Tuesday, December 15, 2009

24 Drop the Needle

GENRE: Thriller

“Please, can I borrow your cell phone?” Khalid asked a young man who was weaving his way through the arena’s parking lot propped up by an irritated young lady. “It’s an emergency.” The boy gave Khalid a quizzical look. The smell of alcohol drifted off the kid like nuclear fall-out. “I’ll give it right back. And I’ll give you fifty dollars,” the man said, producing a wallet from his back pocket. The girl scowled and handed over her phone, pocketing the money before the boy could take it.

“Hello, I am in the parking lot,” Khalid said loudly enough for the couple to hear them. His charade was unnecessary as the couple were engaged in an argument by that time. Khalid continued in a quieter tone after Tikrit Todd answered at the other end. “Much is happening,” he reported in Arabic. “A big concert will soon take place in Havana. You need to start planning now.” He gave quick and sketchy details of Jake’s trip, keeping the conversation as short as he possibly could. In less than two minutes, Khalid handed the phone back to the girl, who barely glanced at him as she continued to bitch out her drunk boyfriend. The guy was unable to verbally defend himself as he was too busy throwing up on her open-toed shoes. Khalid slipped away to his vehicle, unnoticed.


  1. The first sentence tripped me up. Maybe this might make it clearer:

    “Please, can I borrow your cell phone?” Khalid asked a young man in the parking lot. The obviously drunken teenager (?) was weaving his way through the arena’s parking lot propped up by an irritated young lady.

    If we're in Khalid's POV, then she might be "irritated-looking" or "grimacing", but he would not know if she was irritated. That's her POV.

    “I’ll give it right back. And I’ll give you fifty dollars,” the man said

    Perhaps "Khalid said" for the above? When you called him "the man" I assumed it was the drunk dude.

    This tells me a whole lot more about the drunk bystander and his lady than Khalid, so I didn't feel as if this was an emergency. If Khalid is in a hurry and it is urgent like he says, maybe he would feel irritation, anxiousness, something towards the morons he's trying to get to help him. Some sense of urgency, especially if he's preventing some sort of crime or planning one.

    Good luck!

  2. You've set the stage with borrowing the cell phone and the "emergency" bit in the opening paragraph, but there is no real sense of peril. If Khalid considered what he might do to them if they don't comply--would he kill them? Is it that urgent for him? Given that this is a thriller, I expected more, but perhaps it's a WIP. Lots of potential. Thanks!

  3. The first sentence threw me for a loop, too. I think it's because you threw in all the scenery in one prepositional-phrase-stuffed sentence. I'd break it up.

    Also, you might want a paragraph break after "It's an emergency." You switch to describing the drunk kid there, and for a minute it looks like the kid's the one talking.

    Who's the man? Khalid?

    I had trouble figuring out who the girl was until I reread the first sentence. Maybe you want to mention there that she's propping him up, as a refresher.

    The little description of the couple near the end of the second paragraph is good :)

    Overall, I don't get a dangerous vibe off this section. Mysterious, yes, but not danger. If it's supposed to be mysterious, it's fine; if the hair on the back of my neck is supposed to be standing up, it might need a tweak.

    Hope I helped! Good luck!

  4. I was totally confused by the first paragraph. First there's a boy he's talking to about a phone. Then the girls appears, and she's the one with the phone. Confusing.

    Also the second paragraph needs work. You could rearrange some of the sentences to make it clearer. It seems a bit jumbled and out of order.

    I didn't get a sense of urgency after reading it.

  5. As others indicated, I was confused by "the young man," "the boy," "the kid," and then the "young lady" and "the girl." Very confusing. Plus, the girl doesn't seem to be sufficiently creeped out/suspicious by his offer of $50 to use the phone.

    The writing itself just isn't there on this one, I'm afraid.

    I didn't get the "danger" vibe either. Obviously the character is up to something shady, but I'm not feeling the impending sense of danger as I read this.

  6. Forgot to mention: the way you've written the first sentence tells me that the parking lot is propped up by an irritated young lady.

    That's easy to fix.

  7. Oh, I see. You just need returns between the speaking parts. Khalid just used the 'it's an emergency' part to get the telephone. The drunk guy offered him money in his stupor.
    I think as long as you haven't given the drunk guy a name you shouldn't switch from calling him: young man, boy,and then the man. Because you turned around and describe Khalid as 'the boy'. A little confusing.

    Everything Khalid did is a ruse so he can impart info to the guy on the other end of the phone. Is Khalid a spy?

  8. I got confused. You refer to the same person as a "young man," a boy, and a kid.

    And who is saying this? - “'I’ll give it right back. And I’ll give you fifty dollars,' the man said, producing a wallet from his back pocket."

    Shouldn't it say Khalid? Isn't he the one making the offer? But, see, if you refer to Khalid and the young man/boy/kid, I'm thinking it might be the latter who says that. Which makes no sense.

    Bigger question: are these two walk-on characters NECESSARY? Or are they just there for visual interest?

  9. hmmm...

    This isn't doing it for me. It reads like a really rough first draft. If you are going to use a unique name like Khalid, then you need to make sure you don't overuse it.

  10. One thing that had me scratching my head is why he felt obliged to do the "Hello, I'm in the parking lot" bit...

    It would have made more sense if he told the person he borrowed the phone from that he needed to locate somebody he was meeting up with or something.

    People don't really pay much attention when a foreigner talks in a foreign language on the phone.

  11. At first I think Khalid is in danger and desperately needs a phone RIGHT NOW. If that is true then he got it too easily- or maybe not if this was the tenth person he asked. I doubt a young girl with a drunk boyfriend (i.e. no protection barrier) would so easily hand over a phone to a complete stranger or even stop to listen to him. Seems she has more important things to worry about.

    Then we get into the girl/boy fighting and I feel like they might be in danger. I don't know, I think this couple might be unnecessary for your scene. He could actually just pick pocket a phone in such a crowded area with drunks.

  12. This scene may advance the plot but I don't see any imminent threat to the characters in it. Jake may be in jeopardy from unnamed terrorists, then again maybe Khalid just wants someone to meet him at the airport.The narrative doesn't make clear who needs to be worried.

  13. I didn't really feel much tension in here. Yeah, I'm a little curious to know about the various characters, but that first paragraph really kind of tripped me up. Had to read it three times (could be I'm tired though) before I realized the girl & guy were together. I'd probably read more though, since I like thrillers. You didn't turn me off!

  14. I didn't feel a sense of danger. Maybe make it harder to get the cell phone. Also, some confusion about who's saying what and whose POV we're in.

  15. This read really rough, for reasons others have already pointed out, and that's probably why I didn't feel any tension or danger here. Right now, your words aren't conveying what you want them to. Another revision or two could get this to where it needs to be.

  16. Others have pointed out the sentences that tripped me up, so I won't go into that.

    I didn't feel any danger in this particular scene. Khalid wants a phone, he gets it. He has his conversation. That's all. I'm interested in what he's up to, but I don't feel any danger. The couple seem to be busy being drunk/annoyed to be dangerous, and Jake doesn't pose an immediate threat either.

    So for the purpose of this exercise it didn't work, but it sounds like an excerpt from an interesting story.

  17. Part of the problem here is that the source of danger isn't identified. It isn't the couple he borrows the phone from, as they easily comply. Is it supposed to be the "ticking bomb" of the concert in Havana? If so, this scene with all its details of the bickering couple just serves to slow down the tension you want to build. You can keep the scene by showing Khalid's desperation in having to offer $50, and by showing his angry thoughts contrasted by the need to control himself so as not to arouse further problems. Move through this scene as quickly as possible unless the couple are important later on in the story.

  18. You say "His charade was unnecessary" and I think Khalid is right. Why even show that if it is? I know someone else pointed this out too.

    Also, I didn't get a clear sense of danger. Only that sometihng was about to happen in Havanna. And the young couple doesn't appear to be a threat to Khalid. There is a slight sense of urgency, but the confusion in who is in the scene lessens it. And when I first read, I thought that he was approaching two kids, about 10 or 12, not older teens or young adults.
    And isn't Khalid part of the danger for Jake ;)