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theorphan
February 9th, 2012, 07:56 AM
Bellow is a brief excerpt from my WIP The Last Flight. I am going to be using it as a writing sample for applying to a creative writing program. Any advice is much appreciated.


As the plane jumped I awoke. I had fallen asleep almost immediately after boarding the plane. Wiping my eyes I took a look around the plane’s cabin, it was fairly empty, maybe two hundred of the 797’s four hundred seats were occupied. I had expected that though; after the virus hit and started killing people at random, borders were closed and air traffic cancelled. Earlier this week air traffic had resumed only to allow people to return to their home countries. Those who were not already killed by the virus that is.

The virus was killing people at random. Once symptoms started, headache, fever, unusual bleeding, and then mind loss, you only had twenty-four hours to live. After death bodies would eat themselves until they were gone. I am not a scientist, I don’t understand exactly how it works, and that scared me. Thinking of the virus made me nothing but depressed. I had seen death before but never like this. The virus was ruthless once it found a victim; nothing was left when it was done. It didn’t even care who it took; the young, the old, the in-between, they all died.

I turned to the young woman across the aisle from me. She was beautiful, half-Asian and half-white with long brown hair. Marvelous light brown eyes fit perfectly with her mixed skin and athletic build.

“Hello, my name is Cailin.” I said to her as I leaned a little into the aisle.

“Did I invite you to talk to me?” A subtle smile played on her lips and her eyes sparkled.

She was spirited, I liked that. As the plane continued to bump she turned to the older woman in the seat next to her and started talking in Japanese. Her hands were tensed on the armrests. Maybe I hadn’t played that as well as I could have, I had been on assignment from the Agency for the last four years. The Agency frowned on operatives dating anyone from another country so I had had no experience over the last several years with pick-up lines. Plus girls were the one area I was never really comfortable with.

The young woman surprised me though and turned towards me again. “I am sorry, I don’t like planes. They make me nervous.”

“Daijoubu. Anata no o’name wa nan desu ka.” I asked her in Japanese.

“My name is Aileen.” She smiled, obviously impressed that I spoke her language. Apparently working for the agency did have its benefits.

“Are you going home or is Boise just a layover for you?” I asked. Boise, since the climate started changing would be snowy right now, it being winter and all. If they were on a layover they might not leave the airport for a while.

“Actually it is home. I am excited to be home. When they announced forever ago that flights had been grounded I never thought that I would get to go home again. So what had you out of the country?”

“I have been on assignment for the last several years overseas for work. Boring business stuff. How about you?”

“We were on vacation. My mom likes to travel, it’s okay but I am not the biggest fan of it.”

“Well don’t worry, we will be there in not too long.” I snuck a peak at my watch after, we had another hour left on the plane.

“Ha, I don’t mind landing as much as take off but I still don’t like it.” The plane started to get even bumpier and she turned to face the seat in front of her.

I had about a half hour before we started our decent so I pulled out my Agency issued laptop and secured the protector screen on it so that I was the only one who could view the contents of the screen. I began to work on my after action report from my last mission. I had been tasked with retrieving a foreign scientist who had claimed to have information on the virus and smuggle him to a boat. In the process I had managed to be cut with a knife once in the shoulder and gathered several well placed punches in the stomach.

Three pages into the report the captain of the plane announced that we were beginning our decent into Boise. I could feel the plane bouncing down lower and lower. As we got bellow the clouds there was heavy snow, and it was hard to see anything. Even with the snow though we should have been able to see some lights but there was nothing, the sky was as dark as it would have been if we were flying over a large field. I stowed my computer under the seat in front of me and prepared for the landing.

“Flight crew prepare the cabin for landing,” came over the intercom.

Not far above the ground I noticed something else outside of the window. Not only were all of the lights that should be there missing but there was no movement, no cars, no people. It was eerie.

The plane came closer and closer to the ground and there was still no sign of life when the wheels finally hit the ground. The plane swerved back and forth as if the tarmac had not been deiced for a while. When the plane finally stopped we were not near one of the terminal buildings and there was no sign of a crew coming out to tow us into the terminal.

“Attention passengers,” came the captain’s voice over the intercom. “We have been unsuccessful in reaching the Airport Control Tower, it appears there was a power outage. There is nothing to worry about but we will have to use the emergency slides to depart here. If you have any coats please get them on now and grab any flashlights or light sources you have. Anything else like bags please leave on the plane. We leave in five minutes.”

The Backward OX
February 9th, 2012, 02:00 PM
Overall, the story idea looks good.

Although, having said that, I’m not too keen on the concept of bodies eating themselves and then being explained away with “I am not a scientist, I don’t understand exactly how it works”. That’s just too facile, too superficial.

Planes don’t jostle. Jostling generally implies people. If I were you, I’d be googling “mid-air turbulence” and seeing what that turned up.

‘Awoken from my sleep’ is over-egging it. What’s wrong with ‘awoken’? And turn the sentence around so that the awakening comes first.

‘Thinking of the virus made me nothing but depressed’. All that the reader wants to know is how thinking about the virus makes the character feel. No more and no less. Everything in writing needs to be expressed pithily and succinctly – unless that is you are deliberately striving for a flowery style. If you felt sick and went to the doctor, would you say, “Doc, I feel nothing but sick”?

Mixed skin???

‘As the plane continued to bump’; ‘The plane started to get even bumpier’. More trouble with mid-air turbulence. Planes don’t bump.

You have a problem with flat conjugations of the verb ‘to be’ – overuse of ‘had’, ‘was’ and ‘were’, for example, which kill the prose. Find alternate ways of expressing yourself. Changing the sentence around or using contractions sometimes helps.

Good luck.

theorphan
February 10th, 2012, 12:50 AM
Thank you Ox. I have made some changes. I will come back and do some more after I finish my work for my mid-term tomorrow!

oornelakes
February 11th, 2012, 07:10 AM
I'd start with the second line. That would give a stronger implication that something is up. You lose that urgency when you backtrack, which is what's happening the way you have it now.

Remove "it was fairly empty". Your next line tells us the plane's fairly empty (also "fairly" is weak).
Make the 24 hours one of the symptoms - remove "you only had..." it slows everything down.
I agree with the comment above. If you're not a scientist and you don't understand, better just to say nothing than tell us that.
Look at lines like this: "thinking of the virus made me nothing but depressed." Don't need "nothing but". "Made me depressed" is plenty (oh, I see Backward Ox said the same thing - well, we're probably right then). Although depressed is kind of weak. That's all this people killing virus does, depresses you?
Don't tell us it was ruthless and nothing was left, show us. Maybe you've seen a body. Let us see it too.
Tighten up the dialogue: for example, "Planes make me nervous" should be enough.
There are a few spelling issues and missing periods, and you may want to rework some of the sentences. They get a bit laborious at times.

Well, these are just comments/suggestions. Don't make any style changes you're not comfortable with. Good luck. There's something foreboding in this story which kept me reading. It didn't end up where I thought it would. Not sure if I'm happy about that or not.

theorphan
February 11th, 2012, 12:06 PM
Thank you for your comments oornelakes. This was just an extract from a larger work so it didn't quite end up at the end :P

Isabelle_Cooper
February 20th, 2012, 09:24 PM
It does have issues with repetition, and the narrator's voice comes off as non-committal, which makes it difficult to stay connected.

"As the plane jumped I awoke. I had fallen asleep almost immediately after boarding the plane. Wiping my eyes I took a look around the plane’s cabin."

I agree with Backward Ox that the first sentence needs turned around. It makes for an awkward starting point, and maybe stop mentioning the plane. If you say you're in a plane, I know what you boarded, and I know the cabin is in the plane. That may sound picky, but I try to do that with every paragraph, search for words I don't need.

I am interested to read more. Good luck on your application!

Shorty Dawkins
February 24th, 2012, 05:36 PM
"Not far above the ground I noticed something else outside of the window. Not only were all of the lights that should be there missing but there was no movement, no cars, no people. It was eerie."

This seems to be a big turning point in the story, yet it is said almost offhand. You might want to find a new way of describing this. Why no questioning, why? What the heck is going on?

Overall, a good start. Others have mentioned some other problems. I, tend to be repetitive in my own writing. It helps to have someone point it out.
I would like to see more, so you have hooked me.

Shorty Dawkins

HardRoad
March 12th, 2012, 03:16 AM
This is well written and I did a grammar check and found no problems

I did notice a couple of things and please note this is only opinion and others may disagree with me. In the dialogue the syntax and wording are so similar it would be hard to tell who was speaking without the attribution. The girl should have sounded radically different from your MC.

Take a look at the two paragraphs below.

Not far above the ground I noticed something else outside of the window. Not only were all of the lights that should be there missing but there was no movement, no cars, no people. It was eerie.

The plane came closer and closer to the ground and there was still no sign of life when the wheels finally hit the ground. The plane swerved back and forth as if the tarmac had not been deiced for a while. When the plane finally stopped we were not near one of the terminal buildings and there was no sign of a crew coming out to tow us into the terminal.

The above reads sort of lifeless. You may want to add a level of apprehension to you narrative. I did a short redo below.


As the ground rose to meet us the airport presented an eerie aspect. The runway lights were off. In fact there were no lights at all, even the terminal was cloaked in darkness. I saw no cars, no people. There was nothing moving at all.

I continued to watched out the window as the plane settled towards the runway, looking in vain for any signs of life. The plane shuddered as it met the cushion of ground effect under its wings and dropped the last few feet to smack the asphalt. We skidded and swerved as if the tarmac had not been deiced for a while. When the plane slowed and stopped we were not near the terminal buildings and there was no sign of a crew coming out to tow us in.

I hope I was helpful. I point to one misspelled word below.

Terry





our decent into Boise. I could feel the plane bouncing down lower and lower. As we got bellow the clouds-----below