Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #2

TITLE: Blow Forward
GENRE: Thriller

The trick was not to think too much, Lizzie told herself as she swung the rig around and snugged it up to the dock, which was nothing more than a dark hole to aim at. She was tired to the bone, but thankfully she could still reverse a trailer into any space with one hand—and probably even apply her lipstick with the other.

Last night she had pulled into a dismal truck stop in Jersey City, five miles from her pickup destination--a warehouse in Newark, New Jersey—to accept a load of expensive wine bound for Las Vegas. When she heard where the delivery was to be unloaded, a chill of pain overcame her, a fierce grip as though someone was constantly compressing and releasing her head.

Las Vegas? Of all the places she’d be assigned to drive to.

And today, of all days.

That dreadful city reminded her of the tens of thousands of dollars her ex-husband, Bo, had lost there, which led to the brutal turn of events in her life. Sometimes she wondered what she could have done differently to prevent such grief.

Tomorrow, November seventh, would be Ellie’s birthday. Tomorrow would make it five years and one week since her daughter had been killed.

Lizzie had contemplated refusing the job, but the man on the phone had continued to raise the offer until she simply couldn’t resist. She still had a big mortgage on the house she’d shared with Bo and Ellie.


  1. Why did she pull into a truck stop only five miles from her destination? Why not just get to her pickup location? I guess that paragraph’s logistics just confused me.

    I liked how the city reminded her of her ex-husband’s gambling problem. It was a good segue into that bit of back story. However, the next paragraph (about the dead daughter) felt random and more like an info dump. Maybe find a good way to slid into that back story like you did with Vegas.

    I also liked the dark and dreary descriptions since this is a thriller. It gave me that dingy, dark & dirty feel many thrillers have. I’d be interested to see what thrilling things happen to this truck driver and hope something frightening occurs in the first chapter.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  2. I remember your logline from the recent critique round and I think you have a strong concept. Unfortunately, the execution needs a bit more work.

    The first paragraph is a good introduction to your character. The second paragraph is confusing. Did you really mean to say that Lizzie picked up a load of wine at a truck stop the night before her scheduled pick up? If so, what is the scheduled pick up? It seems like one of these stops is extraneous.

    After that, you have three paragraphs of backstory, which slow the story down. We don't need to know everything about Lizzie on page one. I think all you need to say at this point is that she's been avoiding Las Vegas for the last five years. The reason why can come out later. Keep the action moving for now.

  3. The first parg works well. We get a nice introduction to your MC, but then you immediately jump into backstory, so what happens on page one is a female truck driver snugs her truck into a dock. That's it.

    Save the back story for later, or, in this case, since the back story begins with only last night, start the story there. She can pull in, pick up the wine, learn where she's going and react to the news, which will get in the husband/Vegas stuff.

    There are technical issues, too. As written, she's picked up her cargo of wine at a truck stop.

    Of all the places she'd be assigned to drive to - perhaps Of all the places she could have been assigned to.

    And today of all days. It isn't actually today. It was yesterday.

    In parg 5, she's going over past events and thinks 'her husband, Bo.' She knows who her ex husband is and wouldn't think that, she'd just say Bo, or maybe that jerkwad Bo, but she wouldn't have to explain to herself who he was. You've included it for the reader. Make it evident some other way.

  4. Maybe it's just me, but I thought the first paragraph was talking about fishing. Maybe you should say big-rig, or eighteen wheeler so it's clear you're talking about a truck.

    Secondly, this is almost all back story. Consider staying more in the moment. The opening is unusual enough to keep the reader interested.

    And finally, no way a truck goes from New Jersey to Vegas in two days. No matter how fast they drive, it's simply not physically possible. That means she's in NJ picking up the load, or somewhere roughly ten hours drive away. This needs more clarity.

  5. I think you set the stage well for whatever is to follow; however, the writing doesn't completely hook me. Can you tighten up the first sentence? Maybe omit, "to aim at."
    The imagery in the 2nd paragraph confuses me - mainly the last sentence.

  6. That first sentence is too much. I ran out of breath reading it. Try turning it into two sentences, I'd say it will flow better.

    A bigger issue for me is that you lose what little forward momentum you have by taking us back to last night in that second paragraph. It also keeps us from really getting to know Lizzie beyond the fact that she's a skilled trucker with a dead daughter. I think you could probably find a way to work her personality--and her unhappiness--in without necessarily having such a big dollop of backstory.

    I hope I'm making sense here; I know what I mean, but I don't feel like I'm explaining it well.

  7. Is there any reason this couldn't start the night before, when she gets the assignment to drive to Las Vegas? You could show the negotiation, and it would be a natural place to show her bad memories of Vegas and the financial need that drives her to overcome that.

  8. So much I wanted to like about this, but too many apparent flaws had me hesitating. Why five years and one week? Why not just five years?

    Why five miles from the pickup spot? Was it too late to pick up the load? If so, tell us that.

    Why did she not want to take the job, even when the fee kept increasing?

    The pieces are there, but the puzzle hasn't quite been put together.

    Intriguing premise, however. I might be tempted to turn the page, reading about a lady truck driver with a deadbeat husband and dead daughter. Lots of potential.

  9. We like that we learn right away that her daughter was killed, which makes us see how she’s had a tough past. It makes us feel for her from the start. We were a tad confused—if Lizzie doesn’t want reminders about Ellie, why does she stay in that big house? Or is there something else about Las Vegas that she does not like?

  10. I agree on dividing the first sentence into two; the first thought about not thinking too much, then the rest in a new sentence.

    I guessed that this extra pick-up is not on the itinerary, but I might be getting that from having read the logline a few weeks ago. I agree also on the backstory, a little is Ok, but too much can definitely weigh the story down this early.

    But overall, I think these issues can be fixed easily. The writing is strong, it's more a matter of shuffling the elements. :)