Friday, November 28, 2014

(12) Thriller: TSAR BOMB

TITLE: Tsar Bomb
GENRE: Thriller

After the murder of his mentor and dissolution of his family, Preston Wilford gave up catching killers. Now his former boss wants him back in the field--and so does Hope, a ghost who may be one of the victims. Preston goes back to work, but when he falls for Hope, he fears catching his killer might mean losing another loved one.

Preston reached for his toes and tried to ignore the pain in his back. He stood and pulled his right foot up toward his bottom, squeezing his white running shoe in one hand. The bulge of his belly peeked out beneath his tee-shirt, and Preston looked to make sure he was alone. He stretched the other leg, shook them both, and then bounced on his feet.

The day was going to be a scorcher, just like yesterday and the day before. The morning air still smelled like rain, though the sun had burned away the clouds and now pressed his skin like a hot iron. The street was a fresh asphalt ribbon. Preston lurched forward into a run.

His back flared immediately. Ignore it, he thought. The doctors said you can do this. His stomach was next to complain, and it was more persuasive, sending up a warning shot of morning coffee and stale beer. He'd run through hangovers. Once upon a time, he'd run through anything. But that was before.

He told himself to stop thinking, that it hadn't been that long ago. A stitch settled in his left side like a dagger. His calves were tight as fists. He hadn't made it three blocks yet.

Then again, how could anyone tell? There weren't actual blocks in Florida, just street and trees and grass—and the canal, of course. Preston wondered if there were alligators that morning, and whether an alligator would eat a jogger.


  1. You did a great job of setting your scene goal in the opening paragraph. Good luck today!

  2. You do a good job of portraying the aging, out-of-shape guy reluctantly getting back into exercising. I'm curious about the source of his back pain and what motivated him to start running again.

    However, there are some small touches of overwriting that tripped me up at times. In the first paragraph, instead of pulling his foot toward his bottom and squeezing his shoe, it would have been clearer to me if you had simply said he pulled his foot up in a quad stretch. The color of his shoe doesn't seem to be relevant there at all, unless you mean to point out that they've never been worn, in which case that might be something he'd observe while doing toe touches, rather than when the shoe is behind his back. The last sentence of that paragraph isn't needed at all.

    It would also help to have a little scene-setting before you describe Preston's stretches. For some reason, when I read the first line, I pictured him sitting up in bed, so I had to reorient myself when I realized he was about to run.

  3. I love this. Love the way you're using the jog to convey how out of shape he is, and suggest some age.

    In the third sentence, it feels like that sentence should be broken in two. He notices the bulge. He looks around.

    Love the "pressed his skin like a hot iron." I think you could take out "he thought" in the next paragraph, maybe put that in italics. Or just leave it. We'll know it's his internal thoughts.

    I also like the way you end that paragraph, hinting at the past and how he feels about it. I wonder if you need the "that it hadn't been that long ago" part in the next line. I think the hint is strong enough without it.

    Overall, this is great start and I would definitely keep reading.

  4. I can so relate to "lurching" into a run, the stitch in his side and wondering if an alligator would eat a jogger. That language was really evocative for me. A part of me wonders if he hopes an alligator will eat him and put him out of his jogging misery. This really gives a sense of how out of shape he is and, presumably, how far he's fallen from "before." Well done.

    I'm in.

    Good luck!

  5. Overall, I think I get the setting: A once in-shape person is now fighting his body to do something he used to do easily. But this scene, while fairly well done, doesn't say much about the story or enough about Preston (as a thriller should). It's hot (and the fresh asphalt would be contributing to that), he's overweight and out of shape and . . . what's so important that he's chasing? I think you can get me into the story much quicker.

    Two small things: I think the CMA style for tee-shirt is actually T-shirt. . . . You have an echo in here for the word ignore. Change one of them.

    You use some good verbs: peeked, bounced, lurched.

    I would like to see the the rest of this scene. I like the premise of the book.

  6. As other's said, an excellent job of setting the scene, and your premise sounds neat.

    There's a touch of foreboding in phrases like "pressed his skin like a hot iron." Your description of the street that follows could follow it with a more fearful image than ribbon.

    In your last paragraph, I wonder whether there's a way you can include Preston's thought about the alligator in the same slightly brutal, mater-of-fact way you gave us the weather. That was so stellar.

    Also, the first paragraph is less attention-getting than the second. The second has both the great setting details and the feeling behind them. I don't much out of the first paragraph besides his pudge and his intent to run, which you could easily include in the second paragraph or later.

  7. This works for me. The premise is intriguing and I learn a lot about Preston in this scene. Loved the alligator comment!

    Good luck!

  8. I really like Preston, he's disarming and real, and easy to sympathize with.

    I feel that your first paragraph is a tad overwritten and it wouldn't hurt to leave it out completely. I think it would make your opening stronger if you did. Preparing to run isn't as interesting as the run itself.

    The scene setting is well done and I like where the story is going, I just think it should get there a bit faster.

    Good luck!

  9. I like how you've crafted this story. You have an engaging writing style that really shows personality. That's a difficult thing to teach and it takes practice. So, good job!

    If this is a thriller, then get to the conflict quickly. Also, make sure each chapter or section leaves the reader with a hook. To me, the definition of a thriller is a page-turner and difficult to put down. Nice work!