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View Full Version : Small excerpt of FBI scene, circa June 2020.



Eicca
May 30th, 2016, 05:27 AM
I was writing tonight and felt more in-the-groove than usual. So I thought I'd post a small excerpt from my current chapter in progress. This picks up in the middle of the case so there's some back story and stuff but I mostly would just like to know how you feel about the overall setting and writing style. Enjoy.

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Chapter 6:

“Affirmative,” Agent Corry said into her radio. “We’ve tracked the suspect to the Docks. We’re holding out until backup arrives.”

“The Docks,” came the surprised reply. “Roger that. Two more agents are on their way. ETA fifteen minutes.”

“Speed it up if you can. Corry out.” She hung the mouthpiece back on the dashboard.

“Backup?” Nemitz said from the passenger seat. “But you’ve got me.”

She knew that Nemitz knew her well enough to guess that her response would have been “exactly.” So she kept silent and continued staring through the windshield,

Almost three days had passed since they discovered the dead security coordinator in the burning hotel room. She had used some of that time, during which Kyle Garrett and the forensics team processed the lead they had found, to avoid Nemitz, shower, clean her gun and test her accuracy at the firing range. She was glad that she had done so, as they were now sitting in one of the most dangerous areas of Manhattan Island: The Docks. A seaside haven of all manner of crime, from petty theft to the most unspeakable. The list of law enforcement officers who had been murdered at the Docks was long. The list of missing LEOs whose bodies had been found at the Docks was even longer.

It was Garrett’s lead that had sent them down there. From the security control room his team had recovered two pieces of evidence: A flake of human skin and a single hair. They had first tested the DNA against the entire security team and the bomb squad that had swept the control room. All results came back negative. Somehow—Corry marveled at the amount of information that forensics technology could extract from a single bit of skin—they had then determined that the skin and the hair had come from the same person, that person was in their late 40s or early 50s, and the color of that person’s hair was supposed to be red. Garrett then confirmed that the hair sample had been dyed to its current shade of grey.

Having reached the conclusion that it was a large middle-aged ginger that had impersonated security chief Roger Hamblin, Garrett’s team tracked down a total of three people with criminal histories that fit the description. The computers had been assigned to compare the DNA of all three against the evidence. During the wait, Corry had personally interrogated the first two suspects and discovered their alibis were solid. The third, however, a man named Marcus McShaw, was determined to be the perpetrator when the computer confirmed his DNA to be a match.

Corry and Nemitz had arrived at McShaw’s apartment just in time to watch him climb into a taxi. She had wrestled the Cadillac through the traffic in an attempt to follow, ultimately relying on the team at FBI headquarters to track the vehicle using the traffic cams and route them through enough shortcuts to keep the gap from getting too wide.

The pursuit had ended at the Docks amid the filth and ruin. The taxi driver had left in a hurry once McShaw got out. They watched their target head into what looked like a giant automotive junk yard. It was then that Corry had called for backup. Not willing to venture into a maze with only Nemitz to watch her back, she had backed the car into a sheltered corner behind a stack of massive concrete pipes and wished she could trust her partner more than she trusted the bulletproof glass and Kevlar-layered doors.

She spared a glance back at the clock. They were running out of time before their suspect got too deep into the docks to track. Nervously she traced the silver ring around the “engine start” button with her index finger. Many times before she’d had to weigh her personal safety against the urgency of apprehending a suspect. This was one of those times. She looked around again. Already they were attracting more attention that she’d like. She had lost count of the number of grubby, hulking men slouching past that had done a double take at the black car lurking in the shadows. Word would be getting around that they were there. It was certain that guns were trained on them already. And no amount of Kevlar and bulletproof glass would protect them for long when they were vastly outnumbered.

Still, it was safer to wait in the car. The engine was still running, perfectly smooth and nearly silent, the needle on the tachometer hovering just under the number 1. With a flex of her toe that engine could put down enough power to tear the tires from their rims and propel them out of danger in seconds. Her hand hovered near the gear shifter. Right in front of them two massive men in rags had cornered a smaller man at gunpoint. The victim was surrendering his backpack and wallet. The hair on Corry’s neck prickled. If backup didn’t arrive soon she was pulling the plug and pushing the gas.

She glanced at Nemitz, just in time to see him flick something from his finger into the back seat. She suspected that something might have just come from inside his nose. His total lack of situational awareness was mind-boggling. “It’s a wonder you’re still alive,” she muttered, and Nemitz looked up, started to say something, and then froze.

Her eyes snapped to the entrance of the compound. McShaw had just appeared, walking casually in their direction, staring down at a cell phone held with both hands. Corry grabbed the radio again. “Suspect is on the move, heading west. ETA?”

“Ten seconds,” came the reply. Corry’s gut lurched with both relief and anticipation. She reached for the door handle. The target had stopped, barely thirty feet away from them, focused on his phone.

Eight… Seven… Six… But as she counted down in her head, McShaw looked up and caught sight of the Cadillac. He reeled backward, eyes wide with terror, shoved his phone into his pocket and broke into a run.

Nemitz, who began fumbling with the door handle the moment they had been noticed, accidentally locked the doors just as Corry went to open hers. “Idiot!” she screamed, slapping the window, and McShaw disappeared from view down an alleyway.

Before Nemitz could grab his seatbelt she flung the car into gear and smashed the accelerator. The engine roared, inertia slammed them into their seats, and the tires squealed as Corry wrenched the steering wheel. The car flew nearly sideways into the alley, and an open bag of peanuts flew from the dashboard all over a panicked Nemitz’s lap. The headlights landed on McShaw who was running at a full sprint toward an open road. He dove right at the end of the alley. Corry spun the wheel and floored it again. Smoke billowed from the tires as the car whipped its tail out of the alleyway, sliding off a curb, engine howling like a demon.

She lifted the throttle for a split second so the tires could reconnect with the ground. McShaw looked back with utter terror stretching his face and continued to run. Suddenly another black Cadillac burst through a row of orange barrels and skidded to a halt directly in front of McShaw, who flailed and tried to reverse. The car’s doors opened and two agents jumped out and drew their guns.

Corry slammed her car into park, unlocked the doors and did not wait for Nemitz, who still had his hands clamped around the grab handle. She drew her weapon and shouting “FBI! Freeze!” she advanced toward McShaw.

Jay Greenstein
May 31st, 2016, 03:59 AM
Almost three days had passed since they discovered the dead security coordinator in the burning hotel room. She had used some of that time, during which Kyle Garrett and the forensics team processed the lead they had found, to avoid Nemitz, shower, clean her gun and test her accuracy at the firing range. She was glad that she had done so, as they were now sitting in one of the most dangerous areas of Manhattan Island: The Docks. A seaside haven of all manner of crime, from petty theft to the most unspeakable. The list of law enforcement officers who had been murdered at the Docks was long. The list of missing LEOs whose bodies had been found at the Docks was even longer.You opened the scene with movement, and set up for a confrontation. But then, you left your characters sitting in the car, bored and unable to move, while you, the author, provided a history lesson the reader neither asked for nor needs. You need to stop thinking of story as the author see it, all filled with background events and trivia. Stop thinking of it as something you explain to the reader. Story happens. And story happens in real-time, moment-by moment, not in overview. Background is history, not story, and every bit as exciting as reading a report.

My point: Once you start the scene clock ticking you no longer have the right to step on stage. So no editorial and historical info-dumps, no gossip, and digressions. Trim anything that does not meaningfully set the scene, develop character, or move the plot. Set the car on fire. Have it hit by gunfire. Beat the crap out of your protagonist and make them earn their survival. You're writing an action story, so assume your protagonist will do the things a person like her does to do their job and get on with the story.

In life, you are constantly being motivated to react to what matters in the moment. Can your character seem real if they're the subject of an invisible someone's lecture instead of living as you do? Think back to how much you loved it when the teacher said,
"Read the next chapter in your history book." Will a reader feel differently is you present the detailed history of a fictional character, in the same style?

Here's the thing: it's not that you're doing something wrong, or good/bad writing. It's that you're writing exactly as you've been taught to—as we're all taught to. And I'm certain that were your old English teachers to see this they would give you good grades. But would a publisher? No, because the kind of writing we leave school thinking is universal is, in reality, meant to ready us for the kind of writing we might do on the job: letters, reports, essays, etc., all nonfiction applications in which our goal is to inform.

So, when we use those tricks to write fiction we think in terms of informing a reader who, unfortunately, wants to be entertained by being made to live the emotional experience the protagonist is going through. And clearly, we need more than nonfiction writing, because it's fact-based not emotion-based. And, it's author-centric, with the narrator explaining things. What we need is character-centric writing that places us on the scene with your protagonist as our avatar.

It's not a matter of talent, though talent, once trained, obviously helps. It's knowing the tricks of the trade, which you can learn as easily as those of nonfiction—if you're aware of the need to learn them. And the good news is that if you are meant to be a writer you'll enjoy having to slap your forehead and say, "Damn, why didn't I see that myself?"

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
~ Mark Twain

I won't lie to you. The solution is simple: add a few of the tricks the pros take for granted. But it is a large body of professional knowledge, and becoming as proficient in it as you are in your present writing skills does take time and practice. But the result... Once you make those tricks yours you'll be amazed at the difference between pre and post-education writing. And in the end, can we call ourselves serious about our writing if we don't spend a few dollars and some time learning to generate the best possible setting for our story?

As a great introduction you might try this article (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/scene.php). It's a condensation of one of the best techniques I've seen to date to embed your reader into that moment of time the protagonist calls now. You also might want to read the Amazon excerpts from both Dwight Swain's, Techniques of the Selling Writer, and Debra Dixon's, GMC: Goal Motivation & Conflict, as a sort of introduction to the subject. Most of the articles I've written on the subject of fiction are based on the kind of thing you find in those books, and I give them credit for any limited success with writing I may have had. So you might think about one of them as a way of getting up to speed on the nits-and-bolts of creating fiction that sings to a reader.

They both cover the same general ground. Swain's book is the more complete, but Deb's is a warmer read. In the end, I'd suggest them both, though not at once.

The local library system is also a resource and a place to get a variety of views. Sol Stein's, On Writing, is a good one for style pointers, as is Donald Maass's, Writing the Breakout Novel.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

wainscottbl
February 22nd, 2017, 08:23 AM
I have no problem with "telling" here necessarily, but I find it too passive. Discussion of evidence should be told. I feel the need for action. I agree with Jane Greenstein. Poe, if I recall, in his mystery/criminal stuff, is able to tell and thrill us, but it's a hard task. Besides, people today are stupid and have poor attention spans. So action is needed. Wish it wasn't so needed myself. But, it's the age of TV.

The Fantastical
February 22nd, 2017, 11:45 AM
I admit that I was a little lost, but then you did warn about that so... it was ok, I didn't really have the same issue as the others did with them sitting in the car and unless you are really really recapping info I don't know about I think that the semi info dump was fine as it advance the world and (I assume) better defined the characters relationship, both with each-other and with the world around them. With the anger and danger that surrounded them you get a feel of the interaction between the law and the world in that time.

It is also classic future crime mystery.

The only thing I had a vague issue with is this -


Almost three days had passed since they discovered the dead security coordinator in the burning hotel room. She had used some of that time, during which Kyle Garrett and the forensics team processed the lead they had found, to avoid Nemitz, shower, clean her gun and test her accuracy at the firing range. She was glad that she had done so, as they were now sitting in one of the most dangerous areas of Manhattan Island: The Docks.

As I feel that there would have been other stuff to do in that time other than loaf around cleaning guns waiting to be briefed.

And the other thing was this -


With a flex of her toe that engine could put down enough power to tear the tires from their rims and propel them out of danger in seconds.

It contains a delightful oxymoron, if the tires are torn from the rims you wouldn't be going anywhere at any speed and it just bothers my sense of reality and logic. :)

Eicca
February 22nd, 2017, 08:10 PM
Hey y'all I forgot I posted this excerpt :D I stand by my decision to open with information. The previous chapter is forward moving action that leaves questions. The information here answers those questions. I felt that taking things slightly out of chronology gave it some style and also placed a break in the constant crime-solving content. Thoughts on that technique?

plawrence
April 4th, 2017, 06:41 PM
Well, Jay, I think you just blew up my novel. Now I'm going to have to go back and read through it to see if you have. Thank you for that.

Jay Greenstein
April 5th, 2017, 02:54 AM
I stand by my decision to open with information.It's not you opened with information, it's that all you provide is a narrator talking about the story, a good deal of it in overview. So your narrator is telling the reader a story, the characters aren't living it in real time. This matters a great deal, because the reader can't hear the emotion in the narrator's voice that you do when you read. So in effect, your narrator, speaking in a mopnotone, is standing between the reader and the scene, explaining it. look at a section of the text:
Corry and Nemitz had arrived The word "arrived" tells us that this is presented in past tense. Adding "had" places it in the past tense of that past tense. Without it they arrive. With it it's a report from the narrator. Viewpoint is made up of small, but necessary, items that place the reader, not the narrator, on the scene. at McShaw’s apartment just in time to watch him climb into a taxi. She had Another unneeded "had" wrestled the Cadillac through the traffic in an attempt to follow, ultimately relying on the team at FBI headquarters to track the vehicle using the Unneeded "the" traffic cams comma and route them through enough shortcuts Shortcuts? The cab is taking the long way? Doesn't track. If they arrived and saw him getting into the cab the gap can't grow, given that they're right behind him. to keep the gap from getting too wide. That they missed him matters because it's what the protagonist notices, and will react to. Why does the reader give a damn that they were caught in traffic on the way there? If she had to stop to pee would you report that? That's a report. Why does a reader care that they missed the man because he got into a cab? Excitement lies in sharing the experience, not in reading a summation of it. What you're providing is a report—the detailed history of an event in the life of a fictional person. And who reads history books for entertainment? My point is that you're providing facts, and then explaining them. But facts have no emotional content. They have the format, "This happened...then that happened...and that matters because..." So the reader is informed when they wanted to be entertained. In the words of Alfred Hitchcock, “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” So cut out the dull bits.


The pursuit had ended at the Docks amid the filth and ruin. The taxi driver had left in a hurry once McShaw got out Why do we care? The ones chasing the man don't care. So why would the reader? They're wondering why the caddy, which was hurrying, couldn't catch a taxi that wasn't, in a block—or at all. They watched their target head into what looked like a giant automotive junk yard. It looked like a giant junk yard? Stated as it is, it only looked like one. So why not say what it is? It was then that Corry had called for backup. Not willing to venture into a maze with only Nemitz to watch her back, she had backed the car into a sheltered corner behind a stack of massive concrete pipes Concrete pipes in an automotive junk yard. Seriously? and wished she could trust her partner more than she trusted the bulletproof glass and Kevlar-layered doors.

She spared a glance back at the clock. They were running out of time before their suspect got too deep into the docks to track Wait. The man walked into a "giant" automotive junk yard. So why is the area called the docks? Nervously she traced the silver ring around the “engine start” button with her index finger. Many times before she’d had to weigh her personal safety against the urgency of apprehending a suspect. This was one of those times. She looked around again. Already they were attracting more attention that she’d like. She had lost count of the number of grubby, hulking men slouching past that had done a double take In your entire life, how often have you seen someone actually do a double take? I'm betting it's not often. Yet here, person after person does it? Naaa. at the black car lurking in the shadows. So the area is by a junk yard? I've seen many of them. But I've seen damn few places, anywhere, where, "grubby, hulking men, who are probably members of the underworld, parade down the sidewalk in significant numbers. But assuming they did, and all see her car, why did she park there? It's certainly not hidden. Word would be getting around that they were there. It was certain that guns were trained on them already. And no amount of Kevlar and bulletproof glass would protect them for long when they were vastly outnumbered. Here I hit the wall. The government pays to modify a Caddy to accept a specially manufactured windshield and back window of bulletproof glass, plus all the specialty work to bulletproof the doors and side windows...for an agent? Have you checked what it would cost? And forgetting that, agents are supposed to be unobtrusive, and a Caddy isn't.

Still, it was safer to wait in the car. The engine was still running, perfectly smooth and nearly silent, the needle on the tachometer hovering just under the number 1. With a flex of her toe that engine could put down enough power to tear the tires from their rims and propel them out of danger in seconds. You said the engine was running. Why say more? Why does the reader need a tech report to tell them the engine is running normally? Isn't that assumed? Why do you have to explain what the gas pedal does? What readers don't know, but want to, is her estimation of the danger and her resources. They don't know if she discusses the situation with her partner, like you and I would. And they don't know why she hasn't the sense to get on the radio and ask where the backup ETA is. In other words, we have detail, not story.

My point, other then that you need to address such things as I noted, is that because you're "telling" the story, you're thinking from the author's seat, and assigning actions to the characters according to your visualization of what the plot needs. But approaching it that way means everyone will speak the assigned words and behave according to the script, without question. The result is that everyone will speak with your voice and hold your views. If they need to be smart they grow in intelligence. Where you need them to miss a point they cheerfully turn stupid—like her forgetting she has a radio that can tell them when help will arrive. So, the characters behave like plot devices, not real people.

Place yourself in that car. Instead of talking about her, become her. Were you in that situation, wouldn't you turn to Nemitz and talk about what to do next? Put yourself into his viewpoint. Guns are being pointed at them and an attack on them might take place. Wouldn't he be saying, "Excuse me...but shouldn't we...?"

At the moment you're telling the story from the outside in, a very dispassionate and nonfiction approach. You're actively talking to the reader, as you would were you with the reader. But then, it would be a storytelling performance, and the person could hear the emotion in your voice as you used the tricks of verbal storytelling. They would see your expression, your gestures, and your body language. But on the page? Nothing. In short, you're using storytelling techniques that do not translate to our medium.

As I said in my firdst post, it's not a matter of bad or good writing or talent. It's that our medium imposes unique mandates, as does every medium. Add to that, the tricks of writing we learn in school are nonfiction and fact-based. They explain, they don't entertain. The tricks of fiction place the reader into the scene in real time as the protagonist. Instead of informing the reader of the events they give the reader an emotional stake in those events. Why? Because unless you make the reader care—not just know, but care—they will stop reading before the end of page one. So forget if this part works or not, you have to hook the reader before the end of page three or they will never see this. As Sol Stein observed: “A novel is like a car—it won’t go anywhere until you turn on the engine. The “engine” of both fiction and nonfiction is the point at which the reader makes the decision not to put the book down. The engine should start in the first three pages, the closer to the top of page one the better.”

I know you're not happy at this point, I've been there, so I sympathize. But the solution is easy enough. After all, if we want our writing to please people used to reading work by the pros doesn't it make sense to learn what the pros know?

Take a look at that article I recommended. It has the capability to place your reader into the story so deeply, and with such a strong emotional connection, that if someone shoots at your protagonist the reader will duck. And without that kind of connection, the reader is plowing through a history book. For a more in depth clarification of why it's necessary, you might want to look at my article on writing from the inside out.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.