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Eicca
June 23rd, 2014, 03:56 AM
After much revision and many a helpful hint from the excellent people that inhabit this forum, I have composed an opening segment that I feel much better about.

So, the big question: Would you continue reading this story?

----------------

“Hey. You okay?”


He didn’t move. He stayed where he was, sitting against the wheel of the police car with his face in his hands.


The voice, female, grew more persistent. “Baron. Are you okay?”


Leave me alone. He continued to ignore her, until something tapped his foot.


“Jeff! Answer me!”


He sprang to his feet, shouting inches from her face: “Do I look like I’m okay?! Do you think I can watch my brother get stabbed in the gut and still be…” The words jammed in his throat. He smashed a fist into the police car, denting the Y in NYPD.


The officer was on him in seconds, slamming him against the car. “You wanna try that again?” His breath reeked of cheap coffee.


“Do your job,” Jeff snapped, pushing the officer away. “Honestly, if you showed half the interest in my brother as you do your stupid car…!”


The officer spun him around, pinning him again, face on the hood. He heard the rattle of handcuffs and began to thrash.


The stun gun came out instantly, fired up with a nasty popping, when the woman stepped between them. “Stop!” She flicked strands of red hair out of her eyes and shoved the officer further away. “Stop. Seriously. Leave him alone. Finish collecting the casings or something.”


The officer’s nose wrinkled in disgust. “Yes, Miss Rothlin,” he sneered, but what Jeff heard--and he was sure Rothlin did too--was “Drop dead, Miss Rothlin.” It was understandable; taking orders from a CIA operative so young was a blow to the pride.


He cautiously returned to his seat by the car, wishing death on everything around him. Rothlin glanced back and forth between him and the officer.


He recoiled slightly when she sat next to him. “With all due respect, Agent Rothlin,” he said just as sarcastically, “Go away.”


She fixed him with an icy stare. “Really? I’m just trying to help you.”


“Yeah, just like they are.” He glared at the cops, who seemed unconcerned, even bored. This was just another day in the city for them. More paperwork. Violent crimes were all they ever responded to anymore, and they were clearly accustomed to it. They exchanged small talk and casually took down the yellow tape, oblivious to what he was going through. He was nervous wreck sitting smack in the middle of it all, and nobody seemed to care.


“You know what?” she began, irritated, then stopped herself.


Jeff jumped into her hesitation. “Doesn’t CIA crap happen overseas anyway? You shouldn’t even be here.”


“Well I am,” she retorted, standing up. “Forget it. If you don’t want to talk, there’s nothing I can do.”


“Wait.” He took a deep, shuddering breath. “Any word from the ambulance?”


She paused, then shook her head.


He buried his face in his hands again. Sweat from his palms stung his sunburned skin. Afterimages of the scene swam before him, covered in red and blue streaks from the light bars. He squeezed his eyes shut, hoping for some relief from the dizziness and confusion. But none came. No tears washed the horror away.


His fingers tensed and dug into his brow. How could this happen? It was unfathomable. One moment he was sitting on hot California sand, surrounded by women and lemonade, and the next he was next to some creepy alleyway on the opposite coast wondering if he would ever see his brother again. And that wasn’t the worst of it. Questions bombarded him, confusing him, making him sick. They had been targeted, but by whom? Why was the CIA involved? This whole situation wasn’t right.


Desperate for anything to place the blame on, he picked New York City. How he hated it. The whole place was an accurate replica of his past: chaotic, arrogant, filthy, and sad. It was where his life had been shattered forever. He had worked so hard to leave it all behind and vowed never to return. But somehow, by bad luck, coincidence, an act of God--he didn’t know, he didn’t care--he was back. The demons he had left to die wasted no time trying to destroy him again.


He broke from his thoughts to watch another police car roll up. Why were they still coming? What a waste. It was already over. Go find something better to do. Like catching the people responsible for this mess.


He stifled a moan of despair and leaned his head back against the fender. The city had always fought dirty and had only gotten worse during his absence. The wounds that had taken years to heal now oozed freely, ripped open by the sight of his brother bleeding on the sidewalk in front of him.


He gasped and shook his head to dislodge the image, but in his weakened state the attempt was useless. His mind was a movie reel that he couldn’t shut off.


Fresh memories joined the old: Gold badges, flashing lights, the car door open wide like the jaws of a shark. Flailing fists. The state trooper. The knife blade, shiny, black, three inches long, spring-loaded. Agony twisting his brother’s face. Guns, suddenly, everywhere. The CIA. Medics. An ambulance. The agent forcing him behind cover. Trying to break free. He couldn’t see, was he alive? Was he alive??


Justin Baron was pronounced dead at 11:28pm.

tabasco5
June 23rd, 2014, 07:46 PM
I think it's pretty good and would continue reading it.

If I may, could I propose two possible edits to strengthen the very beginning?

Second line: He didn’t move. He stayed where he was, sitting against the wheel of the police car with his face in his hands. He didn't move and He stayed where he was are basically the same thing. These could be combined.

He continued to ignore her. The verb used is continued, when the action is ignored. IMO, it should read He ignored her.


There are a few other edits I would recommend, but those two stood out since they are right at the beginning. You have a very good start though. How much of the story do you have written?

Deafmute
June 23rd, 2014, 08:07 PM
good pacing, good development, perfect flow, colorful descriptive verse, believable dialogue, just enough mystery to keep us guessing. Based solely on this excerpt, Yea I would definitely keep reading. Hope it is scify/fantasy though, plain crime drama isn't my genre.

Eicca
June 24th, 2014, 04:03 AM
Hope it is scify/fantasy though, plain crime drama isn't my genre.

Oh I know what you mean. Trust me, this is going to get epic.

Eicca
June 24th, 2014, 04:04 AM
How much of the story do you have written?


The whole thing is written, I'm going back and doing a major revamp though. This intro is part of it. My original intro SUCKED in comparison

InstituteMan
June 24th, 2014, 04:31 AM
This is really good, a huge improvement. You should be proud. You start setting the scene and letting us like your MC right away. To me, your own voice really comes through here. I would read more. Any tweaks I would have are minor 'I would do it like this stuff' not worth sharing since I am not the one doing it. Well done.

Eicca
June 24th, 2014, 04:48 AM
Well thank you! I feel very good about the direction this is heading. It's helping me set the tone for the rest of the story, which I am very excited to crank out.

Here's the next little chunk for your enjoyment :)

---------------------------


Justin Baron was pronounced dead at 11:28pm. The news came over the police radio, almost inaudible over the sounds of the city, but Jeff’s ears locked on and held fast until the very last word. The shock took his breath away. It felt like a violent punch to the gut. To his horror, the movie reel in his mind started again. He watched, over and over, the knife plunge into Justin’s body.


He staggered to his feet, leaning against the police car, chest heaving with frantic breath. But the visions kept coming. A strike that had been intended to slip between ribs, into his heart. Justin had kicked out at the last second, recoiling upward, and the blade entered just under his rib cage, no doubt severing abdominal muscle. The move had only proven to prolong what should have been a quick death. Slow internal bleeding surely finished him. Jeff fell to his knees, assaulted by an even more horrible thought--if the blade had pierced a lung, Justin had drowned in his own blood.

Greimour
June 26th, 2014, 05:11 AM
Much better than the other piece. Well revised.



Second line: He didn’t move. He stayed where he was, sitting against the wheel of the police car with his face in his hands. He didn't move and He stayed where he was are basically the same thing. These could be combined.


Just like to point out that I prefer the way you had it written - personally. I think it's more powerful and there is nothing wrong with breaking sentences the way you did.


He didn’t move. He stayed where he was, sitting against the wheel of the police car with his face in his hands.

The full stop break was an ideal emphasis on the situation for me but, the following sentence felt a little clunky - like the comma wasn't enough or it lost it's grip too fast.
Personally, I would probably stop and leave it with just 'he didn't move'


He didn’t move. He stayed where he was, sitting against the wheel of the police car with his face in his hands.
Did he know Rothlin personally? Parts of the conversation felt like they did- an over familiarity to it. I wondered if that's why the CIA was taking an interest in the crime (because of family ties or connections or something) but toward the end, they seemed to be strangers. Met for the first time tonight. If that was the case though, at which point after his brothers murder did they chat and get acquainted? From the“Jeff! Answer me!” moment on, they had clearly met before.

The Police should have training to deal with bereaved family members - if they lacked care enough to do that part of their job, it's a wonder they are Police at all. There is usually one who is willing at least and that's often the first thing they do when opportunity presents itself. If Rothlin is that person, referring to him by his first name is not the way to do it. Not if they are meeting for the very first time.

Honestly, I couldn't tell if this was a first meeting for the two- or not. There are too many indicators stating 'first time' and 'not first time'

You have lost that noir feel to the story here. Think of everything, that's what I dislike most.

The writing itself is much cleaner though, so well done, you definitely put the miles in for the revision.

Kudos.



~Kev.

Eicca
June 26th, 2014, 05:28 AM
Oooh, good advice with the relationship thing. I knew something felt off, but couldn't quite place it. Thanks for bringing that up!


The Police should have training to deal with bereaved family members - if they lacked care enough to do that part of their job, it's a wonder they are Police at all. There is usually one who is willing at least and that's often the first thing they do when opportunity presents itself. If Rothlin is that person, referring to him by his first name is not the way to do it. Not if they are meeting for the very first time.



And this detail, the subpar police work, is all part of the story and will be explained as the story goes on.

Greimour
June 26th, 2014, 05:57 AM
Oooh, good advice with the relationship thing. I knew something felt off, but couldn't quite place it. Thanks for bringing that up!



And this detail, the subpar police work, is all part of the story and will be explained as the story goes on.

I expected that to be your answer, but it stretches the realms of believability for me. I can imagine it and believe it to happen... but then comes Rothlin. She makes the effort, but for 'CIA Op so young...' as you put it, she must have aced her exams, top of her class in training, excellent people skills, outstanding communication skills - yet she talks to 'Jeff' like an old acquaintance whilst not knowing him at all. Either that or they had already had a conversation, in which case he would have warmed up to her a little already (first name basis conversation) and would be less likely to ignore her when she comes asking how he is.

Would a CIA op ask "how are you?" to a stranger the first time they met after his brother just got murdered?

I am not being picky here... I am just struggling to 'believe' what I am reading. Whether you are writing about witches, crime, bad police, good villains (megamind), a talking mouse or a living robot (Johnny 5, Bicentennial man) - it has to be believable. You can write about E.T and people will let themselves believe it - but ONLY if it is written in a way that can be believed. For me, the writing shown isn't enough for me to dismiss it as work that I can't believe but that's the path it is on.

Your title is 'opening segment' .. so basically start of your story.

I am happy to believe the Police fail at their job - but then comes Rothlin. I feel like I have missed far too much of the story already.

1: Did Jeff and Rothlin know each other prior to this murder?
a.1- "Hey, you ok" - "Jeff!! Answer me" - *goes on to kick his shoe* = they know each other
a.2- Questions bombarded him, confusing him, making him sick. They had been targeted, but by whom? Why was the CIA involved? This whole situation wasn’t right. = don't know each other

2: How did he know he/they was/were targeted?

3: Brother 'stabbed in the gut' @ Do you think I can watch my brother get stabbed in the gut and still be…” The words jammed in his throat.
3.a: The knife blade, shiny, black, three inches long, spring-loaded. Agony twisting his brother’s face. Guns, suddenly, everywhere.
Q: So, he was shot with a knife blade?
~ That's not exactly stabbed in the gut... but OK... Now I am as confused as Jeff - more so even.
3.b: Guns, suddenly, everywhere. The CIA. Medics. An ambulance. The agent forcing him behind cover. Trying to break free. He couldn’t see, was he alive? Was he alive??
Q: Holy crap, getting him behind cover? How fast was that response team?
Q: Did they walk into the middle of a police operation?
~ If they did, bad timing more than bad luck, no? Unless the operation was rescuing them in the first place - in which case the officers definitely would NOT be treating him in such a way. They basically failed their mission if that was the case. Also... in your other piece, it sounded like a random killing - another day in New York... now it sounds like an agenda. The story has entirely changed. Good things I suppose but it basically means following your new piece with the old one discarded.
3.c: The agent forcing him behind cover. Trying to break free. He couldn’t see, was he alive? Was he alive??
~ Don't think you need the double question: He couldn't see, what happened to his brother? Was he alive?!

4: The interaction between Jeff and the officer who was going to arrest him was 'extreme' to say the least. Believable but shocking... when followed up by his interaction with Rothlin, it becomes arrogant, cocky, farfetched and dry. The guy is just a douche and I honestly can't imagine a copper like that except on some crappy TV show.


Basically, what I am getting at... the writing before needed work and what you've changed it to is much better prose but, now it's the story itself thats the problem. For me, at least. Getting the reader hooked is great, but getting the reader confused and questioning your work (as much as the story) is a bad road.

The question examples I gave above are just a few snippets of my thoughts as I read the piece. I can dissect the written piece shown even further but I neither want to and nor do I think you would like me to do so.

It's your work, go about it how you like- but I would be more likely to read your older piece and like it despite the prose than this one.


~Kev.

Eicca
June 27th, 2014, 04:20 AM
I like this, it's given me a lot to consider. Let me run my plan by you, see what you think.

I'm starting the book "in the middle of the story" as it were and interspersing back story appropriately. For example, later in the first chapter, the scene following the one I just posted, Jeff will tell how everything went down when he gives his witness statement. The next chapter will fill the reader in on how the CIA got there, explain the details of the setting (which is in 2020 and America has pretty much fallen into a communist state), imply something even more sinister that leads into the rest of the story. It will also give Rothlin a chapter of background.

Basically I'm going for a kind of "Hollywood" approach where someone is started in the middle of a situation and the details fall into place as the story progresses. I can see, however, the challenge of presenting story-driving questions vs. straight-up confusing the reader.

Eicca
June 27th, 2014, 04:23 AM
Follow-up question: How would you feel about a more familiar relationship if Rothlin actually knew Jeff's brother quite well? (Which she does...)

InstituteMan
June 27th, 2014, 04:30 AM
Eicca: your approach sounds solid, the trick is in the execution. Starting in the middle can grab the reader's attention and keeping them guessing in a fun way, or it can confuse and bore them. I think that you have the skills to tend more to the former than the latter, but it will certainly require effort and a deft touch.

Deafmute
June 27th, 2014, 04:37 AM
Oh I know what you mean. Trust me, this is going to get epic.

Good to hear, it definitly has the makings for a great opening to a dark scifi/fantasy setting which is my personal cup of tea. I definitely would agree with the critques offered by Grimouir. The dicotomy between how the MC is treated by the cop and the CIA agent suggest the CIA agent has a personal stake. It may help to include that she was close to his brother as some sort of side note when she appears on the scene, so long as that revalation doesn't spoil a secret later on.

Eicca
June 27th, 2014, 04:43 AM
Ah man this is like balancing eggs. A test, no doubt. This is unquestionably the hardest part of my story to write; the rest flows more or less naturally.

Eicca
June 27th, 2014, 04:45 AM
Oh BTW Greimour, I failed to mention I abandoned the noir approach because I felt like that particular style was, in a sense, faking my voice. I looked back on all of my work and realized that my best parts are dialogue and action scenes. So I took the approach I knew I could do.

Greimour
June 27th, 2014, 06:42 AM
Follow-up question: How would you feel about a more familiar relationship if Rothlin actually knew Jeff's brother quite well? (Which she does...)

Sorry been so long without response.

Rothlin knowing Jeff's brother sounds fine. Have to second Deafmute's response. If you can, get across the relationship with Rothlin sooner rather than later if possible.

I think, it is as you say - balancing eggs. A larger excerpt - perhaps the full chapter - could possibly let me grasp a fuller understanding. Mostly, it is as InstituteMan says - you have to keep me guessing without confusing me. Guessing in a good way: "Do they know each other or not?!" is not a fun way... "I bet Danny did it, but damn it, I can't be sure!" is a fun way.

Either way, I am interested in the development. I have followed it this far - I expect I will continue to follow it as you progress.

Next time you post an excerpt, give me a full complete chapter <3 (or 3, I don't mind) but if it's for future publication, probably best if you don't exceed 3 on a forum.


As for changing your voice, I don't really mind that much knowing that the noir was a fake voice. I'd just gotten it in my head that this story had the Noir aspect to it so I felt like you had sacrificed part of the story. Now I am thinking you have abandoned a struggle in order to maintain your natural style.

You nailed that noir style pretty well though, I think you could challenge yourself to that kind of style in a future piece if you no longer intend to have it in this one.

Besides all that, this is your work. My opinions are nothing but that - opinions. The work is yours, don't feel pressured by anyone to change anything. Advice is great but in the end, knocking out a comment or critique is a very small amount of time compared to the time and effort into producing the work. Be proud of what you create and know that - even with my less desirable replies - I do only wish to help.
(That however doesn't make me right. Only opinionated.)


~Kev.

P.S. Anything I say that does help your writing makes me happy, so make sure I know when such an unfathomable occurrence takes place. :D

Eicca
June 27th, 2014, 07:09 AM
Seriously, Greimour, your suggestions have helped immensely. My method of learning, be it about cars, bikes, writing, you name it, is to pick the brains of the people that know what they're doing and assemble the mechanics of it all by playing with it. I love working this way. So much more impressive on my mind than just reading about "here's how this works."

I'll get you a full Chapter 1 as soon as I can. I've made a few minor modifications, and I've adopted a new strategy of writing questions for the reader to answer. It's something like this: Answer as little as it takes to keep the reader from getting confused. I.e. A passing comment about how Rothlin was the politician's daughter, the child prodigy, but leave her full back story for later.

Morkonan
June 27th, 2014, 07:26 PM
Just a quick note on your opening:


After much revision and many a helpful hint from the excellent people that inhabit this forum, I have composed an opening segment that I feel much better about.

So, the big question: Would you continue reading this story?

----------------

“Hey. You okay?”


He didn’t move. He stayed where he was, sitting against the wheel of the police car with his face in his hands.


The voice, female, grew more persistent. “Baron. Are you okay?”...

In the same line as what we discussed earlier, how about this?

He didn’t move. He stayed where he was, sitting against the wheel of the police car with his face in his hands.

The voice, female, grew more persistent. “Baron. Are you okay?”...

Notice the difference? Well, for one, there's no opening dialogue. That's easy to notice, but what is the effect of that? Is there any diminishing of your intent with this passage as far as information and communication is concerned? No, that one line of dialogue, "Hey. You okay?", isn't necessary in that aspect. So, what's the effect of it being removed? Instead of an interrogatory bit of dialogue, the Reader is introduced with a very powerful first line - "He didn't move."

"He didn't move" is a strong opener, despite its lack of "movement." :) In my opinion, that's a stronger, more illustrative, more impactful opening line than "Hey, you okay." Keep the rest of it exactly as it is, with the female voice "The voice, female, grew more persistent" helping to imply action and dialogue that has logically taken place before your writing. With this, you're effectively putting the Reader right smack in the middle of the action and, more importantly, the perspective of the character she's talking to - He doesn't realize she's said anything previously, either. See how that works? It's got huge benefits, all around, and that's exactly the sort of thing you're looking for. So, with this quick blurb, all I am saying is: Strike that first line of dialogue and you have a great opening passage. I would definitely keep reading THAT story, simply from the strong and complex introduction.


Will post later on other bits, with your desires for a good opening in mind.

Eicca
June 28th, 2014, 12:06 AM
Thanks Morkonan, I'm doing a little bit of tweaking to the opening lines and I'll post back with my results. Thanks for the suggestions!

Morkonan
July 5th, 2014, 11:50 PM
Sorry for the delay. Add this to my opening comment. I like the possibilities of this offering, but there are some things that I think you must do if you wish to maximize the chances that your Reader will turn the page, as you suggest with your opening question. Here are my suggestions, for what they're worth. :)


“Hey. You okay?”




He didn’t move. He stayed where he was, sitting against the wheel of the police car with his face in his hands.




The voice, female, grew more persistent. “Baron. Are you okay?”




Leave me alone. He continued to ignore her, until something tapped his foot.




“Jeff! Answer me!”




My earlier suggestion with your very first opening line still stands. Let's continue.


This is fine, but I want “more.” The first line of your story, given from his perspective, is fine. But, it's short. That's fine, too. Yet, now, you're moving into a closer view of this character with this next line and it should be... well, it should feel like “more.” As a Reader, I want an ever-increasing influx of information of some sort, the more important the better. Here, I want more. I want you to expand upon this a little bit. Give some more insight into this strange man we find insensate, sitting beside a police car for reasons unknown. It's fine that we don't know, for now, why all this is happening. However, it's not fine that we don't get more of a feel for this person. Give me something else about this experience to chew on. How does he feel? What does he feel? Give me one more line that further describes his plight on a personal level. It doesn't have to contain anything about the events, it only has to build upon him as a character. By the time “something happens” in a closely following paragraph, I want to know something more about “who” it's happening “to.” If I don't get that, then I won't start to care, more and more, about what's happening to this somewhat anonymous guy.

The line “He didn't move....” doesn't tell me about him. It tells me something that anyone could notice from simple observation of the scene. That's fine for an opener. We're not doing “scene” descriptions in this offering and I see the reason for it. But, I don't know, at that point, who's really relating all this, so you should establish that by giving me a line with some introspection in it. Just tell me how he feels or what emotions are going through his mind, at this moment, without too much of a “reveal” concerning the events at this point. You've anticipated that strategy, already, by your construction of the next paragraph. That's great and you're doing fine with stringing the Reader along. But, this one line isn't being “used” by you to do anything. So, use it – Give the Reader some internal view of the character, something emotional and worth biting into. One line, even one well-placed and chosen word, will be all that is needed. In fact, that's all that's really desired. A lot of explaining for so small a requirement... :)




He sprang to his feet, shouting inches from her face: “Do I look like I’m okay?! Do you think I can watch my brother get stabbed in the gut and still be…” The words jammed in his throat. He smashed a fist into the police car, denting the Y in NYPD.


I get it, that's what such a scene would look like and its a believable reaction. But, what's going on with “him?” What does he feel about what happened? I don't mean what he “does” or how he “reacts”, I mean what is inside him that forces this reaction? That is something that only a writer can communicate. You're privileged in that regard, so act on that privilege.



For instance, now would be a time for internal reflection. In using that strategy, you're allowing the Reader to see into the mind of the character. The internal reflections may not even be accurate. Certainly, at this emotional points, they wouldn't be! In fact, they'd probably be blown out of proportion, irrational and illogical. Considering what happened, they'd likely be pretty strange. Imagine yourself sitting with a close friend who will put up with all your whining or griping about whatever it is that you're overreacting to at some point in your life. (If you don't have one of those sorts of friends, get one. They make for great emotional toilet bowls... :) ) So, in that situation, what sort of crazy ideas and worries would you relate to such a friend? “My life is over! I'm ruined! I may as well live under a bridge! I'll never love again! I'll never get a job, now! Aliens are communicating to me through the television set!” Seriously, these are the sorts of things we might say to ourselves in dire moments filled with emotional turmoil. So, this is the sort of thing I think you should do, here. Instead of just reporting to the Reader what happened, give us something more. Give us what's causing that reaction, give us a handle on it.

“Jeff watched the knife plunge, again. Over and over, it violated his brother's body. The blood, his brother's blood, fountained out, freed at last from its mortal confines, heedless of the consequences for its desertion. His brother needed it... Now, it was all over the side-walk, pooled around the body of his brother like some sort of macabre pedestal.”


The point isn't to write that same thing, (It's a bit overdone and crappy, but it was quick to write... :) )the point is that we're relating what happened, now, but doing so through the perspective of someone that is practically in shock. At the very least, he's emotionally distraught. Because we've given some sort of introspection as to his state of mind, there's going to be some empathy established when he lashes out. Instead of the Reader being offended by his reaction, we milk it for all its worth – The Reader is going to be prepared for this reaction, even if they don't expect it, and it will hit home, all the better for it. Give them the "shock" experience the Reader is looking for.

Now, you get her to jabber at him, one more time. The other times were fine, too. But, this time it's obviously too much for him to bear. She's just another unwelcome intruding aspect of the outside world. We've “met him.” We've learned something about him. We've experienced, somewhat incoherently, what he experienced. Now, we're ready to empathize with him and his outburst. When he lashes out, you can “push” the interaction with the police officer, making it more than just a casual jump. There's a reason that both he and the police officer interact the way that they do and we feel for them both, instead of just sympathizing with the police officer. In this way, the interaction is more complex, more “gray”, more emotional than before. When Jeff backs off, we understand. And, it's also very likely that a real police officer would understand, as well. No matter how uncaring and disconnected you wish to make this officer appear, he's still human. He will have faced this situation before and will know what sort of things a victim's family would do. He'd also likely realize that frequently roughing up victim's families will likely get him fired, no matter how dystopian the Setting is.




The officer was on him in seconds, slamming him against the car. “You wanna try that again?” His breath reeked of cheap coffee.




“Do your job,” Jeff snapped, pushing the officer away. “Honestly, if you showed half the interest in my brother as you do your stupid car…!”




The officer spun him around, pinning him again, face on the hood. He heard the rattle of handcuffs and began to thrash.


See the line - “Do your job..”? At this point, we don't care about his brother. It's just an infodump, a way to tell us what's going on and what has just happened. But, if you put in something like that line of introspection on a tiny flasback memory, you end up finally creating “his brother” when you finally write “in my brother.” The Reader takes that bit of introspection about the horrible scene and then this “gimme” telling them who it was and forms a person in their mind. A person who had a brother. A person who was horribly murdered and left behind a traumatized relative... Without that, you simply have “my brother” which doesn't carry much weight, right now, and Jeff's pleadings relating to his death won't mean very much until you start personifying his brother in some other way. Get that bit over early so you can move through this opening fast, dragging the Reader along with you. Later, you can build up Jeff's brother a bit more, just to drive home the empathy factor. (IOW - Give us a prior emotional experience with this "brother" figure in Jeff's flashback/retrospection so we care when we're supposed to care, rather than just having Jeff's pleas and protestations fall on more deaf ears.)




The stun gun came out instantly, fired up with a nasty popping, when the woman stepped between them. “Stop!” She flicked strands of red hair out of her eyes and shoved the officer further away. “Stop. Seriously. Leave him alone. Finish collecting the casings or something.”


If she is giving orders, make her give orders. If she is appealing to someone's sensibilities (Officer) then create an appeal. So, here, if she was giving orders, it would be “Stop, <officer's name>. Put that away and back off.” I do not think she would say “Seriously.”



The reason for this is that someone who is used to giving orders expects them to be carried out and does not make an “appeal” to reinforce them that quickly without evidence of non-compliance. (Doing so undermines their own authority.) Here, I don't see the officer offering any resistance to such an order. If she's not a wet-behind-the-ears-rookie, she would give a sensible, straightforward command without any expectations of it being misunderstood or unheeded. Even if she was a rookie, she'd still try to follow what she learned in Leadership 101 class. Just my two cents. (Edit - Note that this becomes a constant problem with this character, throughout the piece. Explanations follow for each occurrence.)




The officer’s nose wrinkled in disgust. “Yes, Miss Rothlin,” he sneered, but what Jeff heard--and he was sure Rothlin did too--was “Drop dead, Miss Rothlin.” It was understandable; taking orders from a CIA operative so young was a blow to the pride.



Show, don't tell, right? OK, we have the CIA infodump, here. But, it's a tragic waste of some good dialogue opportunities. Why “tell” the Reader that taking orders was a blow to his pride instead of showing them? It's a perfect opportunity for a confrontation and your Reader wants to experience it happening. Don't deny that experience to them. Don't deny them the fun of watching two authority figures clash due to personality conflicts and complex professional interests and job-related quandaries! Oooh... drama!



You want to move from high-point to high-point, increasing the stakes along every thread with such an opening. We have a great deal of conflict and implied drama in this opening. OK, why dump the opportunity for adding even more? More is always better than less.. :) So, instead of “telling” about this blow to his pride, “show” it. Start another confrontation, even when the previous one hasn't been resolved... Especially when the previous one hasn't been resolved! Have him yammer away at her about how he's not under her authority and he doesn't give a damn about the CIA and it's long nose, poking into other people's lives without the least by-you-leave... In fact, build him up as a good guy for a little bit. He's a loyal policeman, dedicated towards protecting his citizens and enforcing the law. He can be a bit possessive about that, giving him some small-town charm in the big city. For instance, he can tell her it's “his beat” and imply that if she doesn't respect that, he's going to suddenly find it difficult to help her... He might lose reports, forgetting to file them as he deals with the shock... He might even need to go to the bathroom the next time this guy starts to get violent... leaving her on her own with him... IOW – Take this opportunity to demonstrate his damaged pride and his recalcitrance at taking orders from an outsider. Throw in value judgements that help to color his character the way you want him. Want him to seem crude and neanderthalic? Then, have him make some “women's libber” comments. Want him to be sympathetic, yet focused and dedicated? Then, have him make some sympathetic comments, but contrast them with some ironclad declarations regarding his determination to do his duty as he sees fit. Don't let this moment go by unremarked upon to die in the dark of night. Don't pass it up! If you do, I guarantee your Readers will have been disappointed.




He cautiously returned to his seat by the car, wishing death on everything around him. Rothlin glanced back and forth between him and the officer.


“Who” cautiously returned to their seat? It's not clear. And, what's “cautiously?” An... adverb... /shudder. OK, strike it out, it's weak. Instead, describe his movements that imply a “cautious” manner. How does one move “cautiously?” And, show motive in those movements – What's making him cautious? The second sentence is cumbersome and tells us nothing. Why include it? Why include “pointless” stage direction, especially when it masks the more important emotions and tension surrounding the scene. So, rewrite it, but refrain from the stage direction of the “glace.” Instead, tell us that she is apprehensive, unsure, guarded or worried about escalating conflict between the two without twisting her neck off her shoulders. That's the sort of thing that is much better than furtive glancing in such a situation. You could, for instance, have her “keep an eye on the situation as she” does something else. (Not in those words, just the idea being communicated.) But, the stage direction of her glances just doesn't “do it” for us – It's unnecessary when confronted with the opportunity to write something better.



He recoiled slightly when she sat next to him. “With all due respect, Agent Rothlin,” he said just as sarcastically, “Go away.”


What is “recoiled slightly?” Show us what it is by describing it. If you want to introduce physicality, then physicalitify it.. So, she sits down beside him (Where? Squad cars are notoriously cramped.) and he scoots away from her, turning his shoulder and staring out the opposite window or something. Or, he starts, "like a spooked deer," and then quickly regains his composure, as if to say “I am a man and you can not harm me” or some junk like that.. IOW – Normally, the “recoiled slightly” thing is fine. But, this is your opener and you want to use every opportunity to draw in the Reader. Later, when they're sitting down and discussing the details of the master plot and all the characters are familiar to the Reader, you can simply have him “recoil slightly.” But, not now. Now, at this point in the story, you have to paint with a very colorful brush. Describe that "recoiled slightly" in so many words, but without mentioning "recoiled slightly."




She fixed him with an icy stare. “Really? I’m just trying to help you.”


The “really” should be treated just like the “seriously”, above – She would not say this. At least, the archetypical character we expect to see wouldn't be so wishy-washy. She would, instead, be more direct and, by doing so, imply that she could go away. Ie: “I'm just trying to help you.” Then, after repeated refusals by him, “If that's the way you want it, then fine by me.” To which he would respond, of course, with the predictable, but nonetheless entertaining, conciliatory gesture and apologetic remarks...


The point is really that you want to build a strong character, here, right? I don't mean “strong” as in macho/manly/bull-headed/whatever. I mean that you want the Reader to know who the character is without much doubt, right? So, when you introduce “passive” responses like “Seriously?” and “Really?”, you undermine that, making the Reader unsure as to her qualities. She can have her weaknesses and faults, but not right now, in my opinion. You can explore those later. But, for now, she's on “official business.” So, make her strong- No more passive-aggressive stuffs from her.








“You know what?” she began, irritated, then stopped herself.


Not sure where this was supposed to go. What “what” was she going to introduce? Is she a character that is unsure of herself? Is she a character that is somewhat weak-willed or uncertain in the face of danger or drama? If so, then OK, I guess. But, if that's the sort of character you want, here, then you want to make her out to be more of a comic relief or an “also ran”, rather than a focus character. Readers aren't going to empathize with such a character nor will they derive particular pleasure from them until they get to know them. So, right from the start, unless you plunge into that uncertainty, she's not going to be a good character to introduce in your opening. That's especially true if you're trying to contrast her against another character, which seems to be your intent. Two weak-willed, uncertain characters don't make a good lead unless you jump right into them and make such exploration interesting.


IOW – These starts/stops/uncertain remarks and demonstrations of a lack of confidence and leadership ability by this “CIA” character does you no positive service in your opening, especially if she's a foil for Jeff. Weak foils don't parry very well. So, strike out this “irritated” and somewhat hesitant remark by her and put in something stronger, more assertive, more proper for a real CIA agent to say. I assume that she's “On the Job” and didn't just stumble by after picking up a cup of coffee. So, make her “on the job”, no matter what personal history, if anything, she may have with those involved. Making her stronger, more sure of herself, is going to be beneficial and will provide very appropriate contrasts regarding Jeff.




“Well I am,” she retorted, standing up. “Forget it. If you don’t want to talk, there’s nothing I can do.”


Ah.. Reminds me of being married... Whenever the woman doesn't want to talk about something, that's the most important thing EVAR and you should beg her to talk about it... IF you don't, you're in trouble, right? That's the vibe I'm getting here. So, are they married? Seriously?

If not, then why the constant passive-aggressive stuff? Drop that, “seriously.” A CIA agent, in my opinion, is not going to wear a passive aggressive cloak like a life-preserver nor is she going to whine and stomp off in a huff while investigating a tasty crime scene for whatever secret, mysterious, reasons.... That's just my opinion and you may have a different direction you wish to go in regards to this character. But, if that is true, then you've got her involved in a scene that is not the most appropriate for your opening, since the Reader knows nothing of her weaknesses and can't empathize with her at all. (Edit - Because of her passive-aggressive attitude and unsure remarks and indecisive demeanor, I do not like her. I also do not like Jeff, due to his constant whining and angsty attitude... See below for fixes and suggestions, just keep this in mind while reading on.)




His fingers tensed and dug into his brow. How could this happen? It was unfathomable. One moment he was sitting on hot California sand, surrounded by women and lemonade, and the next he was next to some creepy alleyway on the opposite coast wondering if he would ever see his brother again. And that wasn’t the worst of it. Questions bombarded him, confusing him, making him sick. They had been targeted, but by whom? Why was the CIA involved? This whole situation wasn’t right.


Such specific stage direction “his fingers tensed and dug into his brow” is more often unnecessary than not, no matter how vividly one may think that expresses a character's state. Instead, show what they feel by getting personal when it's appropriate and only “physical” when it's necessary. You know, for instance, that the warrior on the other side of the battle, who is raging and lifting his bloody spear to the air in victory, is particularly enthusiastic. You don't need to jump to introspection and take your Reader out of focus of the main character to communicate this. Similarly, you don't need to take your Reader out of focus of the main character to reveal their internal pain through physical, external, action alone. A few prompts in that regard are fine. So, “he held his head in his hands” gives us a general piece of stage direction without being overly descriptive. That allows us to naturally lead into introspection. But, if there's too much stage direction describing physical movements which imply internal states, it waters everything down. Give us a quick and short description, without too much drama in physical action described, then plunge us deep into where it counts – Internal dialogue, introspection, retrospection, etc.. That's the meat and potatoes of developing a sympathetic character through traumatic experiences.



Also, if questions are bombarding him, bombard us. Give us at least one more, possibly two, questions that are “bombarding him.” Otherwise, just a couple of questions isn't going to be quite a “bombard.”



Desperate for anything to place the blame on, ...
... He stifled a moan of despair and leaned his head back against the fender. ....

The wounds that had taken years to heal now oozed freely, ripped open by the sight of his brother bleeding on the sidewalk in front of him.





He gasped and shook his head to dislodge the image, but in his weakened state the attempt was useless. His mind was a movie reel that he couldn’t shut off.


You're wallowing a bit, here. I “get it.” But, you don't have to go on and on, demonstrating the character's grief and personal angst... It gets old, very quick. In fact, I'm starting to dislike this whiny character. :) That's OK, but unless there's something for me to like, in startling contrast, then there's no net positive, is there? So, when is this character going to show some backbone? What is it about this particular experience that is going to show me that there is another hundred or thousand pages of stuff about this character that I want to read? I do not want to read a thousand pages of this guy whining about everything, from his brother's death to how outrageous his car insurance is. Give me something... strong and positive.


So, the guy is in a fix, a tough spot, I get that. He's upset. I understand that too. But, give me something worthy of getting interested in. For instance, you might want to introduce the idea that he wants to get back at the bartards that killed his brother! He may have decided that “this is the final straw!” Life has treated him poorly and we see that. But, we also see him finding a backbone, lashing out at authority and, evidently, for once in his life he finally decides to set a goal that isn't filled with selfish intent or cookie-jar desires – He wants revenge! Ah, there, now that's something I can get interested in.


But, if he keeps up his incessant whining without some indication that there's a gem to be found in the rough, I will close the cover of the book, determined to avoid someone who does nothing but whine about their fate all day...

("Mind was a movie real" comment was nice. Keep that one! Get rid of most of the rest of the whining, though.)




Fresh memories joined the old: Gold badges, flashing lights, the car door open wide like the jaws of a shark. Flailing fists. The state trooper. The knife blade, shiny, black, three inches long, spring-loaded. Agony twisting his brother’s face. Guns, suddenly, everywhere. The CIA. Medics. An ambulance. The agent forcing him behind cover. Trying to break free. He couldn’t see, was he alive? Was he alive??


Justin Baron was pronounced dead at 11:28pm.


What did I learn from this opening?

I learned that this guy's brother was murdered as he witnessed it. I learned that there was a CIA agent involved for some reason. I learned that this was a very traumatic experience for some guy named “Jeff”, who likes to whine a lot. I learned that the cops don't care much about murder these days and the CIA doesn't like assertive and confident employees. (I'm just shooting straight from the hip, here.)



So, I could have learned all that in four sentences, right? In short, what is it that you have told me, right here, right now, in this chapter, that will make me want to read the next one? That's what your opening question is about, right? OK, so, what's the “hook” that will make me turn the page to Chapter Two? It isn't up to me to provide that, you know?



Read what you've written with that in mind, specifically. Where did you write a statement or present a goal or barrier or infer something interesting was about to happen in Chapter Two+ that I might find interesting? Where's the possibility of an alien invasion? Where are the first sparks of physical attraction between the CIA agent and Jeff? Where are the mysterious marks on the corpse that might lead us deep into political and religious intrigue? Where's the orc in the woodpile or the magic sword in the stone? Find that sentence. You can't, can you? That's because it is not there – There is no indication that there is anything tasty about to happen and, if I don't turn the page, I will surely miss it... Give me that. Start with a hook, end with a hook. It doesn't have to be a cliffhanger, but the Reader does need a reason to turn the page and if you can make it interesting, engaging, intriguing and exciting, they're more likely to turn that page, aren't they?




This IS an interesting interlude. But, it's interesting for what it doesn't say, more than for what it say's. It's interest value to the Reader will be short-lived and where out by the last sentence unless it's polished up a bit. What it does say, with certain exceptions, needs fine-tuning with special attention paid to how you're presenting these characters. Your piece is mostly focusing on these two characters and neither one of them is interesting or likeable nor is there any sort of drama involving them that I want to be entertained by. If you don't have any likeable characters, then open with a comedic farce with a tragic conclusion and with more promise of hijinks to come... or something, anything, besides focusing on the characters, themselves. But, if you want empathetic characters who are strong and engaging, work on presenting them in such a light. Reduce the whining by Jeff, have him come to some sort of “revelation” that's positive or at least interesting and exciting and promises good reading will follow. Work on making your CIA character stronger, the better to serve as a foil for Jeff or as a strong lead or ally who can do the things that Jeff can't.



Above all, when the Reader finishes this chapter, they must have some indication that there will be things happening in the future in this story that they wish to be involved in. If you don't project that, and don't strengthen the writing accordingly, nobody will be likely to turn the page. So, give me a hint that there's something juicy waiting for me, a reward for a simple page-turn...



Good stuff, overall, just work on the areas I suggested and you can polish it up nicely.


Edit-Add - 7/7 - I'm so sorry... I frequently work offline on critiques and had copied/pasted this one for such a task. For some reason, I thought that it was in the "Prose Writer's Workshop", where critique requests are generally found. So, I treated it as such. (I also copy the link addy for the post, so that I can quickly navigate to it in order to post my critique/comments.) So, I didn't notice that this wasn't posted in that section... but I still treated it as such.

Again, my apologies if such a critique/comment wasn't desired. I don't hardly ever visit the fiction/prose section and have no idea how I got here to see your post in the first place... (Maybe you had posted a link to it in another thread?) If you want me to delete my post/comments above, just send me a PM and I'll comply, no problems.

Eicca
July 9th, 2014, 02:46 AM
Morkonan, your critique is just what I need. I've been listening to Robert Ludlum novels at work and paying attention to what mechanics he uses to make his writing so compelling. And been having a hard time putting my finger on it. But your advice hits the nail on the head! I'm able to take all of your suggestions, pair them with an example from Ludlum and turn it into a tool for making my writing more powerful.

With your help, I'm off to redo this intro. Keep in mind, this isn't the complete first chapter, but hopefully I'll be able to make just this segment compelling enough so the reader is really hooked by the time I start to roll out the twists at the end of the chapter. I'll keep you posted as the work continues.

Eicca
July 9th, 2014, 05:40 AM
Here's a rehash of the first little bit, taking your suggestions into mind. Personally, I feel much better about this. It was more fun to write too!

---------------------

He didn’t move. He hadn’t for several minutes. The moment the ambulance had pulled away with his dying brother inside, his strength gave out and he sagged to the ground, hugging his knees to his chest, his back against the wheel of the police car. His whole body trembled; his beach-tanned skin was bleached white with shock. Sweat plastered his clothes to his skin, and nausea threatened to wring his stomach dry.


“Hey. You okay?”

The words only registered in his brain long enough to be pushed aside. The memory was out of control. The knife plunged into Justin’s body. Over and over. A single quick strike that had been intended to slip between ribs, into the heart. A strike that was supposed to end in a relatively quick death. But Justin, held from behind by the assailants, had kicked out at the last second, recoiling upward. The blade entered just under his rib cage, no doubt severing abdominal muscle. Slow and painful hemorrhaging would surely finish him. In all likelihood, the blade had pierced a lung, and Justin would even now be drowning in his own blood.

“Baron. Are you okay?” The voice, female, grew more persistent, enough to penetrate his nightmare and spark his irritation. She had already interfered once, right at the start of their relationship. She had introduced herself with a flying tackle when he had made a run at Justin’s attacker. She had interrupted his revenge. Now she wanted his attention. She would not get it this time.

Then something tapped his foot. “Jeff! Answer me!”

He sprang to his feet, shouting inches from her face: “Do I look like I’m okay?! Do you think I can watch my brother get stabbed in the gut and still be…” The words jammed in his throat. He smashed a fist into the police car, denting the Y in NYPD.

The officer was on him in seconds, slamming him against the car. “You wanna try that again?” His breath reeked of cheap coffee.

“Do your job,” Jeff snapped, pushing the officer away. “Honestly, if you showed half the interest in my brother as you do your stupid car…!”

The officer spun him around, pinning him again, face on the hood. He heard the rattle of handcuffs and began to thrash.

The stun gun came out instantly, fired up with a nasty popping, when the woman stepped between them. “Knock it off!” she roared, flicking strands of red hair out of her eyes. She shoved the officer further away with a sour-lemons scowl twisting her lower lip. “Leave him alone. Finish collecting the casings or something.”

The officer’s nose wrinkled in disgust as she turned away. “Piss off, Rothlin.”

Rothlin whirled. “Excuse me??”

The stun gun returned to the officer’s hand, ready but dormant. “I’m not your peon, kid. I’m not in your jurisdiction.” He spat each syllable of the last word with venomous contempt.

“Listen here, you rent-a-cop fathead…”

Amid the anxiety and terror, Jeff felt excitement flare inside him. A high-school-style brawl was imminent. He had always found them amusing.

The officer advanced until he was nose-to-nose with her. “Where’s your manners, huh? Didn’t daddy teach you to respect your elders?”

Rothlin gave him another solid shove. “Watch it. You’re on my turf. You’re a guest in my operation.”

“Arrogant brat,” the officer snapped. “You CIA jocks are all the same. Always sticking your pimply nose in where it doesn’t belong.”

Jeff’s stomach tightened in anticipation of a tussle. Even though her skin was clear and smooth, beautiful even, he saw her eyes ignite. A few telltale scars suggested the embarrassment of teenage acne hadn’t quite worn off. She was, after all, very young. Probably no older than 26. Not far from the awkward years.

“Shut your disgusting mouth.” Rothlin’s stance widened slightly. Her hands tensed, ready to inflict pain if pushed far enough.

“Bring it, kid. You touch me, and I will make your life hell. I’m the one filing the paperwork. I’m the one who pulls the strings on this whole shabang.”

Jeff was sure she would explode. But, amazingly, she kept her fury under control. She was disciplined, more so than he had expected.

“I don’t hit girls,” Rothlin spat.

Ok, maybe not that disciplined. The jibe was childish. But not as childish as the officer’s reaction. In one move he stepped forward and backhanded Rothlin across the face.

Jeff plowed into the officer like a cannonball. He pinned him to the ground, snarling, spittle flying from his lips. “Don’t you ever! You worthless cowardly pile of…!”

It was Rothlin who hauled him back to his feet, cutting off his stream of expletives. “Enough!” Her command was one level below a scream. “You,” she jabbed a finger at the officer, who was unholstering his gun. “You are in over your head. This is a federal operation. A national security situation. Put away your pea shooter and get back to work, or I will sue you so hard you will crap your pants.”

-----------

More to follow. Bedtime calls.

Morkonan
July 10th, 2014, 08:16 PM
Here's a rehash of the first little bit, taking your suggestions into mind. Personally, I feel much better about this. It was more fun to write too!

I'm glad it helped! I'll review all of this, tonight. For now, one quick suggestion:



He didn’t move. He stayed where he was, sitting against the wheel of the police car with his face in his hands.


The voice, female, grew more persistent. “Baron. Are you okay?”

Remember that I suggested that you start your opening like this? What I meant was "exactly" like this, keeping "The voice, female, grew more persistent..." as well. The reason I wanted to be sure that you left the "more persistent" included was that it would suggest to the Reader that something "Has Happened" and that this, what they are reading, is "Happening Now Because of It." It helps to place extra emphasis on "What Happened" (the murder) without you having to build it up at all. The Reader's natural instincts and curiosity will fill in the blanks. The important thing is that you're abruptly starting In Medias Res, but in the middle of emotional action, not physical. That also helps to emphasize the plight of your main character (no matter who it is) by setting the tone - This is an emotional conflict. That tone changes, I'm sure, but setting that sort of tone, right off the bat, helps you to quickly build up some empathy.

I won't harp on it, but I think it's a very strong opening, quick and highly efficient for your purposes.



---------------------

He didn’t move. He hadn’t for several minutes. The moment the ambulance had pulled away with his dying brother inside, his strength gave out and he sagged to the ground, hugging his knees to his chest, his back against the wheel of the police car. His whole body trembled; his beach-tanned skin was bleached white with shock. Sweat plastered his clothes to his skin, and nausea threatened to wring his stomach dry.


“Hey. You okay?”

Don't tell us about his brother, yet. Instead, just have the ambulance pulling away, if you must. Don't tell us "his strength gave out", either. Instead, just have him "sagging to the ground." It's the show-and-tell thing. You're already showing us, though, so you don't have to tell us. It's better, here, if it's left as implied, which is your intent, after all, with that physical description.

"his beach-tanned skin" - It may not be appropriate, just yet. It feels like a physical description being "fed" to me. That info has much more implied than a simpler, perhaps better, word like "weathered." But, "weathered" can also imply an outdoorsman-like attitude that your easy-going-beachy-type doesn't have. :) I dunno what sort of character he is, so I can't decide. Anyway, if you can't mask the info well enough, you can hold off on the physical description of your characters. I've read plenty of wonderful novels that had narrators and protagonists that weren't described until halfway through the book, sometimes not until several books in a series had been printed! Not all cover art has a pic of the protag. It doesn't matter if "it doesn't matter." If the protag's appearance doesn't add to the value of the work, it's not important. If it does, just work it in as necessary. So, does his "beach-tanked skin" matter, here? Are we learning something important in that "beach-tanned" attribute? (Honest question. It could matter.)


The words only registered in his brain long enough to be pushed aside.

Or, he could have glanced at the words as they flew by... This is nice imagery, but the sentence is clunky. Try to polish it up as a great one-liner. Think like you're writing for a comic and this is their big one-liner that brings out the laughs, or the tears, of the audience. I like the imagery, it's a somewhat unwieldy cadence to the sentence that I think needs work. Polishing up something like one sentence, just so it makes the best impression possible, is worth it. Your Reader might end up liking that sentence so much that they start using it in everyday conversation! You could be the next Shakespeare! :)


The memory was out of control.

No. You're "telling", here. But, you also show, over there... No need to do both. Instead, take out all your "tells" and then find where some were missing "shows" and write those in their place. If you read over the chapter and find that there's not enough of "the memory was out of control" feel to this passage, then write more on it or write it better.


The knife plunged into Justin’s body. Over and over. A single quick strike that had been intended to slip between ribs, into the heart. A strike that was supposed to end in a relatively quick death. But Justin, held from behind by the assailants, had kicked out at the last second, recoiling upward. The blade entered just under his rib cage, no doubt severing abdominal muscle. Slow and painful hemorrhaging would surely finish him. In all likelihood, the blade had pierced a lung, and Justin would even now be drowning in his own blood.

Interesting. He gives information that appears only the assailant would know. How does he know that it was intended to be a "single, quick, stroke?" That's something that only the assailant would know. Keeping perspectives under control is difficult. It's sometimes difficult to put up mental walls in order to write well, including only one esoteric body of story-knowledge.

The issue here might not be that he wouldn't know. He could have heard the attacker say "this is going to be a quick, single, stroke.." In that case, we'd have no problem with his internal dialogue/reflection. However, we only have what we have and the Reader only knows what you have written for them.

IF this was such a stroke, then write it as one. Don't use the attacker's motivations to describe that stroke from another point-of-view. Instead, write the stroke so that the interpretation of it implies that sort of stroke. You don't have to have the assailant counting his brother's ribs, either. Something simple could work out reasonably well. ie: "His attacker slid the knife in gently, its point thrusting towards his brother's heart. But, his brother had struggled and thrashed wildly and what would have been one quick, mortal,stroke became a bloodbath of plunging knives and screams." or some such. The point is - Don't reveal the internal motivations of those outside the perspective you're writing from unless you have also revealed how the current focus-character/narrator knows these motivations. (Unless, of course, that's all part of your story hook or something.)

Will review the rest, tonight. What I have read here, though, is an improvement in regards to holding my attention. Even if I think you could polish it up, it accomplishes that job better than your earlier submission. Needs some further tweaks, but it's better!

Morkonan
July 11th, 2014, 11:06 PM
PS - Good work! I like your evolution from the first draft to this one. It shows attention to those things you need to pay attention to in order to draw in the Reader! Good work! I'm much happier with the "flavor" of your more recent submission than I was the former! There are a few things that need attention and I'll post on those, tomorrow. But, I just wanted to post to let you know that I am now much more likely to keep reading and that's entirely due to your corrective efforts! Congrats!

Eicca
July 14th, 2014, 04:41 AM
All of this is of course made possible by your contributions! This is fun for me too, I love picking the brains of people that know what they're doing. I'll dig into some more of the revising soon and post when I can. Busy week coming up.