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Group I

Posted: 09 Jul 2014, 22:55
by WritersBlock
For alum group of three or so to post their work. All can reply to this message and create a thread of posts and discussion below.

Re: Group I

Posted: 12 Jul 2014, 00:45
by benadams
Hey guys. Here's the first 500 words of my book. I'm doing some rewrites, so it's still pretty rough. Let me know what you think.


From behind the bushes, John Abernathy lowered his camera, away from the man sitting in the car, the woman’s head bobbing in his lap. John hoped the few digital frames he had, the couple embracing, getting in the same car, the man putting on a rubber ducky mask, would be enough. Because when the man put a cigarette between the orange and latex beak, John wished he was sitting at his kitchen table working on his crossword puzzle.
He didn’t know the woman’s name, but the man was Randall Neilson, his client’s husband. Mrs. Neilson walked into McGullicutty and Sons Private Investigations last week, suspicious about her husband. Cutty, John’s boss, gave him the case, thinking it’d be easy, a snoop and shoot, photographing a cheating husband in the act. John had been following Mr. Neilson for a couple of days, sitting in the Village Inn next to his office, waiting for him to leave work. Usually, he went straight home, to their client. But tonight he headed to the Genesse Mountain Lookout parking lot to meet his girlfriend.
Snow covering the ground dissolved under John’s knees, muddying his second-hand corduroys. Mud and slush clogged partially worn treads on his black Converse All-Stars. Melted ice seeped into the gap between the loose rubber sole and tip of his left shoe, soaking his sock and toes. The May snow was the only difficulty John had in hiding. He was average height, but lanky, easily fitting in the narrow places between the trees and bushes. John pushed his glasses back up, adjusted the zoom lens as the couple moved to the back seat.
For the first time since she got in the car, John saw the woman’s face. She tolerated the man behind her, not enjoying it as much as Randall.
She put her hand against the window, braced herself. Her hand slipped against the door latch, popping it open. She tumbled out, but caught herself, skinning her hand on the ice and gravel. A can of Ax Body Spray rolled from the car, clinking against the winter asphalt. The dome light glowed dull yellow. John started taking pictures again. He had a clear shot of their faces. And her breast.
She pulled herself from the car, pulled down her blouse. Randall crawled out after her, holding his unzipped pants. He pulled of the mask and tossed it in the back seat. He tried to grab her, soothe her, but she twisted loose.
“Is this ‘cause I asked you to wear those Care Bear pajamas,” Randall said, zipping up his pants. “’Cause that was a one-time thing.”
She turned and slapped him. And walked to her car, barefoot, shoes in one hand, holding her shirt closed with the other.
Randall Neilson picked up the can of Ax Body spray and sprayed some on his bare chest. The wind carried the fumes to John. He put his hand over his mouth, suppressed the coughs building in his throat. Randall tossed the can in his car, leaving the cap on the pavement. He drove away shouting at the woman through his open window.
The woman sat in her car, crying, her head on the steering wheel.
John stopped taking pictures.

Re: Group I

Posted: 12 Jul 2014, 02:54
by MikeMaguire
Nice work, Ben!

"Axe Body Spray" is spelled with an E. I'm a little embarrassed I caught that.

The only grammar/clarity thing I'm not sure about is the comma in the first sentence between, "lowered his camera," and, "away from the man..." On my first read, I didn't want that comma to be there. But maybe that was just me - definitely get other opinions if you're also unsure about it.

I thought everything else was totally ace. It's a funny, smart start. I love the Care Bear pajamas haha.


Re: Group I

Posted: 12 Jul 2014, 03:16
by benadams
Thanks for the feedback Mike. And yes, you should be totally embarrassed that you know the proper spelling for Axe Body Spray.

Re: Group I

Posted: 13 Jul 2014, 05:17
by karenrandau

Nice job! I'm going to attempt to follow Michael's criteria ( in offering my comments. Since this is only 500 words, that has proven a little challenging.

I had to read the first sentence several times to understand it. Now that I've figured it out, I agree with Mike's suggestion to delete the comma after "away." You want your first sentence to hook, not confuse.

Also, in this phrase: "He pulled of the mask," I believe the word should be "off."

Back to the criteria. I'm clear on the audience and the setting for this scene. We're getting to know John Abernathy - works for a detective agency, has a heart (he stopped taking pictures when the woman was crying), seems to be short on cash.

With these being the first 500 words, the hook should be very strong. I'm intrigued and think the rubber ducky mask and Care Bear pajamas might point to something interesting. I'll continue reading. I'm not sure I see anything high concept yet. I see the backstory (Act 0) in terms of the wife coming into the office because she suspected her husband. I'm sure you'll sprinkle in more later on, and I don't get the sense that you've include too much backstory in these 500 words. I do see tension and conflict, and suspect it will build.

Thanks for being the first to post some words!


Re: Group I

Posted: 15 Jul 2014, 01:52
by benadams
Ok, here's a new first paragraph. Let me know what you guys think. Thanks.

John Abernathy watched them from the bushes, the man sitting in the car, the woman’s head bobbing in his lap. He raised his camera to take a picture, like he was being paid to do, but hesitated, resting it against his bent knee instead. He hoped the few digital frames he had, the couple embracing, getting in the same car, the man putting on a rubber ducky mask, would be enough. Because when the man put a cigarette between the orange and latex beak, John wished he was sitting at his kitchen table working on his crossword puzzle.

Re: Group I

Posted: 16 Jul 2014, 05:31
Are you writing in present tense or past?

Where are they? In a parking lot or some remote place.

The narrative composition is good. I made me want to keep reading it.

The cinematic imagery was good as well. It was provocative, with a comical twist.( the duck costume.) I wanted to keep reading it.

this sentence: and walked to her car, barefoot, shoes in one hand, holding her shirt closed with the other. Maybe put in between barefoot, shoes = barefoot, with her shoes . Also in between one hand, holding , put an "and" there. I hope I helped.

Re: Group I

Posted: 16 Jul 2014, 16:26
Walking into work, on a Monday morning; calls for a large latte. The first sip spurs me to continue on my morning commute. The swish from the door as I opened it heralds the beginning of my day at the Empire law firm in New York.
I sat at my desk powering up my mac computer, when the most heinous man arrives. Mr. Gordon Quentin my boss. He’s a tall, slender man, wearing an Canali suit; which easily cost over two thousand dollars. It does nothing to hide his obvious pop belly. It actually accentuates it. Mr. Quentin has no concept of going to the gym. But he definitely knows the meaning of money. “Mine”. You could envision him as an old man rubbing his hands together and drooling over his money. A scrooge reincarnate.
Luckily his looks does not matter. He is a good lawyer and his clients are the wealthiest people in the world. I just wished I worked with a more humble man, except for this ego maniac.
“Good morning Shay. I see your wardrobe agenda for the day is recycling. Didn’t I see you in that outfit last week?” Mr. Quentin asked as he looked at me with disgust.
I tried my best to stay professional and answer him while ignoring the phone incessant ringing, “No Mr. Quintin. This is a new outfit.”
“Shay I need you to hold all my calls for the next hour. Johnathan Freese is coming into the office to sign me as his legal representative.” Mr. Quentin said as he fixed his tie on his neck. He started to walk into his office, when he turned and said, “by the way that shade of lipstick should only dead people. Take it off and put another shade on.”
Alright that was twice he insulted me in less than twenty minutes. My patience is wearing thin. As I answered the phone, I realize Johnathan Freese was coming through the door.
Johnathan Freese walks in the front door wearing a white tee-shirt and a pair of shorts, after all it is a hot June day. The outfit looked expensive even though it was casual wear. He walked right over to me, he more like swaggered. The kind that just comes naturally and not practiced as a teen to get a girl to look. He flashed his professional television smile at me. The exact same smile he wore on the ‘homes of the rich and the famous’. He asked to see Mr. Quentin. I directed him to his office.
Mr. Quentin pops out his head from his office and called out, “Shay bring us some coffee. Let’s put speed on that.” Mr.Quentin ordered.
“If I could find a more qualified secretary, I would fire her on the spot. If Bill my partner hadn’t pushed me into hiring her, she definitely would not be here. He’s such a bleeding heart. He would take a lizard home if he heard it sneeze.” They both laughed.

Ok this is my first five hundred words.

Re: Group I

Posted: 17 Jul 2014, 03:14
by benadams
Corena, I'm assuming this is a rough draft. That was my thought process critiqueing it. You have a lot of really good elements present. I think you could explore them and really turn out something great. Good job.

1. Scene length and structure (1-5): 4. We get a good snapshot of Shay’s work life and why she hates it.
2. Clarity of spatial set (1-5): 4. We understand where she is, what she’s doing. I think the first paragraph could be beefed up. Since we’re inside her head, you could tell us about how she dread’s going to work, obviously not mentioning her boss, just talk about her feelings about her job.
3. Comprehensible prose narrative (1-5): 3. There are some editing issues; tense shifts, grammar, missing words, but I’m assuming this is a rough draft and is something that can be fixed in rewrites.
4. Tension on the page (1-5): 3. The tension exists with her boss, he’s obviously a jerk. The last line of his dialog seems really accurate (see #5)
5. Dialogue mastery (1-5): 3. So, I’m not really buying the boss’s dialog. I don’t believe that a male boss would critic a woman’s outfit or make-up. Male bosses usually critique job performance. Unless you mean for this character to be gay, in which case, it could be appropriate.
6. Exposition delivery (1-5): 4. All the exposition is delivered by Shay, the narrator.
7. Narrative composition (quality of set, tension, cinema, character interactions) (1-5): 3. There’s some tension between Shay and her boss. I think you could play this up, make him an even bigger jerk. Maybe he hits on her.
8. Cinematic imagery (static and dynamic) (1-5): 3. It works as a set up for what’s to come, her possession of her boss, but I think it would be much more satisfying if we really hated the guy.
9. Point-of-view dynamics (1-5): 5. We know this is from Shay’s point of view.
10. Wise use of craft technique (1-5): 3. Again, I’m critiquing this as a rough draft. I think you have some really good elements here, everything just needs to be amped up.

Re: Group I

Posted: 17 Jul 2014, 04:48
Thank for the critique. I will take your advice and amp it up me and put more dialog in her mind. Question do you feel to much inner dialog would kill this story?

Re: Group I

Posted: 17 Jul 2014, 23:46
by benadams

I think interiority is very important. You want us to fall in love with Shay and a great way to do that is to show us how she reacts to her world, make us emphathize with her, make us see that we have a lot in common. You just have to be careful that it doesn't slow down the action or the scene. Check out the critique guidelines Michael posted. He sugests a 150 estimated word count narrative expositions. That's a pretty good number to follow. It won't slow anything down and you can get the point your trying to make across quickly. Hope that helps.

Re: Group I

Posted: 18 Jul 2014, 18:03
by christinegunderson
Hi all,
I hope I'm doing this right. Per someone else's advice, I've posted a bit more than 500 words, most like 800. Great to see all your work and hopefully my kid will give me a few free minutes to add to the critique soon :-) Christine

Chapter One
The Spy Flies hover around my head. I can’t raise my hands to swat them away because of the shackles. I hear the click-click-click of their tiny cameras snapping pictures of me from every angle as I struggle to climb into the Reverse Hearse. Instead of taking dead people away, a Reverse Hearse removes the living. But the final destination is usually the same.
The guard standing on the tailgate grabs my arm and roughly hauls me inside. There are benches on both sides of the enclosed truck, and it’s already packed full of kids. Half of them are girls like me, and the rest are male. I pick one of the last empty spots, a seat close to the tailgate. I still haven’t given up on trying to escape.
Everyone looks pretty pathetic, but I’m the only one with visible bruises. I guess they were smart enough to give up without a fight. I wish I could say the same for myself.
The guard whacks the back of the vehicle with his hand and yells, “Move out!” The truck lurches forward, sending me crashing into the person sitting next to me. She crashes into the person next to her, and soon we’re like a chain of human dominoes. I feel sorry for the kid at the very end of the bench who is now being suffocated by the combined weight of ten people.
The girl next to me jabs me hard with her elbow. She has wild red hair sticking up in spikes all over head. She also has an image of a gem-encrusted tiara tattooed on her neck in red ink.
“Watch it,” she hisses.
“It was an accident,” I mumble, attempting to move further from her and closer to the person to my left.
Then the guard yells, “Shut up back there. No talking.”
The girl with the flaming hair shoots me an evil look and turns away. But I smash into her a moment later as the truck unexpectedly lurches to a stop a second time. I lower my arm to protect my ribs in case she deploys her vicious elbows again.
The tailgate opens. Four guards grunt in unison as they heave something heavy inside. I look down at the floor and realize it’s a person.
He’s unconscious and one eye is swollen shut. When his dirty blonde hair falls out of the way I see a garish purple bruise on his forehead. He might have been good looking, before they beat him up.
The truck starts moving again and we all brace ourselves, trying not to fall off the bench and onto the guying lying at our feet.
Riding in the back of the truck over pothole filled roads is like being put into a big box and shaken hard. The seats have no padding and before we’ve even left the Secret Police compound I feel new bruises forming over my old ones from the jarring of the truck.
The guy on the floor is moaning now. He turns over onto his back and I get a better look at him. I see the contours his chest muscles rising and falling rhythmically under the bloodstained fabric of his white t-shirt. He looks slightly older than the other kids in the truck. But he can’t be over nineteen or he wouldn’t be heading off to a Juvenile Labor and Reeducation Camp with the rest of us.
Every time we run into a pothole his head bounces up, and then half a second later it comes down and hits the floor with a sickening thud. I look around for something to put under his head as a cushion. I’m still wearing the flannel pajama bottoms and black t-shirt I was arrested in, and I wasn’t allowed to bring anything with me. It’s November and the ash grey sky hints at coming snow. As the truck speeds up, the cold air whistles through the opening by the tailgate and my teeth start to chatter.
I lean forward and look down the bench at the other kids. “Does anyone have a coat we can put under his head?” I ask, trying to speak loudly enough to be heard above the rattling of the truck, but softly enough not to attract the guards.
A voice answers from the other end of the bench. I look down the line of kids and see a very skinny girl with purple circles under gigantic dark eyes. She has to be at least twelve years old, which is the minimum age for detention in a juvenile labor camp, but she looks younger.
“Give him this,” she says, stripping off her coat and throwing it towards me. When she removes the coat, I notice that one of her arms is smaller than the other, and withered, hanging uselessly at her side.
I’m about to take the coat she tosses in my direction when the girl with the tattoo reaches up and grabs it as it sails through the air.
She wads it up into a ball and grips it with both hands.
“I need a coat,” she says smugly, looking around at all the other kids, challenging one of us to defy her.
Everyone goes completely still. I sit on my hands, willing myself to keep my mouth shut, trying to decide what to do.
“He needs that coat more than you do,” I say quietly, looking her directly in the eye. We stare at each other for a long moment. I slowly reach for the coat.
A split second later I feel her fingers threading through my long, snarled hair. She pulls a length of my hair into her fist and yanks hard, jerking it out of my scalp.
Then she rakes her fingernails across my cheek with one hand while continuing to rip out more hair with the other.

Re: Group I

Posted: 19 Jul 2014, 20:19
Ben, where is Micheal 150 word narrative exposition found?

Re: Group I

Posted: 21 Jul 2014, 19:08
by karenrandau
Christine, here is my critique of what you've posted. I'm only one week out of surgery today, and I couldn't get to this any sooner.

1. Scene length and structure (1-5): 5 – the scene continues beyond this point, but I think the structure is good. I'm glad you posted more than 500 words. I think 1,000 would be a good length. You’re sprinkling in more details about what’s going on as the scene unfolds. Good technique.
2. Clarity of spatial set (1-5): 5 – I know we’re in a truck headed to a dreaded place.
3. Comprehensible prose narrative (1-5): 5 – You’ve done a good job with the prose. I believe there’s a typo in this sentence: “The truck starts moving again and we all brace ourselves, trying not to fall off the bench and onto the guying lying at our feet.” It should be a guy lying at our feet, not a guying.
4. Tension on the page (1-5): 5 – There is plenty of tension on this page – not a single quiet paragraph.
5. Dialogue mastery (1-5): 5 – You’ve done a good job with the dialogue. I can see and hear that red headed girl hissing.
6. Exposition delivery (1-5): 4 – I know nothing about why the kids are being collected, but I can tell that it has been a violent night up to this point. I think it’s night, although you didn’t really say.
7. Narrative composition (quality of set, tension, cinema, character interactions) (1-5): 4 – I like the way you set this up. Something horrible is happening, and I want to continue reading to find out what’s going on. I think you missed an opportunity in the sentence where our main character and the red headed girl’s eyes meet, since, as the saying goes, the eyes are our window to the soul. Our main character could see something in those eyes. Maybe a conflict between the touch girl exterior and the scared kid she sees in the eyes. Or maybe sees every bit as evil as she looks.
8. Cinematic imagery (static and dynamic) (1-5): 5 – I see all this happening.
9. Point-of-view dynamics (1-5): 5 – We’re clearly in one person’s point of view. Is there any way to work in her name?
10. Wise use of craft technique (1-5): 5 – Wise use of “in media res,” starting the story in the middle of action.

Re: Group I

Posted: 21 Jul 2014, 22:01
by StephanieIannuzzi
I really like the new first paragraph. I think it flows well and gives clarity to the opening scene.

Your narrative style is funny and engaging. It made me want to keep reading. I too was a fan of the Ducky mask and Care Bear pajamas.

You definitely gave us a glimpse into the character of your protagonist through his reactions to the couple in the car without being obvious about it. I think the point of view was clear.

One place I thought needed clarity was where you wrote: “John had been following Mr. Neilson for a couple of days, sitting in the Village Inn next to his office, waiting for him to leave work. Usually, he went straight home, to their client. But tonight he headed to the Genesse Mountain Lookout parking lot to meet his girlfriend.” It took me a minute to realize that the “he” who went straight home was Mr. Neilson as opposed to John.

I also think that a few more lines describing the parking lot would help set the scene. I loved how descriptive you were about the weather and the Converse sneakers.

Can’t wait to read more!

Re: Group I

Posted: 21 Jul 2014, 22:14
by StephanieIannuzzi
Corina –
You have definitely given the reader a clear understanding of just how disgusting Shay’s boss is both in appearance and behavior. It’s clear that he will be an antagonistic force.

I agree with Ben that your first paragraph could be expanded a bit to show just how abhorrent her job is. I do really like the first line, because it definitely gives us a clue that this will be a long week.

For the critique of the outfit and makeup you could also describe the way her boss looks at her as opposed to having him say it or put in something about how he has been cited for sexual harassment in the past. Those last lines where he is discussing why he keeps her around also make him a jerk as she can obviously hear him.

I agree with Ben that having more interior dialogue is not a bad thing. It could add some more comedy to this opening as well.

Also looking at this as a rough draft, there are some grammar issues, but nothing that inhibits understanding.

Can’t wait to read more and see her take revenge on her boss!

Re: Group I

Posted: 21 Jul 2014, 22:31
by StephanieIannuzzi
Christine, as you know from the conference… I am fully hooked by the first chapter of your book!

1. Scene length and structure (1-5): 5 – I enjoyed the way you dropped us right into the action to set the scene. The spy flies are a great way to start and sets the stage for Big Brother to be watching the characters’ every move.
2. Clarity of spatial set (1-5): 5 – It is clear where we are and I like that information about where we are going is unfolding slowly. We know it’s bad, but not exactly what it will entail.
3. Comprehensible prose narrative (1-5): 5 – I thought your prose was paced well and engaging.
4. Tension on the page (1-5): 5 – You have done a great job of creating tension from the start. I like that you are showing us the brutality of the captors as opposed to just telling us about it.
5. Dialogue mastery (1-5): 5 – I like the way dialogue is peppered into the scene. It is believable and has a good balance of action to go along with it.
6. Exposition delivery (1-5): 4 – I like that we are left in the dark about why the kids are being rounded up, but a few more sentences here and there about what will happen or their speculation about what will happen once they reach the labor camp might enrich the scene.
7. Narrative composition (quality of set, tension, cinema, character interactions) (1-5): 5 – I think you did a great job of creating tension and we are immediately taken by this mysterious boy. The protagonist is interesting and the detail about being taken in just her pajamas along with her empathy makes me root for her.
8. Cinematic imagery (static and dynamic) (1-5): 5 – Your use of imagery is vivid and captivated me while I was reading it.
9. Point-of-view dynamics (1-5): 5 – You have a strong point of view. I agree with Karen… if you can work in her name it would be a good handhold for the reader.
10. Wise use of craft technique (1-5): 5 – I also agree with Karen. Starting in the middle of things hooked me immediately.

Re: Group I

Posted: 22 Jul 2014, 00:32
by benadams

Nice first couple of pages. It was very engaging. I can't wait to read more. If you have any questions about some of my comments let me know. Thanks for posting your work.

1. Scene length and structure (1-5): 5 The scene builds really well.
2. Clarity of spatial set (1-5): 5 We have a good idea of where we are and the world we’re in. We knows it’s a cruel world, one were children a sent to prisons.
3. Comprehensible prose narrative (1-5): 3 Some times you tend to veer toward a passive voice when the moment calls for a more active voice. Example: “I’m about to take the coat she tosses in my direction when the girl with the tattoo reaches up and grabs it as it sails through the air.” Written like this, it makes it sound like the narrator isn’t a participant in the action, like it’s happening to her. Here’s an example of a little more active voice: “The girl tosses me her coat. I reach out to grab it, ready to put it under the boy’s head. But the girl with the tattoo shoves me out of the way. She grabs the coat as it sails through the air, then turns and leers at me.” Something like that. But you see the difference. The narrator is present in the scene.
4. Tension on the page (1-5): 5 There’s menace and tension throughout the scene.
5. Dialogue mastery (1-5): N/A there’s not much dialog here, so I don’t think we have a good example of what the character’s sound like.
6. Exposition delivery (1-5): 4 You give us just enough information to keep us curious. I have a concern with the terms Spy Flies and Reverse Hearse. For YA, the rhyming nature of these terms might not play well with your audience. Just a thought.
7. Narrative composition (quality of set, tension, cinema, character interactions) (1-5): 5 You do a great job of showing us the injustice that exists in this world. We also have a likeable heroin who will stick up for those who can’t fend for themselves.
8. Cinematic imagery (static and dynamic) (1-5): 4 We’re in a really tight space during this scene, the back of a truck. But you do a good job of making it feel both expansive and claustrophobic.
9. Point-of-view dynamics (1-5): 5 The narrator is consistent. And I love present tense. Just beware that some editors might not. It depends on the current trends in your genre, which, admittedly I don’t know much about trends in YA.
10. Wise use of craft technique (1-5): 4 See my comments for #3 and 6.

Re: Group I

Posted: 22 Jul 2014, 17:24
Ben, I took your advice and explained why her boss is so into her appereance. I also changed the opening of the story to show how her day started from waking up in the morning.

Stephanie thank you for seeing how I was making the boss a real pain.

Re: Group I

Posted: 22 Jul 2014, 18:27

1. Scene length and structure (1-5): 5 The scene length was good, now I want to read the rest.
2. Clarity of spatial set (1-5): 5 It was very clear what you were going for.
3. Comprehensible prose narrative (1-5):5 It was a good. Not much to say on that.
4. Tension on the page (1-5): 5 The tension was good. well written.
5. Dialogue mastery (1-5): 5 The dialoge was goo between the girls.
6. Exposition delivery (1-5): 5 The delivery was good. I like the slow build of the tension between the charecters.
7. Narrative composition (quality of set, tension, cinema, character interactions) (1-5)5 the tension was good. You built it up very well.
8. Cinematic imagery (static and dynamic) (1-5): 5 I knew exactly where they were.
9. Point-of-view dynamics (1-5)4 I also agree to put her name in it would be great.
10. Wise use of craft technique (1-5)5 It was very good.

Re: Group I

Posted: 23 Jul 2014, 22:15
by christinegunderson
Thank you so much guys. This is incredibly helpful. Especially the advice about including her name earlier and catching the passive tense. Thank you. Am hoping to return the favor with a critique of all your great stuff soon. Am currently spending a great deal of time in my mini-van driving everyone to summer camps and swimming lessons...

Re: Group I

Posted: 25 Jul 2014, 03:31
by benadams
Here's my next installment. Can't wait to find out what you think. Thanks.

He felt the urge to go to her, console her. But he heard Cutty’s voice, reminding him that he was there to observe and record, not get involved. And to accomplish that he was required to remain separate, in the shadows.
She lifted her head from the steering wheel, started her car. Gray exhaust breathed into the night. She backed out, paused for a moment, then revved her engine, sped from the lot, tires spinning loose snow.
When the taillights vanished from the descending road, John put his camera away. He sighed and adjusted his glasses. He pulled his wool hat down around his ears and put his bare hands in the pockets of his black pea coat. John gripped the lapels of his buttoned coat and pulled it closer to his slender frame.
He walked to the empty lot, stopping intermittently to kick snow from his left shoe. The lot was quiet. The only sound came from trees bending, trying to hold against the wind. And John’s crunching shoes. He stooped and picked up the cap Randall left in the parking lot. And tossed it in the trash.
The breeze shifted, whispering in his ear. It chilled John through his layers of wool and cotton. He stood in the ice covered parking lot, uneasy. He had the impression that someone was behind him, watching.
A branch cracked behind him, like someone stepped on it. It came from the set of trees where he was hiding. John tried looking through the brush. Stars were starting to show, competing with Denver’s evening glow, and his eyes were only beginning to adjust to the oncoming night, but every shaded trunk and overgrown bush looked like something sinister hid behind it. He took a step closer, toward the dark woods. Snow fell from the trees, crashing and breaking limbs. That’s what it must have been, heavy snow on a dead branch.

The Blake Street office of McGullicutty and Sons Private Investigations was in an older part of town; Lower Denver. The building had been there for eighty years, silently enduring neighborhood changes, rent increases. A ball park, trendy lofts, restaurants resuscitated the dying district. Names of old manufacturing companies were painted in big black letters on the top stories. The names, now irrelevant, were reminders of what Denver hoped to be.
The office had three rooms. The main room, the center of the office, was small, but big enough for a desk, chairs, a coat rack. Windows, looking into the other rooms, framed the main room. On the left was the storage room, with filing cabinets, a hotplate and cot. Spare suits hung on nails driven into the wall. The other room was a darkroom, or used to be. The black paint that protected developing photos from sunlight had been scraped away, but there were still thin patches in the corners and edges near the frame, reminders of a pre-technological era. The tubs of developer and fixer, the photos floating in them, or hanging and drying were gone. The detectives’ modernized their methods. Now they used a computer and printer.
John sat in front of the computer, rubbing his eyes. He needed to print the photos on the camera’s memory card. He didn’t want to do it. It was late. He rolled the chair back, leaned forward, elbows on knees. He sighed, wanting to forget the evening. But he had his first client meeting in the morning.

“Well, Mrs. Neilson,” he said politely, respectfully, from behind the desk. She sat in a wooden chair across from him, fogged in perfume that nearly strangled John. “As you know I’ve been following your husband for the past couple a days.”
Cutty stood behind him. He leaned against the window sill, observing his young assistant. He was a squat man, like the gravity of his profession compressed him. And his bald head, the tufts of gray hair ringing it, barely reached the window sash.
“Yesterday,” John continued, “I witnessed him leave work shortly after five. As you can guess he didn’t go straight home.”
He paused again, letting the knowledge of her husbands deception set in. He tapped the manila folder on the desk.
“There’s no easy way to say this.” John slid the folder over to her, proud that he was showing her who her husband really was.
Mrs. Neilson opened it, started flipping through the photos like a magazine at the hair salon.
John witnessed Cutty give this speech several times in the past year. He memorized and internalized it, knew what to expect. And right now, he expected her to start crying, disbelief and grief taking over. He dropped his arm, opened the desk drawer. Without looking, he reached for a box of tissues, readied to offer them.
“What the fuck is this?”
“Like I said, I followed your husband.”
“Yeah, I heard that part. I mean this.” Mrs. Neilson pulled out a picture, pointed to the woman. “That’s my goddamn cousin! Wearing my clothes!”
“That’s the first thing you noticed,” John said, looking at the rubber ducky mask.
“In every single picture! Look at this! That trailer park bitch is soiling everything. Is she wearing my jewelry? Now I have to go home and wash that skank’s stank off everything.”
“I think we need to focus our attention on what’s important. You now have evidence that your husband’s been unfaithful,” John said trying to remain professional.
“No shit! With my slutty cousin. You know she got fired from the DMV for fucking her manager. They photographed the whole thing with the photo ID camera. An old man had a heart attack when he realized his new license photo was someone’s balls.”
John slammed the tissue drawer closed. Behind him, Cutty cleared his throat.
“And you, this is how you tell me? with pictures of my husband fucking in the backseat of the LeBaron. That’s where we put our car seat for Christ sake. No wonder my baby’s getting sick.”
“She’s probably allergic to skank stank.”
“What are you, a fucking doctor? A course she’s allergic to skank stank. She’s a classy baby.”
“She obviously takes after her mother.”
“What the fuck did you just say?”
“John,” Cutty interrupted, his hand on John’s shoulder. “Why don’t you go make us some coffee?”

Re: Group I

Posted: 06 Aug 2014, 18:54
by Brittany
1. Scene length and structure (1-5): 5
2. Clarity of spatial set (1-5): 5
3. Comprehensible prose narrative (1-5): 4 Heads up on this small typo: "A course she’s allergic". I'm guessing you meant "of."
4. Tension on the page (1-5): 5 Great tension and unexpected dynamic between Mrs. Neilson and John.
5. Dialogue mastery (1-5): 4 Dialogue is great and really gives a strong sense of character. The last few lines of dialogue could potentially get a wee bit confusing since Cutty, John, and Mrs. Neilson are all in the room and you don't specify who's speaking. I like that you don't do a typical "he said/she said." Makes for a stronger/cleaner dynamic, but maybe consider putting in one specification as to who's speaking in that section in order to orient the reader.
6. Exposition delivery (1-5): 5
7. Narrative composition (quality of set, tension, cinema, character interactions) (1-5) 5
8. Cinematic imagery (static and dynamic) (1-5): 5 Description of the office is great. Love some of the imagery metaphors, especially how you describe Cutty "like the gravity of his profession compressed him"
9. Point-of-view dynamics (1-5) 5
10. Wise use of craft technique (1-5) 5 Well done! I think this section is even stronger than the first one you submitted. I think it will really help hook a reader/agent.