Wednesday, October 14, 2009

34 Secret Agent

TITLE: Presumed Alive
GENRE: Mystery/Romance

Close to midnight with no wind. Lake Michigan at its wave-lapping quietest. Four dead souls were found at the lovers’ point in Centennial Park, Wilmette, Illinois.

A late night jogger enjoyed the slowly approaching coolness of the evening. He wasn’t sure what attracted his attention. When the police asked, he guessed his eyes were drawn to the four in the car, two women sitting next to the men, front and back, because they were not embracing. Just the opposite, each head had swayed outwards towards the side windows of the car. The cheek of the woman in front was pressed hard, pancaked, against the window glass of the passenger side door.

The jogger approached, only slightly altering his path, expecting to hear voices. Students at the nearby university often parked to watch romantic sunsets or some high school students, desperate for privacy, would snuggle against each other for precious moments before their curfew. They’d be attempting to hide from view exactly where their hands were wandering. No, he wasn’t some kind of pervert, he told the plain clothes policeman with the insulting manner. He was just curious and things looked wrong.

When he jogged closer, then ran in place trying to get a good look into the car, he decided the four had simply fallen asleep. Their eyes were all shut. That would explain it. They‘d been watching the end of the day, had talked about things that lovers do, then, peacefully, delightfully fell into pleasant dreams.

16 comments:

Keith Schroeder said...

Starting with a couple sentence fragments hurts. I think the author is trying to build a feeling of mystery, but I never got pulled in or cared. Sorry, not hooked.

JohnO said...

It has promise, but I didn't think it was quite there.

Cut the first paragraph. Two fragments and a passive sentence aren't helping you.

Start with the second, but keep it in real time, which means cut the time-shift implied with "When the police asked, he guessed ..."

It's MUCH more suspenseful if he learns about it the same way we do, especially if the details are odd (I liked "The cheek of the woman in front was pressed hard, pancaked, against the window glass of the passenger side door.")

Sharla said...

The fragments at the beginning are distracting, kind of sounds like a journalist talking. And all of it reads slightly distanced. I agree with keeping it all real time and maybe with the jogger being more bothered by it, having some emotion.

A neat idea though. Sets up the mystery well.

Good luck!

Claire said...

I'm confused by the time line. The 1st paragraph says it is close to midnight. The second paragraph says the "approaching coolness of the evening.

You might consider dialogue instead of the third paragraph. An exchange between the jogger and the police officer.

I don't have a sense of the MC here. Is it the jogger?

You set up the mystery well. I want to know why they're dead.

Angie said...

I wasn't thrilled with the choppiness of the first two sentencs.

Maybe would be better to have this unfold in front of your face, not past tense.

I would put all of the jogger bits in dialogue, have the police questioning him, the jogger inferring they think he's a pervert etc...
Unless the MC isn't the jogger.
Who is the MC on this one.

Would still read on to see what this was about.

SeaHayes said...

Cut the fragments at first and start again. I'd read on to see what was up, but I agree with the above about the timeline. He could explain it all through interrogation or have us discover it in real time. I like the pancaked sentence too. Good luck!

Terah said...

Slightly hooked. There is some tension, but I don't quite feel it. But, the set up is good.

I agree with the previous commenters. Let us find out at the same time. That gives the piece more action.

I'd read on to see what happened to the four people.

Mags said...

Hmm. I think if I saw 4 people in a car with their heads against the windows, my first thought wouldn't be that they were not embracing. It would be that their heads are against the windows, and that can't be good. This sort of thing really slows down the compellingness (is that a word? hmm...) of the story for me. Sorry.

Annarkie said...

Sorry, not hooked. Besides choppy intro, I just didn't have any characters to get attached to. Was confused as to POV is it the jogger? Or a faceless narrator? The presentation of the plot was too dry for me as well.

Krista G. said...

Could be hooked. The scene is interesting, especially combined with the title (which I loved, by the way), but the writing is giving me pause.

Give us the story in real time, as several other commenters have mentioned - it's much less exciting to hear about it after the fact. And I also agree with the people who have said that we need to know (at least) one of these characters as a person; otherwise, this is little more than a detailed news story.

Anonymous said...

"Close to midnight with no wind. Lake Michigan at its wave-lapping quietest. Four dead souls were found at the lovers’ point in Centennial Park, Wilmette, Illinois." Delete

"A late night jogger enjoyed the slowly approaching coolness of the evening." Evening and late night are a contradiction. Try drawing readers into the jogger's actions. Avoid weather reports.

Why are telling us what he said to the police before you describe the scene?

Anonymous said...

- Students at the nearby university often parked to watch romantic sunsets or some high school students – Watched high school students, huh?
“Dead souls were found” I think you’re trying to sound creepy, but it’s confusing. I was expecting ghosts, not bodies. You are time-jumping. You’ve got things out of order. First the bodies are found, then the guys who finds them shows up and enjoys the evening. Then you switch back and forth between him actually finding the bodies and telling the police about it.
Make me care about somebody – the jogger, the bodies, the cop who has to take the statement. Then just tell it to me straight.

Barbara said...

Everybody's pretty much said it all, already. You have all the elements you need here. I'd say definitely consider putting it in real time. It reads very dry and unemotional as is.

Jessica said...

I'm going to dissent and say I loved the fragments in the first paragraph. But I'm a fiend for fragments. I didn't, however, like "souls". Made it sound more paranormal than I think you intended.

I did have a bit of a double-take at the time shift in the next paragraph, but it quickly sorted itself.

I was hooked and I'd read more.

Bron said...

I agree that it's much more suspenseful to discover with the jogger that the people in the car are dead, rather than tell us in the third sentence of the novel, so I'd be tempted to get rid of the first paragraph all together, and slot the details about where the action is taking place into the following paragraphs. I liked the voice though, and think this just needs a slight alteration to make it really good.

Secret Agent said...

I’m not sure, but I think you are trying to convey here that this story is being related to a policeman. You’ve got references to police in the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs. That makes this scene distant for the reader. We’re aware that it’s not happening right now, that it’s being retold.

I think you need to open this with the actual scene, in the third-person POV of the anonymous jogger. Show us in real time. Let us see the car with the kids in it from his POV. Let us experience the moment of discovering the kids were dead.

Then you can cut to your investigator or whoever is your MC.

Cut that opening paragraph. Instead paint the entire scene from the POV of the jogger. I’d also cut the explanations in paragraph 3 about how students would park there, etc. It’s pretty obvious, everyone knows students park and hang out.

I think if you recast this scene so that it doesn’t feel so third-hand, it could be a great opening. I’d read a little more.