Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Secret Agent #8

TITLE: Murderous Justice
GENRE: Adult Thriller

Carl stopped and assessed the younger guy standing between him and the general store’s back entrance. The guy’s name was Steve. Carl knew this the way everyone knows everybody in a small town. In contrast to Steve’s shag, Carl kept his hair cut short and his whiskers shaved close. Fat didn’t hang on him, but his middle-aged metabolism gave him more girth. Pulling wrenches eight hours a day provided endurance. Carl figured he could hold his own against these kids that lay around shooting people in video games all day and night.

Drugs? Carl stood before the guy unnoticed. He had just closed his shop, wanted to buy a gift and then be home. No biggie to say, “Excuse me.”

Steve did not change his stance but did say, “Oh, hey, Carl. How’s it going?” His speech sounded clear enough.

“Sure, sure. It’s all good. Need to get past you is all.”

“No problem.” He shook out a cigarette and slipped his lips around it. “Light?”


Steve dug through his jacket pocket. “I know I’ve got a lighter here somewhere. Oh, here we go.” Steve sucked the flame into his cigarette. He let out a plume of smoke slowly. He went for another puff.

Carl stepped forward. “Steve, it’s cold out here.”

Steve didn’t take that second drag. Instead he looked at Carl with menace in his eyes. Must be drugs, Carl thought. That was the only explanation for this weird encounter.

Steve squinted and stepped to the side.


  1. You're getting us right into the action here, which is great. But two thoughts:

    1. Carl's point of view is really distant. We don't feel like we're in Carl's head, but rather floating over him and Steve. If you put us closer, it would sound more urgent, and something like this: "There was a young guy standing between Carl and the general store's back entrance. Steve. It was a small town, and Carl only knew his face. His messy shag and scrawny figure...." Also, in a close point of view, Carl wouldn't describe himself. We'd get an idea of how Carl is different from Steve by how he describes Steve. You don't have to make the switch - maybe it's not as common in the Adult Thriller genre - but it's always helped me create more urgency in my narrative.

    2. I actually think describing a normal scene like Carl closing shop, something that has a rhythm of often-repeated action for Carl (checking the lights, locking the register, etc), would set us up for the "Whoa, what's this guy doing at the back door?!" moment in Carl's mind. That would heighten the tension, and make us realize this is a 'weird encounter'. For a minute, I assumed Carl was a drug dealer and Steve was waiting at a normal meeting spot.

    Best of luck! I want to know more about Carl!

  2. The conversation here illustrates pretty well that these two have very different agendas and personalities. I was just a little confused about where Carl and Steve are in space: is the general store Carl's shop that he just closed? If not, why does Carl approach the store's back entrance? If it is, how does Steve stand between Carl and the back entrance?

    Twice it's mentioned what Steve doesn't do. It might be stronger and more direct to show what he does do.

    I agree with Audrey that a deeper POV would help increase the urgency and make the tension more palpable, especially since this is a thriller.

    Keep it up!

  3. I like the interaction between the two, but I do feel it's getting a little muddled as in who the actual POV holder is. I agree with Audrey and would try to concentrate on Carl and give him the action to avoid to jumping between the two characters. That way the reader is able to connect. Besides that I like it.

  4. I love this old noir writing style. You've clearly read lots of Raymond Chandler. Nice!

    I do agree that you need to stay careful in POV. Stay from Carl's perspective. Imagine everything we're seeing and hearing is filtered through Carl.

    I'd also like more clues about the premise or stakes or conflict. Something other than gorgeous writing needs to convince me to turn the page.

    That said, I'd keep reading.

  5. I like your writing. You describe well, but I'm feeling something is missing. I'm not quite drawn into it. Maybe it's the issue with POV that was mentioned. I'd like to know more. Good luck with it.

  6. I was confused here. I wasn't sure if it was Carl's store, or if he had gone there to buy a gift. In either case, I didn't see why he, or Steve, would be using the back door. I also wasn't sure who was where. I pictured Carl outside, walking to the store, and Steve in the doorway facing him, but then Carl says he was unnoticed, so I guessed I was wrong.

    I would suggest rewriting the page for clarity. The encounter itself works, I just need to know who is where and doing what, and perhaps why they are doing it.

  7. What are you trying to get out of this scene? And how does this help the story?

    That’s one of the first few things you should ask yourself when you’re writing/editing. I’m not sure what the response may be but I personally didn’t feel this scene was necessary as I didn’t really understand what was going on. Steve wouldn’t let Carl pass by him…why? It’s obvious that he had something he wanted from Carl but there’s not enough emotion and tension there for the reader to understand what that may be.

    Is Steve upset with Carl? He didn’t sound it.
    Does he want to hurt Carl? He talked with him like they were old pals. Even offered him a light. That’s another thing that I address. These sentences help lay down the foundation of the story so unless Steve’s going to use that lighter to try and set Carl on fire, I’d not focus so much on the smoking.

    Also, I would incorporate more monologues into the story so we can get to know Carl better and make him more real to us.

    Thanks for entering!

  8. Not sure what is going on here, I found the encounter kind of stiff or something. Personally, I didn't care for the block of physical descriptors in the first paragraph. The part about how everyone knows each other's name in a small town is neat, but I thought the rest was unnecessary.

    Also, the way Steve goes from casual to menacing so quickly seemed odd, but then it so depends on what happens next. It could be a perfect segue, so hard to tell!