the mystery--until we decide to work as a team and ultimately sleep together before discovering that your ex-partner is the killer in a gripping denouement that requires you to overcome your mistrust of woman in order to save me. Or you can tell me right now if that body was found with Colombian faerie dust."

One of the officers holding Ms. Casey whispered in her ear, “Um, lady...Detective Castillo is gay.”

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Matthew


Mame said...

Love the

What the hell is "the find"?

Now, I hate when paragraphs start with now.

If there are police in uniform standing guard, they're doing a pretty bad job keeping Ms. Castillo away.

I don't know the good detective yet, so his statement about the public wanting to see her naked was too much. Save that for when I know he's a pig.

It's not irredeemable, but it's not believable.

Evil Editor said...

If the police and military are searching, it seems they'd be looking for something "significant" rather than something "of value."

I agree that if they're out in the forest far from the city, there wouldn't be so much foot traffic that the uniformed guards would have any trouble keeping people out.

I thought “The public probably wants to see you naked, doesn't mean it's going to happen.” was an amusing response, whether the guy's a pig or not.

“What am I being arrested for? What's the charge...” are both the same question. More likely she'd say, "Hey, let go of me! You can't-- What's the charge?

Eric P. said...

Brilliant continuation (even "faerie" made it)!!

The opening does have a hint of cliche, which gets properly sent up in the continuation. But the dialogue is sharp and the characters seem strong. I'd keep reading.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

"Since when do reporters not have rights?" Casey shouted as one of the officers cuffed her.

Castillo gave her a look of contempt. "Since you decided to do all that Michael Jackson coverage," he said.


Dave Fragments said...

You're making the reader guess that it's a body or I should say the skeletal remains of a victim buried in the woods.

"The rain washed away the topsoil and exposed the (human) bones buried in a gully not far from the rail lines or the highway, a place of solitude between cities, chanced upon by a hiker."

You could leave the second paragraph as is and maybe the third. "Everything went forward undisturbed" bothers me. Because the investigators are disturbing and disinterring the corpse. Also, the reporter is coming forward to ask questions. Think about that choice of words.

Detective Castillo can actually say "Respect the dead Ms Casey. It's some family's loved one." And when she says the public wants to know he can answer with that naked comment and add "No they don't need to know" and signal for her detainment. It's not arrest, it's detain, hold for questioning. She's a person of interest. You need to play the legalese game because "arrested" is a term that implies guilt and carries rights.

Mame said...

I probably should have phrased that better in the context of personal taste.

The other thing I forgot to add is, placement. If the reporter is behind the line with the detective, the cops are doing a bad job. If they're both outside the yellow tape, it makes more sense (even if they have it stringed off in sections, I imagine there would be something more to keep non-personnel away from the forensics, more than a line of cops). You didn't let us know where they were in respect to "the find".

But I am a very picky reader.

Matt said...

The "now" at the beginning of paragraph two makes me think you are about to transition into present tense. It just strikes me as unnecessary.

I like the dialogue (especially the naked line), but the scene isn't exactly original.

Anonymous said...

This was written very well but the entire premise from beginning to end bothered me.

1. Usually those that find evidence - who just happen upon a crime are not taken into custody. First hint this was not just a found body.

2. But now we learn that bones were found and since not otherwise indicated that it is the state or local authorities examining the site. But later it is a military operation - from the get go the military would be on scene and be doing their own evidence recovery.

3. Police are stationed to guard perimeter. Pretty common - reasonable. Perimeters are usually placed quite a distance away and so I will therefore conclude that Ms. Casey got through by hiking a 1/2 mile around the security posts. But the distance from the scene to the perimeter needs to be spelled out for clarification.

4. “The public probably wants to see you naked, doesn't mean it's going to happen.”

Cute but Det. Castillo just bought himself at least a reprimand for sexual harassment, if not sued and lost his job.

5. “There's no charge, charges are for people who have rights. We're just holding you until the military gets here. They'll decide what to do.”

There is certainly is a charge - crossing over perimeter lines is called "interfering with a police officer in course of doing his/her duty" and I bet I could come up with a few others like - tampering with a police investigation, tampering with evidence, disregarding the direct order of an officer, trespassing. . .

That's a serious crime.
And, Ms. Casey should know this, being an experience newswoman.

Now we learn this is a military operation? The police would secure the area, call the military and they would be on scene to do the rest.

And, no way is a police officer going to say this - even if it is true - because police officers are taught to say very little so as to not to get sued.

I think the story is flawed from beginning to end and no matter how well written, there is no way to cover up the flaws.


Anonymous said...

I loved the cotinuation as well - and that was my last problem -

The characters are too stereotypical.


Dave Fragments said...

Part of the problem with an opening like this is that there are several TV shows that make a habit of beginning with dead bodies -- Bones, NCIS, Law and Order (various incarnations), The Closer... at least (and they show gore onscreen).

They are using all of the variations on dead bodies they can find. It is sucking the oxygen out of any opening like that.

I heard an interview on a talk show where a male actor said he was tired of receiving detective scripts -- the character was always conflicted, drug addicted, abused child (maybe even an orphan) who likes jazz, smoked and drank bourbon, slept around with loose women and had a bad relationship with his superiors. Oh yes, his partner was either a Jerry Lewis goofball rookie or Miss Goodie Two-Shoes.

See the problem...

Anonymous said...

Oh god, the legal & forensic details give me a headache. Of course what the police do depends on where/when this is happening and who they are. Generally in the modern USA detectives don't guard crime scenes, they're too busy investigating. And if you presume to cross the perimeter of a closed crime scene the lackey cops at the line will quickly toss you on the ground, cuff you, and remove your ass to jail without any conversation at all, based on their suspicion that you entered a crime scene without authorization, a felony. Nothing more is needed. It's purely a wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time matter.

So when the book starts with flirty banter between detective and snoopy reporter, I just assume you're either not trying to imitate life, or it's set long ago and/or far away, or maybe you don't have a clue how far off you are and that's not the point anyway. You're not Grisham. It really doesn't need to be technically accurate if the other qualities are redeeming enough.

Evil Editor said...

Interestingly, my first thought was that the "find" was the bones of aliens from space. That the military would be called in because of a dead person seemed unlikely.

Adam Heine said...

That continuation was awesome, Matthew.

I liked this for the most part. I, too, want to know what "the find" is. Assuming you reveal that information (or something else to entice me) relatively soon, I'd keep reading.

Why was the hiker "in custody"? That made me think he was under arrest, though maybe that's just my ignorance of police jargon.

The last line made me think conspiracy or an Orwellian-type government. Why doesn't the reporter have rights? Is it because of something she did, or because of who the police are?

_*rachel*_ said...

Sorry, I'm too groggy and clogged up to help much tonight.

A few typos, and I didn't particulatly like the detective's retort. Shows his character, though.

khazar-khum said...

I thought Castillo & Casey were lovers.

Unknown said...

snicker - love that continuation. Especially the last line.

The first paragraph does little to set your scene and is largely devoid of useful content. The crime scene description is confusing. Who's in charge: military or local police?

The byplay between the reporter and the detective would be unconvincing in any genre except romance, where realistic depiction of crime scenes or of police-civilian interactions is seen as undesirable. Romance is about fantasy, not reality, so why not violate a few laws and protocols in search of some smoldering resentment/attraction between the principals?

If this is a romance, you'll be on the right track if you can clean up the description to make an easy mental picture for your readers.

If this is not a romance, toss Chapter One and find a new beginning.

writtenwyrdd said...

Overall, this was interesting, it truly got my interest, and the idea was a good one for an opening. It just brings up too many disparate questions to be functioning properly at this point.

However, while you have a good, solid place to start (finding a body or something that warrants police/military attention) you don't have this scene blocked out properly. And by that I mean that your characters don't act like they are in the same reality.

First, starting your story with "It was" is not good. Find a noun and verb that work better to at least hint at what's going on, e.g. why the hiker is "in custody." for example, "The crash occurred in a gully in the forest."

Second, I find that the mention of the hiker "now in custody" brings up many unanswered questions. I was initially thinking perhaps the hiker was stealing archaeological finds for the black market; but the mention of the military implies national security. Yet the cops are dealing with the scene before the military arrives, which makes it seem like an episode of NCIS where the feds only respond when the victim/perpetrator is military. If you have the cops start working the scene before the military, instead of just protecting it, it tells the reader this is not national security or military jurisdiction, and the hiker's being "in custody" needs a touch more clarification, which we don't get. Perhaps you might say something that implies the nature of the custody, such as "under wraps" or say why he was held (debriefing? under arrest for theft?) You could incorporate the information with the cop's pov: "The hiker that happened upon the (wreckage) now sat in the back of a squad car, safely out of range of the nosey reporter, awaiting the military to debrief him." Or similar.

Third, you need to give us more of a clue what's been found up front. Like I said above, you can do this in the first sentence. All the reading I've done and how you write this at first implies it's a body. But because you bring the military into it, we are immediately led to conclude that it's not a body, it's something else. (Personally, I LIKE the idea of something other than a body.)

Fourth, a disconnect: The cops just grab first the hiker and then the reporter? And the reporter has no idea that's going to happen? If she doesn't expect this sort of treatment, then she will be expecting her rights and the cop knows she is owed these rights. So you are giving us two characters interacting with what appear to be extremely differing perceptions of the world. I know a reporter would expect that arrest if she was living in a world of martial law, and that the cop wouldn't act that way if the Bill of Rights had been overturned. To fix this, you just need to adjust the dialog so that they are both speaking from the same world view.

At any rate, a reporter would likely know and understand the situation and would ASK, "Am I under arrest? What for?" or "Get your hands off me! You can't arrest me for doing my job!" or similar. She might even quote the Bill of Rights. :) Further, you could have her ask questions that will help frame the situation for the reader? "What is down there that's so secret?" sorts of Qs.

Additionally, there are a couple of grammar errors, which makes for a bad impression.

I would have read on for a bit, though.

D Jason Cooper said...

OK, spoiler alert. Detective Castillo is impatient with anybody who hides self interest behind high-sounding principles. He'll meet a lot of it. There will be no reprimand, this is on a plane way above that, if not immediately then pretty quickly.

He was not abused as a child, does not drink or smoke, is not ex-military. His parents and all his siblings are alive. Like his parents, he's married. He has three children all of whom are doing reasonably well.

There's no charge because the military will take over and do whatever the hell they want. Whether Ms Casey has committed a crime is effectively irrelevant, much as it is if you're up for Contempt of Parliament in this country or Contempt of Congress in the United States.

There is no police tape, there is string from wooden peg to wooden peg which is how archaeologists work. It's not a police scene and, assuming they would be there a short time, they didn't bother putting the tape up. That will be an issue later. The military isn't there yet because it's a specialist military unit, a section of sappers. The reporter and the hiker (and everybody else) have no rights, welcome to martial law.

What they found was alien bones. Clearly not of any species on Earth. When they try to test for DNA, they're not initially sure what they've extracted actually is DNA. That's why it's "the find" and not "the bones" or "the dead body."

So starting the story with finding the bodies was kind of essential in this case.

Dave Fragments said...

Instead of "The public want to know..." why don't you have Ms Casey say: "Those aren't human bones and this isn't a crime scene. the public has a right to know...".
Give her some attitude right off the bat.

That gives a different meaning to hi smart-ass remark about naked in public. She can take a hissy fit at him and then get arrested. Now you have both him and her set up as people who know each other and can joke around. He doesn't come off as a complete misogynist and she isn't cardboard.
I presume either Castillo and/or Casey are a major character(s). I think this dialog makes more sense. Plus it plants the idea in the reader's head that the bones are alien.

I'd still fix up the first two paragraphs that set the scene.

Dave Fragments said...

BTW -- the UK has a State's Secrets Act which lets them do dastardly things. I think you are referring to that and not the contempt laws. The USA has no equivalent to a Secrets Act (not to say that it doesn't act like it does, but that's another matter). The Contempt of Congress charge is only for people who metaphorically expose their bottoms and fannies to the congressmen while Congress is in session. And even then, if you have enough money laying around your ankles, you might get a big, slobbering kiss.
(How's that for cynical!)

writtenwyrdd said...

Based on what you give us for clarification, I still think what I said earlier stands. Dave's point is a good one, and I like his suggestion of what you can have the reporter say to clarify things.

Mame said...

Don't get mad writer, get even. Do better and succeed.

none said...

Arguing with the continuation seems a bizarre approach :).

Anonymous said...

It does seem bizarre, Buffy.

Same with long-winded explanations of where the writing was supposedly taking the reader. When approaching agents and editors, the only tool any writer has to represent his work is what he puts on the page. It's not modern art, where hearing that the blue stripe represents the intellect in the midst of passion can add to the viewer's appreciation of the painting. If what's on the page isn't selling the story, no amount of explanation after the fact can change that.... even if an agent or editor would sit still to listen to it. But still writers go on offering post-facto explanations and defenses instead of tapping the collective wisdom by asking pertinent questions about how to fix some of the problems identified by commenters.

If the submission itself doesn't give us the story, give us a submission that does.


D Jason Cooper said...

Wow, so many angry people. I mean, Buffysquirl, what did I say against the continuation? When did I mention it? And the reason for putting in the spoilers was because a lot of people were making comments about what I intended or where the story was going or what the story was meant to be doing when the story was doing no such thing.

For example, Anonymous points out when I go to a publisher the only tool I have will be what's on the written page. An opening is not what you go to a publisher with, you also have a synopsis and a letter plus a much fuller sample than about 150 words. This was not a submission to a publisher, it was an opening.

Strangely, only Evil Editor got the point of the opening, which is that if the government is being high-handed it's because the stakes are high, too.

And why does every character have to be politically correct and American?

writtenwyrdd said...

A bit overdefensive there, Author. You see, we give our sense of things and you get to discover how your writing is not working; and in this case, only one person was able to decipher what you meant. That means the writing is not communicating what you want it to, which in turn means that it would behoove you to think about communicating your message better rather than getting defensive. Noone is here to hurt your feelings!

Regarding your sense that all characters have to be PC according to the comments...well, I don't see any insistence on that here. What the comments are about is the interaction of the characters, not the PC-ness per se. The interaction isn't on page telling us what you think it is, is all.

none said...

Laying out how the detective is Most Definitely Not Gay felt like arguing with the continuation to me. Apologies. And I'm not at all angry. I reserve that for Dave F!