Friday, November 6, 2015

On the Block #2: THE REAPER PROJECT 9:10 AM

TITLE: The Reaper Project
GENRE: Adult - Spec Thriller

Self-centered entrepreneur Roth Cooper is finally on the verge of success, until a dark creature derails him. It repeatedly comes in the night and steals his life, one year at a time. To survive, Roth must befriend and save a teen druggie—who just might be planning a mass murder.

The man facing Roth didn’t just look like death—he smelled like it. A rotten-food stench flowed off him, the stink of a garbage can in the alley behind a restaurant. This close to him, the smell overpowered even the rich scent of Sumatra coffee and toasted ham sandwiches in the coffee shop.

Bile rose in Roth’s throat. He gagged, then covered it with a cough.

“Married with a kid. That’s…great, Alex.”

The coffee line inched forward and Roth moved with it, taking the opportunity to put some space between himself and his old college roommate.

“Yeah. My kid’s nine. Pitcher on his baseball team. Loves sports.” Alex grinned. His lips were dry and cracked. Brown spots mottled his teeth.

Roth tore his eyes away from the sight.

“Good for you.”

Something was wrong with Alex. The last time Roth saw his roommate—over a decade ago—he’d had a stocky, muscle-builder physique. That was gone, replaced by a scarecrow figure. Alex was thin-skinned and gaunt. His once thick, blonde hair hung lank and gray.

Roth shoved his hands in his pants pockets, waiting for Alex to say something. After all, the man had ambushed him in the Starbucks. He must want something. But Alex just stood there, smiling and nodding. The pause between them grew like a shadow, casting its awkward silence, forcing Roth to speak.

“I’m surprised to see you here.”

Alex’s smile faded.

“Yeah, about that. Look, I hate to tell you like this, but I thought you should know.” He hesitated, then said, “I’m dying.”


  1. I'm intrigued by this and the way you cut it off. Makes me curious to know what Alex wants from Roth.

    My only concern is that when you start with "The man facing Roth," it implies that the man is a stranger. So when he calls him Alex, it throws me off a little. You could say, "Roth's old roommate, Alex, didn't just look like death..."

  2. I also was thrown off by Alex. Maybe make it more clear who he is. I also like how it ends. It is not a chance meeting, Alex wants something from Roth is what I'm guessing. I already can't stand Roth but I think that is what you are going for. I think you will have a big transformation moment coming up.

  3. The concept seems intriguing, but I feel the logline seems convoluted and not really focused. Sounds like too many layers of story and it’s hard to determine which one is the most important.

    The strong opening sentence sets the scene well. Wonderful contrast from main character to his college roommate and leaves the reader wondering what he wants from Roth after all these years. And the last sentence makes you want to turn the page. Good luck! :)

  4. I quite liked your logline. The combination of entrepreneur and dark creature sucking his life away is quite a contract and intriguing. This is an awesome premise which leaves me wanting to know more about how the teen druggie plays into all of this. The only thing I would suggest you could do to improve is be more specific about what the dark creature is - what exactly is it? Dark creature is very vague.

    With regards to the first 250, I have to say I love it. You evoke all the senses and paint a clear picture of the characters, you raise questions the reader will want to be answered, and you leave off with a killer line - “I’m dying.” If I am looking specifically for something to suggest for improvement, I would go with what Peter said above – instead of starting with “the man”, call him by his name. That would better show his familiarity to the MC.

  5. I really enjoyed your writing, but agree that the logline could use some work. I was left a little confused because there is no transitional link between Roth having a year of his life stolen and him suddenly being saved if he saves a kid planning a murder. It seems like maybe adding a sentence in there to at least hint at how saving the kid can save Roth may make it clearer.
    I also agree with Peter and would suggest replacing "the man" with "Alex."
    Th only other thing that threw me was that Roth suggests that Alex randomly ambushed him while he was in line for coffee...but in that last line, Alex seems to have planned the meeting to tell him that he's dying.
    Other than those things, this sounds promising and I would definitely read on. Good luck! (D. Roosa)

  6. - Awesome logline. It leaves me with a few questions, but it's got all the essential points and hooks me with the premise. Even better, it gives me a sense of both Roth's and the teen's characters.

    - This page is great, and it explains itself by the end--by which point I am totally ready to turn the page. However, I had to reread the first part twice. After your logline saying he's visited by a dark creature, I thought he was staring at that creature in Starbucks. The sudden reference to a college roommate weirded me out and made me assume you were talking about someone else. Perhaps the solution to this is to switch the paragraphs about the man smelling like death / Roth trying not to vomit with the paragraph about the coffee line inching forward and Roth moving with it. That way your first paragraph will instantly tell me we're in a cafe and Roth is staring at his college roommate. Your colorful description will come right after and explain why Roth pauses before saying "great."

    - Otherwise, great job!

  7. Your writing style is very descriptive and readable. Between your log line and opening, I'm curious enough to keep reading. The idea of a creature that takes your life one year at a time is intriguing. I'm already pulled in enough to wonder if that's what's wrong with Alex.
    I agree with the above comments in that the first sentence left me thinking Roth was dealing with a complete stranger, if not a demon. My suggestion (as was mentioned previously) would be to drop the vagueness of, "The man facing Roth..." for something that makes the reader realize he's talking with someone he knows. It would make the scene even more awkward (and therefore all the more delicious to read) since polite decorum dictates that, as an old acquaintance, he's stuck talking to Alex.
    Good luck!

  8. The sensory details in the first paragraph are very vivid. I like how you start with scent but go on to include visual descriptions as well. I can feel Roth's discomfort at being too close to this man.

    Great hook in the last line. It makes me curious to know why Alex thinks Roth ought to know this since it doesn't seem like the two are very close if they haven't seen each other in a decade. I can imagine Roth asking himself the same question in the next paragraph, and I would definitely keep reading to find out.

    I also agree with the suggestion to identify Alex sooner. This does give the impression Roth is talking to a stranger. I also had the same confusion and thought that the person who looked like death was the dark creature mentioned in the log line. If you take the suggestion to move the line inching forward to the front, it would ground the scene a little more. Then by identifying Alex the first time you mention him, the confusion would be completely gone.

    Overall, great first page.

  9. Your concept seems promising, however the only way I realize your story has a "reaper" angle is from your title. your logline has no input of this reaper creature except for describing the being as a dark creature who visits Roth and steals his life. What I don't understand from the logline is the connection between it all. Why does the "creature" (or reaper as your title suggests) need to steal Roth's life? Also, how would befriending a druggie save him, and does planning mass murder really add anything to your logline or simply eat up word count?

    As for your first 250 words, the writing does feel strong to begin. The things that immediately threw red flags were labeling Roth's companion as a stranger, yet then identifying him as his former roommate, Alex. Despite this, you left the reader with a feeling of tension and a yearning to know how Roth would react to the news we were left with. Good hook!

  10. Maybe it's just me but as I read your logline I heard Count Rugen saying, "I've just sucked one year of your life away." ...which is not a bad thing. Count Rugen is terrifying.

    I like the premise - it's different, I'm wondering what this creature is and what it wants from Roth. I'm assuming that the druggie kid somehow holds the key to saving Roth - by preventing the deaths of the others, Roth can show he's not such a egomaniac and the creature will let him live maybe? That's what I gather from the logline, and I can see how that would be hard to fit.

    The writing, I think, is strong too. In terms of the initial confusion about Alex, I too thought Alex was the monster at first. I thought Liz Mallory's idea of shifting the first paragraph down a bit was good or, alternatively, you could start with the line, "There was something wrong with Alex" then something like "Roth studied his friend as they inched forward in the coffee line. His old college friend not only looked like death..." Or something to that effect - just an extra sentence or identifier to let us know who that Roth knows Alex and that Alex is not a zombie-beast who is about to chomp Roth's face off.

    Loved the last line. I saw that someone was confused about him being "ambushed" but it seeming like a planned meeting, but I didn't have that issue. It seems like Roth showed up, Alex happened to see him and thought this was as good a time as any to spring some news. I'm thinking that Alex's death is either caused by this evil monster or is going to give Roth some food for thought about his own mortality. Either way, I think this is a good way to show some of Roth's less than charming traits and draw to the forefront issues of life/death/meaning/all that jazz.

  11. The concept seems fresh and interesting, but the logline needs some work. The last sentence especially throws me off. I don't see the link with the rest. The beginning really confused me. However, I can suggest something to fix that. Start the story with "Roth shoved his hands in his pants pockets, waiting for Alex to say something.[...] I'm dying" then continue with "The man facing Roth didn’t just look like death—he smelled like it...." and that fixes that, IMO. So much more powerful. Good luck!

  12. Who doesn't want to see a self-centered businessman get his life sucked away? Ha! Of course, I want to see how Roth is self-centered, but also I want to have sympathy for him as the MC. How will he change and grow? I'd want to know how he decides to save a teen druggie in order to save his own life? What the connection between that and the dark creature? I do like your style of writing, very visual. Good luck!

  13. From your logline, it feels like your story will have lots of great twists and turns: Dark creature that steals years of life; Roth having to not only befriend but also save his anti-thesis, a druggie; and having to figure out how to stop a mass murder! Sounds like your MC will have his hands full!
    However, the logline might not describe this dark creature enough (reaper, alien, Jekyll and Hyde scenario?), and without that description, it's hard to connect how a teen druggie will save Roth's life. Maybe add more specifics to the logline? Food for thought.
    Your writing is strong, and you have a talent for descriptions. The one issue that came up was that if Roth truly is a self-centered businessman, then would he not do everything he could to get rid of Alex at the coffee shop? Would he not ignore him completely, pretend he didn't know him or that he had a call on his cell phone, speak to someone else, claim he was late for a meeting and leave?
    Great story start! Good luck with it!

  14. Excellent opening! I love how you get sensory details - the smell of death - in without falling too far into description. I love the line, "The pause between them grew like a shadow..." I'm immediately pulled in and wanting to know why Alex has approached Roth.

    You could leave out the line "Something was wrong with Alex." You've made that clear with your description. Also, I was a bit thrown by "the coffee line moved forward." Since you said a stranger was facing Alex, I pictured the characters sitting across from each other at a table. Perhaps "the man standing next to Roth in line reeked of death..." That's a little thing though.
    Great job and good luck!