Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Two (Adult Fiction) #1

TITLE: Diablo de Polvo
GENRE: Crime Fiction

I drove through town, past the empty storefronts, past the industrial complex decaying quietly behind broken chain link fences to the only store open this time of night. I hadn’t decided if it was to be a bourbon coma or a book reading, soda sipping night but Ernie’s could accommodate either. I walked past the two guys out front, greasy from mechanic work, leaning on an old chevy pick-up that was more bondo than anything else. Sweet pot scented smoke hung in the air between them and I was tempted to linger.

There were two men standing at the counter, drinking beer, the television on behind them. Ernie was a tall, lighted skinned man, fairly nondescript except for the handlebar moustache that dominated his face and his personality. His friend I had seen around before. He was stocky, but well muscled, his darker skin covered in tattoos. I gave him an imperceptible nod of approval. Grabbing a couple of sodas from the cooler I asked ‘You have any ice?’

‘Afuera’ Ernie said nodding his head at the door.

‘Okay, just these and a bag of ice then.’ Ernie’s friend gave me the smile of a slightly drunk man. ‘Where’s your boyfriend?’ he asked.

‘We broke up’

‘I’ve been waiting for that’ he said, sidling up to me.
I looked directly at him for the first time. From one angle he reminded me of a frog, but straight on he was more handsome than I had thought. ‘Oh really?’


‘Okay, well night’ I turned and hurried from the store. The ice cooler was locked. I started to go back inside, when he came out of the store, dangling the key at me. He smiled again. This time I returned the gesture with a half one of my own.



‘For bringing out the key.’

‘No problem.’ He handed me an ice bag.

I walked back to my car, telling myself to try not to sway my hips as I went. I didn’t try very hard. The two pot smokers seemed even greasier than before. This time I didn’t think to linger in the smoke cloud. I threw the soda in the back and sped off home. I was wrong not to get the bourbon.

I pulled into what once had been the driveway of my house. It was now covered with sand and dirt. It hadn’t seen asphalt since the the ‘70’s. I showered, ate and tried to read. I was too restless to focus on the page. The television was not good either. I wished again I had bought bourbon. After twenty more minutes of fidgeting, I put on a short red dress, combed my hair, and drove back through town. As I turned onto the highway just past Ernie’s I could see the two men still at the counter. I drove through two more dying towns. They weren’t as far gone as my own, but in a year no one would be able to tell the difference.


  1. I like the voice and the idea of these dying towns. That idea would keep me interested, as opposed to the narrator's encounter with Ernie and the other men. It's difficult to tell from just this excerpt, but do the other men come into play later in the story? I'd like to get more of a sense of the narrator's motives. Why is she driving? Why does she get dressed up to drive? What's the significance of wanting the bourbon and of the dying towns? If you could give me hints to these answers in the first 500 words, I'd want to keep reading.

  2. I thought the line, "I was wrong not to get the bourbon" was going to set something up. Something big that would launch us into the story. I was a little disappointed when it didn't.

    I couldn't tell at first if the new guy, Ernie's friend, was ominous or exciting.

    I want more of a hint about what the inciting event is going to be. What's going to happen? It doesn't have to be broadcast in neon, but something else that draws me further in. Just a love/sexual interest isn't enough for me. Can there be something else about the guy that suggests more intrigue?

  3. I liked this set-up. But I wanted a little more information about where the towns are situated, in the dusty west or the grimy rust belt or rustic Vermont?

    While I love the line 'I was wrong not to get the bourbon' it seems to be in the wrong place. It definitely seemed like a decision point that will spark action. Consider putting it in only once, just before she dons the red dress. Let it end the paragraph. Start a new paragraph with the red dress. For me, just the red dress means something interesting is about to happen.

    There are also some places that the punctuation seems wrong. A grammar filter should find most of them.

  4. Some really great descriptive details and setup. The punctuation has already been mentioned (mostly compound adjectives that would need hyphens).

    Some spots are a bit wordy and could be tightened. For example, "There were two men standing at the counter," could be simplified to "Two men stood at the counter." The progressive verb doesn't do much here.

    Two spots made me wonder about if the author is male, because as a woman, they jumped out at me.

    First was that after what seems like a rather uncomfortable encounter with a creep, she's quite happy to sway her hips to get attention--at night, in a decaying part of town. I'd need more to believe that if that's a character quirk.

    The second was that she combs her hair before going out. Unless she's got a very short hairstyle that doesn't use any kind of gel, mousse, or hairspray, she couldn't be combing her hair. Maybe she'd brush it, run a pick through it, or just *do* her hair (perhaps using a comb to style it, but not actually combing it which would make it go limp).

    Lots of great story questions set up here.

  5. I thought the narrator was a guy until he donned the red dress. And I assumed by the "light-skinned" and "darker-skinned" descriptors that these guys were African-American. So is the narrator a black girl? I kind of like this, agree that, "I was wrong not to get the bourbon," should have been a kick-off into something different or a chapter ending maybe? And I'm also wondering if this a future, dystopian world, or just a down-on-its-luck kind of place, or series of places. Also thought too many sentences started with "I" followed by a verb.

  6. I like your closing paragraph so much I think it could/should be your opening paragraph. The final sentence is such a great hook, and that was the first time I got really excited to see where the story would go. I did like and "get" the notion of a handlebar moustache "dominating a personality." Clever observation!

  7. This isn't a genre I usually read, but I like the frank authenticity of the voice; I could immediately see the place and the people.

    And I like the fact that you've avoided a 'car crash' opening that starts with intense action such as a crime happening, but instead you're taking the time to create a sense of the MC's life and the setting, and the tension at this point is subtle and natural.

    I'm seeing some issues with punctuation, particularly commas. I would recommend finding a beta reader who's strong on punctuation to help you with that, or at least spending some time with one of the books Authoress recommends on the subject. (And you're not alone -- comma problems do seem very common these days!)

    I was surprised to see some people wondering about the locale and the ethnicity of the characters -- between the title and the fact that Ernie says, 'Afuera' when he tells her the ice is outside, it seemed quite apparent to me. But then I'm from the Southwest, so it's probably natural for me to imagine that's where this is set. (It would be logical in any case, if it's a place where there's sand covering old driveways -- not to mention dust devils!)

    And I would guess that being set in a locale that has a distinctive character and which isn't a stereotypical setting for a crime novel could be a real selling point for a book like this. :)

  8. The introduction has the feel of a gritty crime novel. I like the atmosphere. You have some good lines here but it is not coming together yet. First, you have TWO men outside and then TWO men at the counter (not even sure if they are INSIDE). Is Ernie behind the counter? You say he is at the counter? Is this a bar or a quick shop or what? And as of yet, we don't know if the MC is male or female. And finally, as she later drives past Ernie's, she again sees two men at the counter. Can she see inside this establishment from the highway?

    Despite these items that need to be clarified, I see a lot of redeeming features and would continue to read.