Tuesday, June 28, 2011

First Page Shooter #7

Word Count: 80,000 Words

Original Text

Death allowed himself a small, satisfied smile as he swooped gracefully towards the small girl bleeding on the floor. A moan crawled from her lips, barely audible against the clamour of the outer parking lot. Already purpling nicely, a substantial bruise coloured the edges of her right eye, framing the split on her brow that still trickled a small amount of blood.

Parking Lot. Public toilets. Earl Street. 2.15 pm. Just a few minutes early, as usual. Funny, he thought, they don’t always say who it is when you’re on a job. Just a time and a place. Show up, you’re guaranteed a dead body.

But there she was, just the same. His favourite little escape artist, a slippery eel of a girl. His own personal Houdini of Death. A million close shaves, but never a result. Not a close shave this time, though. The blood loss was undeniable. Leaching out onto the wet surface it formed a halo of watery crimson radiating from her waist.

Running a curious finger around the ragged edges of the rips crisscrossing her stomach, he asked the most inappropriate question he could think of.

“Hey, Frankie. Have you got a light?”

"Left coat pocket," She rasped, the breaths coming hard and sharp.

"You shoulda stopped smoking years ago, you know, it'll kill ya."

He sniggered and lit a crisp Cuban.

She tried to raise her hand to flip him off, but it flopped into a pool of watery urine, over flown from the toilets.

With Suzie's Notes

Death allowed himself a small, satisfied smile as he swooped gracefully towards the small girl bleeding on the floor. A moan crawled from her lips, barely audible against the clamour of the outer parking lot. Already purpling nicely, a substantial bruise coloured the edges of her right eye, framing the split on her brow that still trickled a small amount of blood.

Interesting that we're in Death's perspective--and he enjoys his job! There are a few too many descriptors in the above paragraph though. Don't let those weigh you down. And the last clause "framing the split..." feels a little awkward and confusing. Also I'm not sure "girl" is the right word. The first time I read that I pictured a five year old. By the end I was thinking late teens or twenties. 

Parking Lot. Public toilets. Earl Street. 2.15 pm. Just a few minutes early, as usual. Funny, he thought, they don’t always say who it is when you’re on a job. Just a time and a place. Show up, you’re guaranteed a dead body.

I like this bit of worldbuilding and characterization for Death. It's concise but it also tells us a lot.

But there she was, just the same. His favourite little escape artist, a slippery eel of a girl. His own personal Houdini of Death. A million close shaves, but never a result. Not a close shave this time, though. The blood loss was undeniable. Leaching out onto the wet surface it formed a halo of watery crimson radiating from her waist.

I like these details, but...If Dead just gets a time and a place and shows up for a guaranteed dead body, how does he know this girl and how has she escaped him? It's a minor thing, but it suggests an inconsistency or a whole in the worldbuilding right at the beginning.

Running a curious finger around the ragged edges of the rips crisscrossing her stomach, he asked the most inappropriate question he could think of.

Now, an important question. Is Death the protagonist of this story or no? (Obviously were this a query, I'd probably know). I'm a little creeped out about him running a finger around the rips of her stomach, and I don't want my protagonist to creep me out like that. But if I'm supposed to be creeped out, good job! I do like that he asks an inappropriate question, and I love that she answers anyway.


And again, I crossed out some extra words. This is me being very nitpicky, and it doesn't matter too much, but you don't want to say something in ten words when you can say it just as well in five.

“Hey, Frankie. Have you got a light?”

"Left coat pocket," She rasped, the breaths coming hard and sharp.

"You shoulda stopped smoking years ago, you know, it'll kill ya."

He sniggered and lit a crisp Cuban.

She tried to raise her hand to flip him off, but it flopped into a pool of watery urine, over flown from the toilets.

Awful image (but good) to close this section. What a way to leave me hanging! Based on this, I'm intrigued and would keep reading to see where this goes.  I am wondering if she's inside or outside. The stress on the parking lot earlier had made me think outside. If she's inside, maybe just say Public toilets. Earl Street. Also, you use "watery" twice in this section, and one of them should go.

22 comments:

Scribbling Scarlet said...

I wanted to keep reading! But I also had a flash of the movie "Constantine" w/ Keanu Reeves in my head ~ not exact, it just reminded me of it.

skwilliams said...

I LOVED this one! Would definitely keep reading. I'm curious if it's YA or adult. Either way, I want to know what happens. I am, however, hoping this isn't just a prologue, and that we'll continue to get Death's POV.

Great job and good luck with the book!

Sandy

1000th.monkey said...

I had a flash of the tv show 'Dead Like Me' since the place/time is exactly the same in this story as how the reapers know where to pick up the souls in the tv show.

Except in the tv show, they get the time/place on a yellow sticky note which makes it all the more hilarious.

The Personal Assistant said...

I am thinking that the author should read THE BOOK THIEF since the narrator is death. In that book, death's voice is quite different and unexpected.

Erin Kane Spock said...

I love death's voice, the imagery, the world. I want to know more about Frankie. This really is a page turner.

Josin L. McQuein said...

I can't get past the idea of a moan "crawling" anywhere. It feels like a misnomer.

Cozy in Texas said...

I stopped by your blog today. New Zealand looks beautiful.
Ann

Nicole said...

Nice section - congrats to the author!

Only one area of confusion for me: I was envisioning Death as a spectre. That he could see the girl, but she couldn't see him. It really threw me when they suddenly started talking out loud to each other.

Her answer bugged me a bit, too - I felt like THAT's when she should have flipped him off. :)

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I really enjoyed this page. I would keep reading!

Michael Offutt said...

Yeah...Death has me around the gullet...I'd want to read more. Oh my...but I'm terrified to do so, cause, well...this is death. :)

Beth said...

Lose the first paragraph, which is overwritten (a moan crawled from her lips? Got a very distracting mental image of that) and open with the second one. From there, this is strong and flows fairly well.

There were a few technical issues--

"Have you got a light?" sounds too formal. To be consistent with the voice, it should be "Got a light?" or "You gotta light?"

"Left coat pocket," She rasped should be "Left coat pocket," she rasped. And whoever said that here was where she should flip him off was right.

Line of dialogue starting with "You shouldda stopped..." should be part of the previous paragraph. Otherwise, it looks like Death is the one who said that. In general, new paragraph indicates new speaker.

It does seem inconsistent that he's guaranteed a dead body, but doesn't get one--and that he knows this girl. I would expect this to be explained fairly soon.

Finally, is asking for a light really the most inappropriate question he could think of? Really? Because I was expecting far worse and found the question to be anti-climactic.

Monika said...

Loved it. It reminded me of Meet Joe Black and Dead Like Me. Love that you're writing in Death's POV. I can't wait to finish it!!!! Cheers :D

CNHolmberg said...

Very interesting start to a story--I would certainly keep reading! I was intrigued.

So... go publish it and get back to me.

Sheila JG said...

When I read the first paragraph, I was also reminded of The Book Thief, and I thought- oh, Death as a narrator, that's been done. But as I read on, I wondered if maybe this Death is one of a legion of deaths, which would make this a little more unique (I haven't seen Dead Like Me, mentioned above).

I enjoyed reading this, but I have a feeling the character I'd most like to know about (Frankie) is not going to be around for long. I think you did a great job of setting her up as an interesting character - him calling her a "Houdini of Death," and the way she answers his flip question. She doesn't beg for her life, instead she tries to flip him off. I love her. Does she die? I need to know!

Good luck!

AA said...

Hmm. A lot of people like this so far. I don't. The author is not a good wordcrafter. In order to write well, you need to know how to use words precisely

in order to help the reader to craft images in their heads. This is confusing and not well-crafted.

"Small girl " means young child, like a 6-yr-old. That's what everyone is envisioning at this point, not a slight young woman.

"A moan crawled from her lips" makes no sense as an image.

"clamour of the outer parking lot." Clamour makes it seem like they're banging garbage can lids together. Now both the sights and sounds are confusing.

"Parking Lot." You already mentioned the parking lot.

"Just a few minutes early, as usual." What is just a few minutes early? I assume you mean Death is, but it isn't really clear.

"The blood loss was undeniable." Confusing, because you earlier said it was just a trickle. "radiating from her waist." Now I get that part, but I don't like

that I keep being confused. Naturally I assumed the major wound was her head. Now I have to re-envision the whole scene.

“Hey, Frankie. Have you got a light?” Why is this the most inappropriate question to ask a dying person? Just because of the lame joke he makes about it?

I've figured out by now that this not a little girl, but I don't like having to change my mental image so many times.

"over flown"- overflowed. Overflown is why the plane didn't land at the airport on time.

A writer chooses words carefully to craft scenes. If done properly, those scenes create images of places and people in the minds of readers. The images

are relatively clear and aren't confusing. They readers don't have to change the previous image with every new sentence that's added. That's confusing and

annoying. And if the reader has to keep going back and re-reading to make sure he or she read it right- that's not good.

Jodi R. said...

Shouldn't the point of these comments be to help in a supportive manner? I think some posters have some tact (and perhaps anger) issues here. No one's perfect, but I don't think we have to mock and criticize harshly. They can still learn from a diplomatic post - you know, choosing your words wisely and carefully?

(This applies to posters only - the agents can say whatever they damn well please, of course.)

I liked this premise a lot but also found it a bit wordy or malaprop-y in the spots many of you have mentioned already. The scene wasn't straightforward/clear in my head either.

It reminded me of Dead Like Me and Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job - that's a good thing in my books! (NPI)

Good luck author!

Stephsco said...

I like the concept and I agree with Suzie's edits. My drafts always have a lot of descriptive words and adverbs, and in the editing phase I have to work at cutting them out. Most of them aren't needed if the right word choice is there; as someone said, don't say it in 10 words if it can be said in 5. Again, something we all work at accomplishing!

I also was confused by "young girl" and then the image of an older girl/woman later. I thought it was another character until I read Suzie's comments. Easy to fix!

Thanks to the author for sharing.

Melinda said...

@ the author: I would LOVE to be a beta reader for this. I am hooked, I'm in. Sure it needs some editing, but the overall feel and characterization is there. I'm completely fascinated and very sorry it stops when it does. Please send me more! :-D

Seriously though, there's a a lot to love about this opening and some very minor nit picky things to correct. The whole point is to make someone want to turn the page and for me, you've done that. Well done I say.

@Jodi: well said. Ditto!

Matt Syverson said...

I like the writing and don't agree with many of the x'd out words. For example, eliminating the word small in the description of the smile leads me to think of a wide grin. One has to allow the writer a certain amount of latitude. I like the "curious" finger and the "crawling" moan. That's called creativity...

Elizabeth May said...

I'm a little late to this party, but I do think the page shows promise. It's an interesting concept. Certainly, with a bit more editing, it'll be even more amazing.

Matt Syverson: I don't think Suzie was attempting to stifle or attenuate the prose by crossing out those words. You call them "creativity," I call them "overwritten."

Moans don't need to "crawl"; we know what a moan sounds like. And the "curious" part of Death swiping his finger across Frankie's ribs is later SHOWN when he asks for a light. That makes the "curious" superfluous.

Suzie is crossing out the unnecessary words that drag down the narrative and make the scene more slow moving. If we did away any cutting on the grounds of "creativity," then there would be no need to edit.

Anyway, I do agree with Suzie's suggestions here. And while the page needs some tightening, I do think the author has something interesting here.

delooze zoo said...

Thanks Susie & the gang! been paving my back yard patio all week & didn't even realise it was posted till today!
Your overall positive comments have been just what I needed. The nit picking is important, I suffer from serious underediting, and need to work on that.

'say it in 5 words instead of 10?' hahaha my husband has been begging that same thing for nearly 20 years!

Melinda: after reading comments, it's easy to see this is still in draft stages and needs work, but I'd love a completely unconnected beta tester when it's complete! you can find me at deloozezoo@hotmail.com

Leona said...

I'm late to the party too but I find it interesting the differences of what's liked/disliked.

For example, in the first paragraph, I liked the first "small" and the word "gracefully." To me it means something MORE with those words and reveals physical adeptness (gracefully, versus ran into a telephone pole) and a kind of meanness (small, as it it was petty).

But the second "small" and the "girl" both need to replace unless this is a five year old smoker.

Also, as a former EMT, the "ragged edge" adds a lot to the type of wound we're seeing. I also think it plays to world building. IE. It was either done with a serrated knife, or possibly teeth, but not a sharp knife, or scalpel, so gives the readers clues right away as to the nature of the offender.

I think there's tightening, then there's taking away the flavor. What kind of tightening needs to happen would depend on the type of book.

As a reader, I want more in depth description of clothing in an historical or fantasy book than a thriller.

But over all, I liked the tone of this story and the corrections suggested. I'd keep reading :)

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?