Friendly-Fire-Feedback no2. Adult Psychological Thriller – Comments Welcome

Harry potter styl image 1First Page Workshop – no.2

Today we have the second of our three blog posts under the Friendly-fire-feedback banner. After this there will be one more in the 28th, another YA (contemporary). Also please note, I am in Australia so we are (currently) 14-hours ahead of the USA EST, so, depending on where you’re located, you may see this on the evening before.  Below you’ll see the fist page without my notes and then with my suggestions beneath that. This way you can read the 1st page without my notes interrupting your rhythm.

&  remember to come back 28th July for the  YA Contemporary 1st Page.

And of course, comments are most welcome, in fact I insist! (lol) – please note, comments will be moderated, so play nice 

21st July

Genre: Adult Psychological ThrillerCatComputer2

Word Count: 120,000

Dr. Ben Spencer kept his most important theory to himself: to survive the present, resurrect the past. He tested it only once a year, by himself and whenever possible, with whiskey.

Ben reached for the only drawer that locked in his shoddy wooden desk. Most professors’ office hours were over, including his, and the halls of Stony Brook University’s Life Sciences building were at last free of undergrads panicked about spring finals. Ben was alone, and it would stay that way.

His annual ritual could begin.

The cheap wood scraped and groaned as Ben slid the now unlocked desk drawer open. He reached for the first of three objects waiting for him. It began as it must, with Glenlivet 18. Gripping the bottom of the cool glass with one hand, he swirled around what was left. The next item needed no ceremony. He sat the chipped tumbler beside the bottle.

Returning to the drawer, his fingers trembled against the metal edge of a picture frame. The regret woke then, stretching its talons to scrape his stomach lining and roil along his esophagus, seizing his throat. He placed the photo at the center of the desk among stacks of ungraded papers, focusing on the pain. Pain was the most important part of this day. Pain was more than remembering who he’d once been, it was a warning he could never be that man again.

After a few more deep breaths, he was able to stare at his twenty-two year old self in the photo. He had one arm slung over the shoulders of his then-best friend and then-research partner, Jake McFerron. They were laughing, happier and cockier than anyone had a right to be. It was the summer of 2001, and the Genome Project director had approved their first genetic identification. They were raising overflowing glasses toward the camera. Ben realized he was smiling back.

He poured himself a glass of what they’d drank that day. Ben began the toast, the same words he’d repeated once a year since. Today marked the thirteenth time.

“To Prometheus,” Ben said without any of the enthusiasm from its original intent.

“May we defy the gods and open the eyes of mankind.”

He took a quick sip. They’d certainly gotten the first part right, and he was living the gods’ punishment every day.

There was a loud knock on his office door. He stilled, ready to avoid the interruption, but another knock followed. It was almost dark outside, and he had switched on the desk lamp after the last student left, which probably gave him away. He cursed and put the bottle back in the drawer, leaving the glass behind the largest stack of papers.

“Come in,” Ben said as he turned the photo face down.

An unfamiliar blond man leaned past the doorway. Guessing his age at late twenties, he looked too old to be a lost undergrad late to meet a professor.

“Can I help you?” Ben asked, needing to get this over quickly.

The below work is my original work and I have the legal right to it. By submitting the below, I agree to allow my work to be published on the NestPitch blog and to be open for general public critique.

ScaredFirst Impression Notes:

Of the three selected, this was the only one I have written First Impression Notes for, and here’s why. Even before I started reading, I had an issue with the word-count. 120,000 seemed really high for a thriller, so I did some research & I was spot on. Thriller’s usually run between 70-90K with 70 being a little on the low side, and 100k pushing it, especially for a previously unpublished author. Now, while this MAY NOT turn some agents (or indeed #pitch slush readers) off, I am sure you’ve seen the tweets from agents (aka #10queries and the like) “word count too high – Pass” & Pitch mentors often say the same thing in their tweets. I would STRONGLY suggest getting yourself a BETA reader and ask them to look at paragraphs/ chapters that are repeating themselves… and try to cut this back ideally 20-25K, but at least 15K.

Dr. Ben Spencer kept his most important theory to himself: to survive the present, resurrect the past. He tested it only once a year, by himself and whenever possible, with whiskey. (this isn’t bad, but I think you could make it stronger by cutting this down a lot & not telling us so much, letting us salivate a little – something like:

Dr. Ben Spencer tested his most important theory once a year, by himself and whenever possible, with whiskey – can you see how I’ve kept the essence but ½ the word count? I’ve also now got the reader (i) wondering what that theory is & (ii) getting an image of Dr. Spencer with his whiskey bottle)

Ben reached for the only drawer that locked in his shoddy (find a better word) wooden desk. Most professors’ office hours were over, including his, andthe halls of Stony Brook University’s Life Sciences building were at last free of undergrads panicked about spring finals. Ben was alone, and it would stay that way(I’m already noticing a tendency to “feed” the reader your thoughts, you need to learn to trust the reader a little more and also never forget, with novels, as with make-up, less is often more)

His annual ritual could begin.

The cheap wood scraped and groaned as Ben slid the now unlocked (there is no reason to remind us the desk was locked) desk drawer open. He reached for the first of three objects waiting for him. It began as it must, with Glenlivet 18. Gripping the bottom of the cool glass with one hand, he swirled around what was left. The next item needed no ceremony. He sat the chipped tumbler beside the bottle.

Returning to the drawer, his fingers trembled against the metal edge of a picture frame. The regret woke then, stretching its talons to scrape his stomach lining and roil along his esophagus (OK, I’m going to correct this but I do know US & UK/Australian English is different so if this is correct in the USA, then please ignore, is should be esophageus), seizing his throat.(with a little tweaking, this could be a great line J)  He placed the photo at the center of the desk among stacks of ungraded papers, focusing on the pain. Pain was the most important part of this day. Pain was more than remembering who he’d once been, it was a warning he could never be that man again.

After a few more deep breaths, he was able to stare at his twenty-two year old self in the photo. He had one arm slung over the shoulders of his then-best friend and then-research partner, Jake McFerron. They were laughing, happier and cockier than anyone had a right to be. It was the summer of 2001, and the Genome Project director had approved their first genetic identification. They were raising overflowing* glasses toward the camera. Ben realized he was smiling back.

*point of logic – you can’t raise an overflowing glass without the liquid running onto something or someone; find another word in place of overflowing that tells the reader the glasses were full.

He poured himself a glass of what they’d drank that day. (As someone who collects rare scotch whisky, no one would fill a tumbler to overflowing, I thought they were drinking wine / champagne in the photo, whisky filled to the brim sounds odd?) Ben began the toast, the same words he’d repeated once a year since. Today marked the thirteenth time.

“To Prometheus,” Ben said without any of the enthusiasm from its original intent.

“May we defy the gods and open the eyes of mankind.”

He took a quick sip. They’d certainly gotten the first part right, and he was living the gods’ punishment every day.

There was a loud knock on his office door. He stilled, ready to avoid the interruption, but another knock followed. It was almost dark outside, and he had switched on the desk lamp after the last student left, which probably gave him away. He cursed and put the bottle back in the drawer, leaving the glass behind the largest stack of papers.

“Come in,” Ben said as he turned the photo face down.

An unfamiliar blond man leaned past the doorway. Guessing his age at late twenties, he looked too old to be a lost undergrad late to meet a professor.

“Can I help you?” Ben asked, needing to get this over quickly.

crowleyfeelingsMy Comments:

I can see this having a lot of potential but I strongly suggest you do a solid read-through as well as getting a BETA reader. Based on what I’ve read, I see two things, the beginnings of something interesting and read-worthy and the need for a serious case of Kill-Your-Darlings.

Allow me to illustrate. I’ve just had my MS come back from one of my BETA’s and she wrote on one line on the first page “Beautiful, visual, wonderful image, I love it – now get rid of it, it doesn’t need to be here.” And you know what? She was right.

Given you are at 120K and really need to shave off 20K, I think you need to go back and be super ruthless, otherwise the potential that I see here will not be allowed to shine.

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Friendly-Fire-Feedback no2. Adult Psychological Thriller – Comments Welcome

  1. You’ve already received fantastic advice for your first 500, so I won’t restate the same things.

    I have a few other suggestions to tighten this further.

    They were laughing could be: They laughed… They were raising could be: They raised… and he was living could be: and he lived…

    “There was a loud knock on his office door.” This could be tightened to: Someone knocked on his office door.

    Basically, anytime you use “was,” you should evaluate whether you can twist the wording to make the sentence more active and present.

    Something I’ve been doing in my own MS is use either a dialogue or action tag with speech, but not both at the same time. For example:

    “Come in,” Ben said as he turned the photo face down. This could be: “Come in.” Ben he turned the photo face down. It’s obvious he said it if the action is attached to the dialogue, so you don’t always need both.

    Oh, and in the US, you’re correct here, it’s esophagus.

    All the best with your it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi! You’ve got some concepts here that are really intriguing. You’ve created a nice sense of tension, with good hints of what’s to come with the ideas of defying gods and genetics.

    My first reaction to the first line was to go back and make sure this was a first page and not a query. Nikola’s suggestion for the combining the first two lines would certainly help that. I also picked up on the “was” combinations slowing down the flow a bit. In addition to those listed above, “he was able to stare” could be shortened to he stared.

    I’m guessing that by making these kinds of cuts, you could almost cut these 500 words in half. A few suggestions from Noah Lukeman’s book on the first five pages included trying to rewrite pages using only active verbs, no adverbs, and cutting any combinations of double adjectives down to one. Once you get to that point, you can go back and adjust for voice.

    I hope this helps!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s