Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August Secret Agent #11

TITLE: The Cell
GENRE: Thriller with Romantic Elements

I stopped caring 368 scratch marks ago, but something compels me to keep track of the days. The little hashes on the wall give me false purpose and I pursue the routine task with vigor. But it doesn’t stop my mind from wandering into forbidden territory. How many more scratches will these walls hold? And, worse, what if I run out of space before death frees me.

- from the journal of Oliver Shaw

Death was a whore, cheating Oliver Shaw out of more and more blood and still leaving him unsatisfied.

A sudden burst of white-hot truth shot up his spine and into his fingers. His heart kicked out a stuttered beat. You’re still alive. The taunt hissed across his foggy brain, bringing with it an unwanted sense of awareness.

Cold concrete pressed against his cheek. A bead of moisture leaked out from under his eyelids, loosening the dried blood that had crusted there. His stomach heaved. He sucked in a breath and choked on the bile that filled his throat along with the stench of excrement and putrid food.

Open your eyes, you gutless coward.

He gritted his teeth and dragged his eyelids open. A sliver of light speared into his retina, blinding him with a sharp ache to the back of his skull.

The light bulb.

That single f****** bulb. Always on. Always grounding him in its glaring reality.

He couldn't take another day in this hellhole.


  1. I LOVED the journal entry, it definitely grabbed me. I also like his reaction to the lightbulb. Great job! If I had to critique anything, it's probably that the level of gore is a bit too high when I haven't gotten to care about the character yet. But that's entirely subjective, and it's very well written.

  2. Interesting. I am 80 - 90 percent hooked.

    Good sentence structure and I love the flow. The descriptions are just right, enough to give the reader a picture (and almost a taste) of the scene without causing disgust. Good job.

    I had to read the first line after the quote several times to ‘get’ it but chalk that up to my slow mental process.

    I see no grammar, adverb/adjective, back-story problems. It seems polished and first rate.

    Good Job!

  3. The biggest problem with a 250 word snippet is that we rarely get the opportunity to connect to the character(s) we're reading about. This one is no different. Oliver Shaw obviously is living in some kind of hell, and that's presented very clearly. I might cut back on some of the adjectives in the middle (white-hot truth, stuttered beat, foggy brain) only to let if flow a little faster, but that's more personal preference than anything.

    I'm hooked.

  4. I generally enjoyed this, but I admit - I have no idea what "Death was a whore, cheating Oliver Shaw out of more and more blood and still leaving him unsatisfied." means. You don't need the last name in this line, since you have it in the journal entry. Not really my kind of thing, but well done!

  5. Good imagery.
    I'd like to see how the journel entry played into the novel. Just the one, or an entry with every chapter, etc...

  6. I'd read more, although I have to say I was sorry that the journal entry wasn't 'it' - I could have happily stayed there in first person.
    And I wasn't sure what the 'white-hot truth' was - that Death was a whore? Or that he was still alive and he should stop complaining?

  7. I liked the writing. It was nice and vivid and I could imagine the MC's hellhole, although I did think it went on too long. I would have liked a hint as to why he was there, or who had put him there. It would have added some plot movement. As is, it's 250 words of a man suffering in his cell. Too stagnant, I think.

    I wondered why you needed the journal entry if the rest of the story is also Oliver's POV? Why not just put it all in his POV?

    I didn't think the Death was a whore metaphor worked. The sentence is not clear as to why or how death is like a whore.

  8. I agree with some of the other comments here. I liked the journal entry, but staying in first person would have worked as well. Also, the phrase "dragged his eyelids open" feels awkwardly worded to me. Maybe "forced his eyelids open" or "coaxed his eyelids open" would work better. Since he's obviously in pain, it would be hard for him to open his eyes.

    All in all, I liked it, and would read more in a heartbeat. Good work.

  9. Really interesting and detailed. Would definately read more. I was thrown with the "You're still alive" line. Maybe just "Still alive." would work.

    I wasn't too bothered by the gore either.

    The journal entry was also well done and almost seemed to hold me more than the rest, but I would definately keep reading. Great job!

  10. Really liked the opening journal entry and kind of wished it continued instead of changing into third person. That's the danger of putting something like this at the beginning I guess!

    I was confused by the first line... Death is a whore, cheating him out of blood? What the heck does that mean? I have no idea.

    Also, I found myself wondering why he would be making scratch marks (I assumed on the wall) if he has a journal to write in.

  11. I love the journal entry. It evokes the horror one likely experiences at unjust or uncivilized imprisonment.

    The 'Death was a whore...' line made me pause and examine it, but I accepted it as a unique analogy for Oliver's longing for death as an escape from his misery.

    And I felt that misery. I enjoyed the rich language used to describe it. I don't feel it went on too long. It built my curiosity and left me wondering where he is and why he is there.

    The tense change did give me pause, but I rolled with it. If the journal entries are peppered throughout the story, they provide a nice contrast to the narrative and I'd look forward to the rare moments when we'd get a peak inside his head.

  12. It’s not uncommon to begin a story with a journal entry, but a journal entry from the story’s own protagonist? Written around the same time the story starts, with the protagonist in the same circumstances? Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t get why this journal entry is necessary. The scene itself has very little movement or tension. Oliver is imprisoned, assailed by bursts of whit-hot truth and slivers of light, but I’m not sure why I should care. Consider axing the journal entry and using the space to give readers a way to connect with Oliver.

  13. i wasn't sure why there was a journal entry and then the mc right there in the same place.
    i was thinking someone else was reading the journal and it jarred me to know it was the same person.
    why make hash marks if there is a journal?
    the descriptions were concrete, which i enjoyed.