Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Secret Agent #38

TITLE: Dark Mountain
GENRE: Psychological/Suspense

The night was unseasonably cold for this time of year. A soft breeze brought a chill to the late May air. The Rocky Mountains loomed in the near distance, guarding Live Oak Park like a silent sentinel. A pall of mist hung in the air as if to place an invisible fence around it to prevent outsiders from entering its domain. Aspen and scrub trees stood dark against the night sky and shrouded the plants and bushes in deep shadows. Off limits at night but blazing with sunlight in daytime, the park was an inviting place for families to romp and play. By night it was like a cemetery with its buried secrets ready to spring from the ground. Strange things happened at night in this park. Everyone said so.

Joey Wilson wandered through the park, his favorite place to be when he was disturbed about something. Tonight he was especially distraught. Two weeks before his wedding and now this. What had he gotten himself into? He sat with his head in his hands and moaned. God, what am I going to do?

Just then a shadowy figure approached and stood in front of him. She sighed and he looked up, startled.
"What are you doing here?" He asked, alarmed.

The figure said nothing but moved closer and removed the hood from her head. "I came to see that justice was done, Joey. Don't you think justice should be done?" The voice was a mere whisper.


  1. Hi! A few comments as I read:

    The night was unseasonably cold for this time of year. -- Maybe specify what time of year that is? Spring? Summer? That will give your readers an idea of what to imagine: leaves on trees? flower buds? autumn colors?

    A soft breeze brought a chill to the late May air. -- Ahh. You do get to it! But maybe you don't need both of these sentences? Unseasonably cold is more sinister (therefore tension-y) than "a soft breeze." Remember, you're setting up *suspense.* Make it suspenseful, right from the start.

    Is the rest of this paragraph necessary? Can we get a move-on to the character? I like the creepy park setup, but even more, I want *action*. Perhaps set up the park through action and dialogue, rather than narrative? The next paragraph, where Joey is wandering through the park, would be the perfect place, especially if something is happening.

    I have to admit, I'm not wild about the list of context-free questions.

    Having finished:

    Hmm. There's some neat stuff here. I like the park setting and the hint that something bad is going to happen to Joey within the next few paragraphs. But right now, all we have are hints. Nothing happens in these first couple hundred words.

    Is there a way to trim unnecessary description and get things moving more quickly? Perhaps mix the description with action? (Joey can zip up a jacket against the chill. Or walk around one of the dark pockets of shadow in the park.) Or do we need this scene at all?

    That said, I'm curious about what's going on with Joey! What were those questions about?

    Good luck!

  2. I would skip the paragraph describing the weather and open with, "Strange things happened at night in this park. Everyone said so." Then you could work in the weather.

    The hooded woman talking about justice is very intriguing.

  3. The opening really bugged me. You are good at description, but it just all seemed needless to me. I wanted to get to the character.

    When I did, I wasn't pysched up for it, because I'd already been slowed down by all the description.

    Definitely, though, what you've set up AFTER the description is quite intriguing and a great start.

    Maybe make the description more about the character? Ease it in and explore it through his senses? As is, it felt distancing.

    But overall, very good.

  4. Try weaving your setting into the character and the suspenseful setting. because the the fog and dark park are definitely a great creep factors as well as the hooded message bearer:)

  5. I agree the opening paragraph of description was too much. Work it into the action part of the scene to provide a spooky backdrop.

    You're showing some instead of telling. Instead of "He looked up, startled." and "He asked, alarmed." just show us that he's startled and alarmed through his actions and reactions to the shadowy figure.

  6. Your first paragraph is overly atmospheric for my tastes. I suggest you begin with the second paragraph and thread some of the images from the first into it.

    The rest is enough to hook me--the shadowy figure that he seems to know and the reference to justice.

  7. I agree with everyone else. The first paragraph is too much. I would start with second paragraph.

  8. You write description well, but I'm wondering if that's the first thing you want your reader to notice. I loved your last two lines in the first paragraph. They intrigue me immediately. It might be interesting to start story with them, then weave in the atmosphere through the rest of the scene.

  9. I agree about the opening paragraph. Too much about the weather and park. One line about how creepy the park is will do. Your descriptions are wonderful but if you tone it down a bit and focus on getting to the action, readers will be hooked.

    The last two paragraphs are what really got me interested.

    When Joey moans is it internally? There are no quotations around the dialogue.

  10. I like this.

    I'm curious about Joey's situation, and woman wearing the hood. I would definitely read on to see where this goes. But I also agree with the others, you should think about cutting/trimming the first paragraph.

    You also might want to consider cutting the last line, "The voice was a mere whisper." I don't think you need it. You've already done a great job giving us a clear picture of this hooded woman. You show her sigh, and then move forward silently. I don't think you need to describe this last line, and I think the dialogue--which I liked--will be stronger without the description.

  11. Consider starting with the Joey sentence. Weave the location info. in afterward. I understand you are trying to set mood with the first paragraph, but it's a little too concentrated right at the opening.

    There are also a couple of past/present tense problems that should be fixed.

  12. I can tell you have a real whammy of a story about to happen, but I do agree that the set up is a little on the thick side. Less description and more of the actual story might very well give us the atmosphere you are attempting. I really liked Genevieve's suggestions for the first paragraph.

  13. Sounds intriguing - I like the tone, but I think you could move the interaction between the 2 up as that seems to be your real hook. Good luck!

  14. The first paragraph seems to be all description. It's well written, but I think it's too much at once. I agree with a previous commenter who suggested beginning with "Strange things happened at night in this park." That's a great line.
    I do like the mystery of the figure, though I'd tighten a bit - you don't need both appeared and stood, or startled and alarmed.

  15. Hi,
    Though you had some pretty words in the first paragraph, it drags a bit. I'd suggest sprinkling that in in places later. Start off with Joey walking through the park and show the trees around him. You could have him hunch his shoulders against the breeze (so the descriptions of the setting is mixed in with his actions)
    Instead of saying the character was alarmed or startled, show it by a catch of breath, etc.
    I'm intrigued by the woman, though.

  16. I'm intrigued, but I almost didn't make it past the first paragraph. You could almost cut it completely. If not, you could swap the order of the first two paragraphs so we see Joey first, feel his dilemma, then get drawn into the setting.

    Good luck!

  17. You've definitely created the right atmosphere here. The description may be a bit heavy handed, however it can work if you tie strong emotions to it and tether it to the story. Right now it's like a capsule of extraneous information the reader doesn't need to know.

    Asking a question the reader can't puzzle out for him or herself doesn't usually work very well. You need to couch it by providing more details that will clue us in on Joey's dilemma. Otherwise it's too vague to be intriguing.

    A shadowy figure approaches him, but he knows it's a woman because "she" sighed. The shadowy figure of a woman would work better. Also, show us his alarm by foreshadowing it with his internal reaction to seeing her. Why is he alarmed? I do like the tension you create with what she tells him.

  18. I appreciate the attempt to set the mood. There are some nice lines in here "Strange things happened at night in this park. Everyone said so." However, the opening IS a bit overlong and the skip to the second paragraph isn't as smooth as I'd like it to be. There are some nice elements here but it seems to be a case of trying to hard.