Friday, November 28, 2014

(50) YA Suspense: SUBMERGED

TITLE: Submerged
GENRE: YA Suspense

Desperate to find her best friend's killer, 17 year old Mindy Palmer unwittingly trusts the murderer, an obsessed psychopath she met in the Teenspeak chat room. If Mindy doesn't uncover the murderer's identity soon, she could be his next victim.

She was dying, couldn't breathe without oxygen. All he had to do was unplug the plastic tubing and disconnect the tank while she slept, so easy it made him laugh. Year 12 Biology - learning about the needs of living organisms hadn't been a complete waste of time.

Pulling out the oxygen line woke her, and she tried to raise herself in the bed. Her head flopped about like a dried up flower on a withered stem.

With a tissue, he wiped his prints from the line. Her body sagged, her mouth opened and groveled for air. In the old wicker chair next to the bed, he leaned back, his arms folded across his chest, watching, as if he were enjoying a favorite movie.

After her lips turned blue and she stopped twitching, he reconnected the oxygen, wiping for prints again.

He wasn't sure what to do next. He hadn't planned any of it, although he'd thought about it many times.

Today, the rage had built in him as he watched her sleep...and then it was done.

He had the urge to tell someone - let the world know who he really was. He turned on the computer, logged into the TeenSpeak chat room and checked to see who else was online.

The girl was there. His mouth went dry and he ran his tongue over salty lips. His heart beat faster. She was there...waiting. Almost as if she knew he needed her - that he had never been more ready.


  1. Very striking opening. The only thing I'd recommend is getting rid of the "Year 12 biology" doesn't fit with the sinister tone of the rest.

    Strong hook, either way. Good luck!

  2. Very chilling. Even though it is only one page, I was completely "in" the story, hanging on every word. You built suspense right from the start and left me wanting more. Great job and good luck on Tuesday!

  3. The line about 12 year Biology makes it hard to tell how old he is. He seems older, but are we supposed to think he's a teenager? It's certainly gripping and I get that he wants to tell someone, but the last paragraph seems out of place. So much has happened, and now we have to switch gears to think about a relationship we know nothing about? I think we need more before you go there.

  4. I love the premise to this and you have good tone and tension building. I however, found the opening a bit confusing. I wasn't 100% sure what was happening in this opening. If you could ground the reader a little more in the scene and be a tiny bit less abstract I think that would help. Best of luck in Baker's Dozen.

  5. This is a tough one for me. The opening scene certainly has its hold on me in terms of the rage I feel at someone so helpless being killed in such a cowardly way, but in a hospital there are always people around. When a vital machine goes dead or malfunctions, all sorts of alarms go off, and it does take a while for a person to die of suffocation, several minutes, I believe.

    With so many doubts in just the first few pages, I'd not be tempted to continue. I would suggest explaining why the killer is alone, and how easily he logs into a chat room unattended while no one notices someone just died a horrible death.

  6. "Her head flopped about like a dried up flower on a withered stem." One of the best lines I've read in a while. Good job on the whole page. I had no trouble with the biology class reference. This is something I'd read.

  7. Very intriguing! I wish I could read on. You did a great job of setting up suspense in such a short time. Good luck on Tuesday, I'm sure this will get lots of attention.

  8. Lots of tension and suspense here!

    I had a bit of a believability issue, though. He kills her, then sits in the dark and watches her. Then he sits there even longer to go on-line. Why doesn't he get the heck out of there, and then go on line? Does he want to be caught?

    And where is he? If he's in a hospital, wouldn't someone have come in when the girl first started having difficulty breathing, and certainly when she flat-lined? If he's not in a hospital, where is he?

    Maybe add a believable explanation?

    Or add more tension by showing how gets out without being caught.

    Small nit - You need another em dash after 'organisms'.

  9. Love the build-up of tension, and the creepiness of this (fairly obvious) cold-hearted, psychotic teenage killer who hasn't been too long out of High School (i.e. the reference to Year 12 Biology).

    Had no worries about the setting either - I assumed, seeing as he was sitting in an old wicker chair, it wasn't a normal hospital setting.

    I want to know what happens to 'the girl' - presumably that's Mindy. Eeek!

  10. Hmmmmm.

    I think this is definitely a striking opening.

    The first line could be stronger, the second clause feels kind of tacked on.

    Also, as has been pointed out, there's a believability issue if this is happening in a hospital, and I have a hard time imagining a cold-blooded killer (the calm makes him seem cold-blooded) being clumsy or unconcerned enough to stick around. (As someone who writes A LOT about murder), most of the time killers (more often serial killers, as compared to crimes of passion) either create an environment where they CAN control the factors and take their time and savor the kill, or they don't linger.

    So I suppose what I'm saying is that there's a discrepancy between his composure and his environment that strains my belief. I actually really like his cold calm, but I don't buy it in this context. Especially when you tell us that he hasn't planned it, and that he has this rage in him. None of his actions speak to those two aspects.


  11. Up front…. I’m a nurse when I’m not writing so I tend to come down hard on things like this. I DO understand the necessity of artistic license for sake of story though, so if my thoughts aren’t helpful, feel free to ignore.
    Okay, so I need some clarification in the first line. NO ONE can breathe without oxygen, so it just seems like a stupidly obvious statement. Now the fact that she needs a supplemental oxygen line IS a good point to bring out, but you would just have to be clearer about that.
    The biology line didn’t bother me (actually reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Disney’s Rescuers Down Under where the villain says, “I didn’t make it all the way through third grade for nothing!”)
    The transition in the next paragraph I found a little jarring though, because you go from thinking about pulling the plug, to saying that pulling the plug woke her up without a clear transition of him actually pulling the plug.
    Also, the thrashing for air… It depends on her condition. If she was suffering from sleep apnea, yes, her body would likely wake her up to get more oxygen, or if he were physically choking her, then yeah, that would all make sense, but for one that can’t breathe at all without extra oxygen and is already sleeping, it would more likely be a gradual shift that would put her into a deeper sleep than death, without a lot of thrashing. And yes, it would take few LONG minutes for her to die this way.
    Unlike other commenters though, I did not have a problem with there being no alarm because oxygen tanks aren’t generally equipped with one. She would have to be on a heart monitor too, which is possible depending on her condition or if she is in a hospital, but not required for all people on oxygen. I would say instead that it just FEELS wrong and probably could be answered if you clarified a few things. Are they in a hospital? What is his relation to the girl (is he close enough that he would normally be allowed free/unsupervised access to her room)? Is this a simple nasal cannula connected to an oxygen tank that she carries around with her as a chronic condition or one of many elaborate machines keeping her alive in more of an ICU setting?
    And I agree that his motivations get a little muddy after this point. You say he built into a rage, but he seems calm. If he was in a rage, what was he mad about? And does he go somewhere to connect online or is he just standing over the body, waiting to get caught?
    I think the way you end it is strong though and I probably would read on from this point, just to see how the rest of the characters/story builds from here.

  12. I found this chilling and creepy - so I guess it worked on me! His calm silence and the way he watched as she died certainly set the mood for the story. Right from the start his character has had an impact on me, and I want to find out just how creepy he really is. Great intro!
    The scene - it could be a hospital, although it needn't be. If there is confusion about this, a few simple words would help clear it up. It does not impact on my immediate response to the story.

  13. I'm always amazed at the amount of discussion and dissection of what is just the first few lines of a much lengthier work. I assume more will be revealed as the story unfolds, to confirm or clarify my initial thoughts. And maybe the ambiguity is the author's intent - to build suspense.

    Yes, there are some points where I wonder... but I don't have an issue with that. It's the subtlety of the clues (show don't tell) that are making me question where it is - because it doesn't seem to be in a hospital setting for me.

    So, where is it? Why is she there? What's wrong with her in the first place? How is he connected to her? And why would he even want to do something like this?!? What history do they have? Was he angry at her... or the disease that was doing this too her? These are the questions I have that I'd be reading on to find answers... Because I'm assuming they'll be revealed in the pages to follow.

    I too love; the dried up flower on a withered stem. Also grovelling for air. I wondered about her eyes; If she 'woke up', what did he read into the eyes...?

    Too scary for me!

  14. I agree with Anonymous! It's only a small part of something bigger. And the text so far completely satisfies me and makes me want to learn more.

    What I did read left me tingling. I love the brevity of description that still evokes powerful images--a sign of wonderful writing.

    It didn't even cross my mind that this would be set in a hospital, and I thought the fact that machines didn't go off as she was dying would have snuffed out ('scuse the pun!) any location confusion.

    Also, the time it takes for her to die--this doesn't appear 'instant' to me. Both paras 3 and 4 could have been preceded by many minutes, if not hours. For me, I feel we don't need to be 'told' everything--nothing worse than stating the bleeding obvious.

  15. You do a fantastic job of creating a creepy atmosphere here! Within the first two lines, I was completely sucked in to the scene and the voice. This scene was also a little hard to read, and I imagine that was your intent, so well done at creating such a chilling intro.

    I will echo the notes above about suspending disbelief. Though I didn't myself dwelling too much on the believability issue while reading - since you've done such a great job building the suspense and making me want to read on - I do think there need to be at least a couple more lines giving context of how he pulled off this murder so easily (especially if it was unplanned). Did he disguise himself? Distract a nurse and sneak in to her room? What did he use to wipe the prints? I think, in the context of the killer's arrogant voice, it would make sense for him to think of how clever he was to do XYZ (especially on the fly) to accomplish this without getting caught.

    Really intrigued by where this is going. Good luck!

  16. Love this.

    "Groveled for air" has to be my favourite line of the year. Shows one character's distain for another as well as a clear action. This is part of what sets such a terrifying tone.

    "After her lips turned blue," indicates a passage of time but readers seem to be missing that, so perhaps as he sits in his chair he can be picking at the wicker on the arm, or counting the times his victim sucks at the mask.

    You end on not one, but two hooks. We're hoping he explains the rage and what drove him to do this, to presumably a family member in his home, (not sure where the hospital thing comes from, may need to throw a tatty bedspread in there to redirect those readers) and the naming of a new victim.

    The tone is awesomely scary. The hooks are totally smack on.

  17. I agree with the other critiques/suggestions. I also liked this as your opening line: "After her lips turned blue and she stopped twitching, he reconnected the oxygen." And I also wanted you to deepen his lack of feeling/empathy/remorse illustrating through small details what a psychopath he is. Also I'd use a phone over a computer to log into the chatroom. Good luck!

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