He stood in the afternoon sun, studying three dead bodies littering the Victorian Townhouse. The occupants had moved out overnight, stripping the furniture and decorations and leaving their dead; one withered, one pumped full of embalming fluid and one with his neck ripped out but devoid of blood. None of the neighbors heard any noise or remembered the occupants. Detective Lieutenant Gimbles prepared for magic that would bring a vision of what happened here.
There was a knife in Whitlaw Hamilton's chest and it dripped blood. The thief stared as the blood covered his hand. Not hot vital blood but cold unnatural blood. Whitlaw sneered, not dying. The thief stepped back, wiped his shaking hand on his sweatshirt with panic spreading over his face.
"You shouldn't have done that. It's hurts to have a knife stabbed into your heart. Did you ever have a knife stuck in your chest?" Whitlaw asked. He bent over in mock pain, grabbed the knife in his right hand and yanked it out of his chest. Blood gushed over his naked abs and down his legs. The thief babbled and turned to run.
The defense attorney cleared his throat and spoke carefully. "So this, uh, 'vision' of yours, Detective--"
"My magic vision," Gimbles clarified.
"Yes, your . . . magic vision of my client being stabbed in the heart told you to arrest him on three counts of first-degree murder? Did you have any other reason to charge him?"
"Well yeah, he's a vampire," Gimbles explained, exasperated. "Look!" The decorated detective seized a cross from under his collar and held it dramatically toward the defendant. The bailiff wrestled it away from him as the prosecutor looked down in shame.
"Unless the prosecution can produce some tangible evidence," the judge declared, "I order the immediate psychological evaluation of Detective Gimbles. Case dismissed."
Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Tamara Marnell
Back in the townhouse, the Lieutenant's shoulders slumped in exasperation. The "infinite handkerchiefs" had yielded no clues; the three cups and a ball had come up empty; the rabbit out of a had was unusually silent. As a last resort, he pulled out a long balloon and twisted it into a passable facsimile of a giraffe.
Nothing. The rest of the team just stared.
His depressed frown deepened. Truth was, picking "Detective Lieutentant Gimbles" as his Clown Name wasn't the worst thing he'd ever done. Agreeing to work the 57th Precinct's Christmas Eve Party -- that was the big mistake.
I find this a stronger opening if you dump the first paragraph. It's not clear whether the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs are the vision anyway. If they are, I still see no problem with opening on the vision and then shifting to the crime scene.
I would drop: It's hurts to have a knife stabbed into your heart. Did you ever have a knife stuck in your chest?" from p3. (and change "asked" to "said," of course.
Too choppy, like indecision inspired you to hack your timeline to pieces and put two truncated openings together. Is the whole book like this? Hope not.
The first few pages are supposed to orient the reader to your genre, setting, plot, time period, etc. Either of these scenes could work, if you finished it. Disrupting the narrative like this doesn't help.
The first paragraph is supposed to hook the reader. Dropping everything and shifting scene creates the impression that the first paragraph didn't even hook the writer.
And, pardon me, not to be rude or anything, but with a sentence like "Detective Lieutenant Gimbles prepared for magic that would bring a vision of what happened here," I get the impression you're not even trying.
This story wasn't writing itself and it took strange turns. It's my third outing in a truly messed up urban setting.
I started writing it late December and having to finish gift shopping, do food shopping and celebrate Christmas wasn't conducive to an urban murder mystery.
In that milieu, I talked myself into NOT opening with the second paragraph. Other than insecurity, I can't say why I did that.
The first paragraph is gone, consolidated into the rest of the story.
And Tamara, you're right. This testimony will never reach a court of law. Gimbles and two buddies fight the vampires with swords and magic. Turns out the head vampire and one of the buddies knew each other back in Ancient Rome. That's why its urban fantasy.
BTW -- this is now an ego-free opening. Have fun with it n the comments and twist it into other genre.
With the first paragraph gone....
Instead of 'not dying' you might want to mention what he is doing for a better visual of the situation -- i.e. looming over the thief? just waking up? It also might help to have a bit of description of the room.
I'm not sure the wound would gush blood when the knife is pulled out. A quick internet search turns up this. A lot would depend on how (relatively speaking) realistic you want it, how long the knife's been in the injury (internal bleeding), and what the reason is that it doesn't kill Mr. Hamilton.
If we switch genres:
Horror/SF - the blood should then come alive and attack the thief on its own.
Romance/Mystery - The director yells cut and tells them to redo the scene
Kung Fu/Martial arts - He pulls out his heart, sews up the cut, puts it back in his chest then summons ninja minions
But does Macy's tell Gimbles?
But does Macy's tell Gimbles?
I didn't know if anyone remembered...
I like the idea of blood coming alive and attacking someone. A "blood demon" that possesses bodies to get around and does evil things.
Might be a great gimmick in a horror story.
If the hero is going to fight the demons with swords and magic, and is presumably accustomed to solving cases that way given the first paragraph, why on earth is he a detective? Most of his day would be spent seeing visions along the lines of, "The husband called his wife a b*tch, so the wife grew hysterical and grabbed the shotgun," or "The kid knifed the pizza delivery guy before running off, and then posted photos of the stolen cash on his Facebook page." Most crimes are mundane, and most criminals are just dumb, not supernatural.
Also, detectives don't have much free time to go running around battling vampires from ancient Rome. What does he tell the captain, that he has a family emergency every night and can't respond to boring old gang drive-bys? Even in fantasy, you have to have some sense of realism to get your readers to suspend disbelief. I shouldn't doubt for a second that Gimbles' visions are not only plausible, but an everyday occurrence. At the very least, the vision should look like a vision with some degree of mystery to it; does Gimbles see the words "Whitlaw Hamilton" hovering over the vampire's head like a video game character or something?
There are a couple of things you can do. You can have the other policemen in on the game and ask Gimbles if he "sees" anything yet, so it's obvious that this is a detective in a fantasy world and not just a crackpot psychic medium with a badge. You can have vague visions inspired by evidence rooted in reality, e.g. Gimbles sees the black blood gushing from his vampire perpetrator from examining the dark stain on the carpet. Or you could scrap it and try something completely different; you're obviously not happy with it or you wouldn't have submitted it to EE and declared a snark-fest free-for-all. If you don't like it, you shouldn't force yourself to stick to it just because it's what you already have to work with.
After Tamara's comments, I'm glad I deleted the first paragraph.
Gimbles isn't the magus, that's a third character. Gimbles used to be a plain old detective until an assassin attempted to kill one of the town's elite money people and a second incident (story) where Gimbles an ancient demigod tried to open a portal from Hades. That's when they discover that Gimbles has magic power that can defeat the demigod. He hides that power by blanking making everyone in the world forget.
The Magus has a really odd name you wouldn't like. So I won't tell you. There are ghosts who are supplying this vision and have seen the two vampires - Whitlaw and Lentulus - kill people and hide the bodies in their cemetery. The ghosts really don't like Whit and Len. They report the deaths. Sneaky ghosts.
Whit might be a fairly young vampire. I don't reveal that before I kill him. Lentulus (or Len) dates back to the start of the Third Servile War. He was supposed to be killed when it started but faked his death and ran away. The Magus (And I don't reveal how he became a magician) was his slave and a gladiator.
SO now after 2000 years, they cross paths - one wanting to drink blood and the other trying to save his adopted city from evil - and they decide to fight it out.
There is a fifth character (rookie detective) here who provides the "color" of the decadent wealthy who are way too bored to live normal lives.
My next story in this city will involved only Gimbles (who I have to invent more back story for) and the fifth character (who will be his informer inside the aristocracy)...
I like to write short stories with characters that are tarnished and have to hide things.
where Gimbles an ancient demigod tried ...
ooops, that should be
where Gimbles fought an ancient demigod who tried ...
I've been reading John Connolly's "nocturnes", he's got a line in one of the stories about it hurting to have the knife shoved somewhere, in the heart or under the ribs. Can't recall exactly. May want to change to location of the stab wound or the dialogue. If I can find it I'll report back.
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