Friday, November 30, 2012

(14) Literary/Psychological Thriller: The Death Clock

TITLE: The Death Clock
GENRE: Literary/Psychological Thriller

Everyone is born with the ingrained knowledge of when they'll die, but not everyone tells the truth about their death-date - as Kit learns when ex-boyfriend Jonathan dies without warning her. As more friends die, Kit realises the watch he left her isn't just a memento, but a clue to a closely-guarded government secret: death isn't as predictable as it seems.

During his last night alive, Jonathan asked God for only two things: to watch over Kit, and to hit Uncle Asher with a handy bit of brimstone – preferably in the form of public exposure, but a more literal interpretation of his request would be fine too.

Most people didn’t like being alone the night before their death-day, but Jonathan didn’t want any company except the gold-glowing streetlamps outside his window on Oswald Square. They saved the night from being too utterly black and lent a warmth to the silence.

It was over too soon. Jonathan resented the sounds of Asher starting his day in the room next door: the creaking of the mattress, the running of the shower, the opening and closing of dresser drawers. These were signs of life, a life that would go on without him; signs too of time running out, of solitude coming to an end.

There was no knock before the door creaked open. Jonathan sat still in the dark and stared at his intruder. Asher looked as composed and immaculate as if he had not been asleep at all. His smooth coif of white hair, moonlike, glowed in the streetlamps’ light. Asher drew up the desk chair and sat next to the bed.

‘I’ll ask one more time,’ he said. ‘Let’s not end with anything between us; we’ve been too good friends for that.’

Jonathan’s jaw clenched. He looked away and waited for the question.

‘Who knows, and how much?’


  1. Okay, I think I'm hooked. The opening paragraph is great and gives a clear view of Jonathan (though it is a bit rambly - maybe you could split it into two sentences?) The only thing that makes me hesitate is that he's about to die, which indicates (along with the logline) that he won't be the protagonist. It's always risky starting with someone other than the main character. But she has a mention in the first sentence, so that's something. I like the idea of people knowing when they die, along with the complication that it's potentially not accurate. Good luck!

  2. I am completely HOOKED from this passage! You've done a great job with that fine balance of providing just enough information so we understand what's going on without slowing yourself down with too much information. I absolutely want to read more.

    My one (extremely minor) critique is that the logline is a tad long, but I know how hard it is to get those things short. Good luck with the Bakers Dozen. If you do get pubbed, please share your story with Authoress. I'd buy this book!

  3. Um, YES, and I don't even read this genre. Then again, this doesn't seem psychological at all--more sci-fi, from the knowing death-date thing. The pitch hooked me, and you have a nice, smooth prose. Also, kudos to hooking me with the last line of your sample. Good luck!

  4. The idea of the death-day is interesting, but it seems to me like this might be more fantasy than literary fiction. A literary/psychological thriller seems as if it should be grounded in the real world.

    Also, this excerpt seems to be from Jonathon's POV, but the logline says he's going to die and then seems as if Kit will be the main character. That might be problematic--it threw me off a little when I started reading. I'm also a little confused about Asher--he's called Uncle Asher, is obviously not liked by Jonathon, but sleeps next door? Some hint of his role would be helpful as I'm assuming he works for the government too, but not really sure.

    The last line piqued my interest--I want to know what Jonathon's involved in. I'd keep reading to see what's going on.

  5. LOVE everything about this: the voice, title, writing.

    Have to say this is probably my favorite so far. :)

  6. I agree that the genre feels off. It definitely seems more speculative fiction than straight literary/psychological.

    Other than that, I loved this entry. Good luck!

  7. I’m very intrigued by this logline and the concept of everyone knowing when they’re going to die (a bit reminiscent of that Justin Timberlake movie). But I’m not quite getting that set-up in the opening paragraphs. Reading the sample first, I wouldn’t understand how Jonathan knows it’s the last night of his life—it almost seems like he’s planning to commit suicide. So I think the basic idea of everyone knowing needs to be presented right away. I also think you need to watch out for overwriting, such as the sentence about Asher’s hair. A leaner narrative would help keep the pace moving and thrilling. And then, the last line, Asher’s questions, could be more specific. Who knows what? How much what: time, money, knowledge?

  8. P.S. I don't have any issue with it being from Jonathan's POV. I see it as a prologue to establish for the reader that something nefarious is going on and Kit will soon figure that out as well.

  9. I think this is a great premise for a story, your logline hooked me. I like your first page too, especially the lines 'Jonathan resented the sounds of Asher starting his day in the room next door: the creaking of the mattress, the running of the shower, the opening and closing of dresser drawers. These were signs of life, a life that would go on without him;' which make me feel for Jonathan.

    There are just a couple of things I'd tighten up, starting with the overly-lengthy first line. I started to laugh at him wanting someone to be hit with brimstone, but then you go on and it takes the punch out of the joke, so maybe remove the bit after the hyphen.

    The other thing is that Jonathan is placidly listening to Asher getting ready, but when he comes into his room he's suddenly an 'intruder', which seemed off to me, since he know he's there and it's his uncle, even if he doesn't like him.

    Good luck!

  10. I really like the premise and the writing, but I did get a little confused while reading. If not for the logline I would not have understood what was happening. And the Asher character was confusing to me. I'm guessing your main character (in this scene) is hyperaware of the noises coming from Asher's room because Asher is the one who is going to kill him/end his time on earth, etc. The confusing part is that Asher mentions that they've been friends for a long time. I'm sure these questions would get answered for me if I kept reading, which I would because this is a very intriguing premise.

  11. This was one of the most intriguing loglines, in my opinion, so I'm glad you made it into the auction! I would definitely read this.

    The only thing I question is the references to Asher. First he calls him Uncle, then intruder, then Asher refers to them as friends. That led me to think that maybe 'Uncle' is some sort of honorary title, although they live together. So I'd like the relationship to be defined a bit more clearly. And maybe that's coming shortly. It's still a great premise and your writing is strong. I hope to read this one someday soon!

  12. I agree with everyone else, great logline and concept. The Uncle, friend, guy in the room next door, confused me. I'll stand in line to buy the book. Good Luck