An unselfish wish made on the horn of a unicorn will come true. Our wish? To support the writing community by giving constructive tips and criticism through submissions. Check out the submissions tab for more information. We can survive the crucible of fire together.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Suspense Submission #1

It’s easiest to steal from those who have never been cold. Jackson was full of openings [is there a better way to say this? Some way to make it stronger and get rid of 'was'], too comfortable in his own house, too loaded down with good food and arrogance to think someone might slip in and take what was rightfully his. [I love this line of thinking. Originally, I thought the second sentence should be broken up for emphasis, but now I'm not sure. Anyone have thoughts on that?]

It took no longer than [this is unnecessarily wordy. You could say 'it only took a brush...] a brush, a bump, and in the grinding mass of bodies, I had slipped away before he could turned around. He didn’t even realize it was gone, or that I was [had been] there. Why would he, when Triss was on the opposite side of the room?

As quick as my hands are, that’s how slow Triss dances. [This sentence was confusing to me. Try something like, 'My hands are quick, but Triss dances slow.] It doesn’t matter what’s playing, her movements seem to run on half-speed, her arms chasing [chasing sounds fast. Can you find a slower word--tracing maybe?] her hips down in long, loose spirals. Then her back seems to unfolds, her legs straighten and her shoulders dip left and right as she eases herself fully vertical.

Maybe I’ve given too much credit to my fast hands, but it doesn’t matter. The key was safely in my pocket., so The job was done. and I made a short circuit to the kitchen and back. Triss would be thirsty and since it was Jackson’s party, of course he had Dr. Pepper and Cherry Coke ready for her.[I'm assuming that if we had been reading the story we would know why this detail is important because we would know the three characters better.] The bottles had been sitting on the counter instead of in the fridge, but there was ice. When I brought the glass to Triss, the perfect 50/50 mix, Jackson was leaning leaned over her, one arm braced against the wall behind her head. Like he owned her,[I'd put a period here for emphasis.] Or maybe like she was some smaller kid he was hitting up with the choice to pay up or get smoked. Someone else watching them might have thought they were about to kiss, but Triss’s eyes met mine the moment I stepped into the room and she didn’t blink once while I wound through the dozens of kids shaking and grinding to Skrillex. [Holy long sentence. Try breaking it up into two.]

As I held out the drink, she slipped out from under him. In one fluid movement, she steered the glass to her mouth and draped an arm around my waist. The two of us still hadn’t broken eye contact.

This was before she stabbed him, so he wasn’t all that invested. Triss was still just his betting partner not his... whatever he thought she was afterwards, so he just gave a twisted grin and tossed back the dregs of his beer. [This is where I got totally lost. Once again, it might be clearer if I had been reading everything before this. This is narrator commentary as if he were looking back at the event right? What threw me is the rest of the selection doesn't feel like that so it threw me off. I flounder and thought, "What? when did she stab him?"]

With her face less than a foot from mine, Triss finally blinked, just at the moment I was imagining her lizard tongue darting up to moisten her eyeball. [I'm guessing this is sci fi or fantasy?] She said, “Five hundred on a long-shot hook-up.”

Jackson laughed. “Five minutes in my locked bedroom.” He hesitated and his eyes flickered over my face. I could feel it, even though my gaze was still locked on hers. “Just the two of us. Alone,” he added. [I'm wondering who the hook up is with. Triss or the narrator. And five minutes isn't very long.]

Triss turned to look at Jackson, but didn’t draw her arm away from me. “Done.”

They clinked glasses, though Jackson’s was empty.

There are some things in here that intrigue me. I'm wondering what the key opens and what the narrator plans on stealing. I'm also curious about the relationship between these players, and who the hook-up is aimed at. 
As for the suspense. There is a little at the end with the "Five hundred on a long-shot" statement, but even here I'm not sure what's at stake. I think you could build more suspense by making us worry that Jackson will find the key is gone and that he would suspect the narrator. The way it is set up now, the narrator is confident that they won't get found out. Their fingers were quick, their were lots of bodies, and Triss has Jackson's attention from across the room. They aren't worried or anxious about being found out, so I'm not either. This would be an easy fix though. You have all the elements ready to put into play.

9 comments:

Huntress said...

The first paragraph is full of drama and portend. At the risk of Charity throwing a shoe at me, I will disagree with her crit there. And duck.

In the second paragraph, I agree with the inclusion of ‘Had been’ but disagree with the rest of the critique.

Third paragraph. I agree with Charity. The tense in the first sentence feels wrong and seems out of place. The phrases like ‘seem to’ are verb qualifiers and make me yell, “Make up your mind”. Either she is or she ain’t.

I would delete ‘fully’ in the last line. Again, either the character is vertical or not.

From that point on, I agree with Charity.

Summary: IMHO, the first two paragraphs were fantastic. The scene and prose pulled in but that changed. I feel this excerpt falls into a continuity problem. It’s as if I skipped a page in the book and need to back track.

Suspence is there, btw. I want it clarified though. It got lost.

Charity Bradford said...

Huntress, I would never throw a shoe at you! And I'm glad you disagreed.

I was a little worried about this critique when I posted it and I'd rather be wrong than right in cases like this. Now the author can see the subjectivity of critiques. It's style preferences, and what it comes down to is what the author ultimately feels is best for the story.

Thanks!

1000th.monkey said...

author here :) Thanks for the shredding! ...I absolutely love it when someone reads/comments on my work without holding anything back, so this was a lot of fun for me :)

heh, yup, run-on sentences are absolutely one of my usual first-draft problems.

Yeah, the narrator is jumping back between three different time periods: before Triss stabbed Jackson, after, and then to the present, which is about 6 months later.

The reader already knows why Triss stabbed Jackson and why the key was important in the stabbing. Also, in the present time, Jackson is dead in the back of their car, so the mystery unravelling is why/how Jackson died and how it relates back to this particular party.

so... can I take a poll? how many readers think the MC is male and how many think the MC is female?

Thanks again!

Tara Tyler said...

fyi, Tris is the MC of Divergent by Veronica Roth...

i felt some tension, but i agree, less wordiness will keep us moving!
great characters, too!

Huntress said...

I vote for male.

I would read more of this and I hope you continue submitting. It has a flavor to it that pulls me in especially since you (the author) explained the scene and timetable.

I love cerebral prose!

Charity Bradford said...

Thanks for the info on the novel. With the background set, I can see how this could be a fascinating mind game.

And I hope you know I did enjoy the piece! It made me ask a lot of questions, and I like that when I read.

I originally saw the MC as male, but after our emails I read it again as if the MC was female. It gives a completely different slant on things. Both are gripping as far as the relationship between the characters.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Interesting story, and good commentary. Pretty sure that Jackson gets stabbed during his five minutes, and that the MC is male . . . but that may be an overly quick read of the situation.

1000th.monkey said...

@ Tara

I know, short for 'Tristan', not 'Beatrice'. I'll most likely still change the name, but I haven't found a substitute yet that fulfills the list of criteria I have for that particular name/character.

@ Tyrean

Sorry, Triss won the bet ;) She stabbed him in the gut with a butter knife after he hit her in the face.

@ Huntress & Charity

Most of the tension I'm trying to build into this story revolves around Triss and the MC's relationship... how unclear it is, and the fact that the MC is never given a name and the gender is never defined is a huge part of the quasi-sexual, obsessive tension between the characters. They're not friends, not lovers, but they each have an incredibly strong need for the other person.

Oh, and the lizard-tongue isn't literal. This is contemporary, not sci-fi or fantasy.

mshatch said...

I'd revise the first paragraph to this : It’s easiest to steal from those who have never been cold. Jackson was too comfortable in his own house, too loaded down with good food and arrogance to think someone might slip in and take what was rightfully his.

Otherwise I pretty much agree with Charity's comments. I think more tension could be created by making the person trying to steal more worried about his/her success.

oh, and I have trouble with extra long sentences, too, sometimes :)