Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #26

TITLE: Lost in the Bayou
GENRE: YA Suspense

Something is wrong.

The steady drone of the Lycoming engine has changed. The pilot shoves the mixture control handle forward to the full rich position. The motor responds with a cough and a few sputters before belching out a loud backfire. Then silence as the propeller slows to a stop.

With insufficient airspeed, the Piper Cherokee stalls. The nose drops. Five hundred feet above the swampy bayou, the aircraft rolls over and goes into a graveyard spiral, gaining speed as it descends. Seconds later, the water explodes from the plane's impact as the twilight sky is filled with the feathered thunder of fluttering wings.

The bones in the pilot's right forearm snap in two with a brittle crack! But he doesn't hear it. His head has already crashed into the wheel. On the other side of the cockpit, the passenger lurches forward from the impact while a jagged shard from the windshield speeds toward her forehead.

The plane sinks slowly below the murky surface. A metallic shudder groans through the fuselage as the nose comes to rest on the soft bottom and the ripples head toward the shore. When the movement stops, the only evidence of the event is a few feet of the silver tail remaining above the surface and pointing toward the sky.

From the shadows of the muddy bank, a dark figure slides into the water.


  1. I feel that your main character is missing from this opening -- the descriptions are good, like "feathered thunder", and visually it would play out very nicely, but narrative-wise, you've used the entire 250 words to give a blow-by-blow of a plane exploding and plunging into water. I want to know how this plane crash affects the main character -- whom I've yet to meet.

  2. While I'm not a fan of writing in present tense, I like the descriptions. Unfortunately, it all feels a bit divorced from the action.

    For me, it feels like setup for the story, perhaps a prologue, but as I said, it doesn't feel like I'm a part of the action, more that I'm watching it from afar (as if from the dark figure's POV), but then some of the details couldn't be put in there.

    In the fourth paragraph, I would change the exclamation mark into a period (or a comma). The exclamation mark, while somewhat correct with the suddenness of it, actually takes me out of the story with the abruptness of it.

    I think this definitely has potential, but as I said it feels a bit disconnected.

    I would read a bit further, even with the present tense.

  3. I loved the last line.

    The present tense didn't really work for me, and I'm not sure who the main character is. Is it the pilot or the passenger?

    I think this would work as a prologue.

  4. Yes! Present tense! *does happy dance* I love present tense.

    I really enjoyed this until I realized there was no protagonist. I would keep reading, but there better be a mc soon. Right now, I feel slightly disconnected from the story.

    Love the last line!

    Good luck!

  5. There's no MC, although I'm guessing the person climbing out of the plane at the end will be the MC.

    I'm not sure how to comment on this. If your entire story is going to be told from an omniscient narrator's POV, then this works wonderfully. But if you are going to slip into the POV of your MC, it would probably work better if the crash was in the MC's POV, too. What did he/she see, think, feel as the plane crashed?

    I thought it was written very well but the POV does distance us and that may cost you some readers.

  6. I like the description a lot, but I because no characters are introduced, I have nothing to care about yet. It's an omniscient POV, showing us an event, but without showing us who the protagonist is. I think it's really important to introduce your characters right at the start.

    I like the present tense, although I find third person present a little hard to swallow.

  7. I like present tense, but when a character is attached to it. This right now seems dettached, even though something creepy or dangerous is happening upon the pages.
    Right now it reads more like textbook or newspaper article to me. I want a feeling of a main character and why I should care that this terrible thing just happend.

  8. Hooked with a caveat. I love the sinister vibe that you have going here but I'd want to see a MC pretty soon (like on the next page) to be hooked completely.

  9. I normally don't like this sort of omniscient POV, but this is really well written. Great description of the plane crash. I could clearly see everything that was happening and I want to find out what happens next. I'm assuming this is a prologue and we will eventually get inside an actual character's head.

  10. Love the descriptions. I even like the present tense. (That's very rare for me.) And I didn't mind that there's no MC in the very beginning. Since you mentioned this is suspense, it seems to be following in the omni/serial killer POV style I've seen. (I haven't read much suspense, but this is how I remember it.) Though I do expect to see a protag pretty soon.

    I don't like the exclamation point. It makes me giggle.

    Otherwise, this works quite well for me.

  11. I like the present tense so this was nice in that regard. I also like the sinister vibe you've created. I would read on, though I would probably like the others need the MC to emerge. I'd lose the ! also, it sounds perky in the middle of all this beautiful, creepy writing.

  12. I love this, but I know the rest of the story. Interesting that someone commented it read like a newspaper article since that very thing plays a role in this great work.

  13. I loved this. I thought it might be a prologue , so not having the MC there didn't bother me, but I hope he/she is shown soon.

    The last sentence was a great hook. Loved it.

    Very well written. Good luck.

  14. I won't chime in on the present tense thing. I can take it or leave it, and it's such an over-debated topic anyway.

    To me, I had two issues. First, this scene isn't from anyone's perspective, and so we aren't invested in the action. Is the MC on this ship? If so, we need to see him/her and hear it from their perspective. Otherwise, it feels like a list of actions that we aren't invested in. The aircraft rolls over. The water explodes. The bones crack. No people here, other than nameless, faceless bodies that are dead before we meet them. The human element is distinctly lacking from this story, and that is where the tension and emotional investment come from.

    Second, let me know what genre I'm in and where I am. You never told us what type of craft this was. My first thought was, "Is this steam punk?" Then I wondered, "Am I in a hot air balloon? Is this an airplane?" I had to google Lycoming engine to figure it out, and I still have no concept of the size.

    You do a good job of describing the action, and it seems like you have a good hook here. Work on the character element and the descriptions a little more, and I think you could hook me. Right now, though, I wouldn't care to read on.

  15. In the great verb tense debate - the key is whatever tense a novel is written in shouldn't matter because we should be so caught up in the story that we couldn't imagine it Any. Other. Way.

    This feels like a prologue. (Is it?) If it is and it takes place before the story starts, past tense would probably work better. It's full of great description, I can really see what's happening - almost like a movie.

    Make sure to keep the tense "active" when you write like this. Instead of "The steady drone...has changed" I would write "The steady drone...changes."

    I would keep reading to see what happens (or skip to the point where I'd be introduced to a character), but I would need a character to connect to asap.

  16. Author of Number 26...September 26, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Thanks so much to Authoress, the Secret Agent, and all the readers for your insightful comments.

    As most of you assumed, this is a prologue. In fact, it it the entire prologue. The whole purpose of this portion is to set the mood and give just enough backstory in the shortest amount of time and the fewest words. The MC appears immediately after you turn the page and begin Chapter One.

  17. Glad to hear this is the extent of the prologue...I think it works since it's short.