Snarkometer reaches the speed limit #55


"Put the gun down, Wayne." Liz Weeks' voice remained calm, with no hint of the icy terror gripping her heart.

"Don't tell me what to do, you bitch." In contrast to Liz's composure, Wayne Hennessey's voice shook with rage. The pistol in his hand wobbled uncertainly.

Liz had never seen this Wayne before. His usual pristine appearance was askew: face unshaven, hair mussed, tie undone. The smell of liquor clung to him like cheap perfume and provoked a sudden memory of her father. Just the thought of her nightmare childhood made drops of cold sweat run down her chest and pool beneath her bra.

She tightened her hands into fists, not wanting Wayne to see them tremble. It was a good thing she'd been sitting behind the desk when he'd burst into her office. If she'd been standing, her legs would have buckled when she saw his gun.

"You don't want to hurt me, Wayne."

He laughed and his handsome face twisted into an ugly grimace. "You're right. I don't want to hurt you. I want to kill you."

She inhaled a sharp breath, her throat tightening. There was nowhere to run. He'd shoot her before she could take two steps. She stared into the business end of his gun and waited in frozen disbelief for the bullet that would end her life.

A movement out of the corner of her eye caught Liz's attention. She shifted her gaze to the doorway where Sharon stood, white-faced. The secretary's mouth hung open and her eyes were glazed with panic.

The thought of Sharon's three small children roused Liz from her paralysis. She gave a minute shake of her head as a warning to the other woman not to intrude.

Seeing the tiny motion, Wayne turned.

Yup, this'll do it. I'll read on. I'll turn off the phone and the email and sit back to find out what happens. There's some tightening up like taking out "She inhaled a sharp breath", but this is good as it stands.


kitty said...


Shalanna Collins said...

I'm happy for the author who gets to send to Miss Snark (whoever she may be In Real Life). But I see this as pulp fiction (and not the movie), not as good fiction. With this opening, I am not invested in the characters at all. If this is the opening, it's too abrupt. Why should I care about Liz? Who is she beyond a stick figure that some nut (also a stick figure) is threatening? Now, if we'd had a short scene that was intriguing and raised a story question before this one, then maybe I would have felt some connection to the character(s). I would open with something like this:

The front of the manila envelope read, "Photographs. Do Not Bend."
"Oh, they don't, do they?" Liz Weeks tore open the envelope. It was more of the same. Photos of naked bodies, rolling around in jello. Her face superimposed on one of the orgyplayers. Who would spend so much time making these up, let alone spend money sending them to her? She sucked in a sharp breath* and started ripping them in half.
The phone buzzed. "Someone here to see you," said Receptiony.
"It'll be a minute," Liz began.
Her office door banged open. Wayne stood in the door, in Clint Eastwood stance, holding a Ruger.
. . .
(And so forth from there.)

Now, what does this opening do for us? It intrigues us. It makes us "understand" what is going on, possibly, or at least make a guess. We don't need some vague reference to Liz's childhood yet, or what-have-you, because we're thinking, he's the ex or the husband or someone who knows about the photos. . . .

Anyhow, don't listen to ME. I'm just an old-school type who doesn't know about the market. But isn't there still a reason to interest people in the fates of your characters before throwing them into battle on the first line?

Inquiring minds want to know.

* I thought that was too good a pulpfic line to lose.

(that's my verification word for this post--isn't it cool? Very Persian-looking. Looks a little like "quisling.")

Miss Snark said...

I think the very strength of this is that we don't know why Wayne is there. It makes me want to find out. On the other hand, your alternate isn't half bad...a bit overused, but I see your point. The nice thing is there isn't ONE right way to do this and as we saw in the apple tree post...you can break all the rules and STILL be great. Isn't writing wonderful?

My verification word --dxwnxx...sounds like something you'd take for snarkolepsy.

TStockmann said...

I can't tell you how much this entry depressed me. After the pass on 53 - which I rather liked - because it wasn't fresh enough, that the illustrious MissSnark found THIS to be showing-not-telling and worth reading, with the "icy terror" and "askew" appearance and "nightmare childhood" and "I don't want to hurt you. I want to kill you" and "frozen disbelief" means I'm utterly tonedeaf. I just kept wanting to shout "Biff! Pow!" I mean, it seemed to my actively bad, but perhaps this particular variety of "spine-tingling" (See! I can do it too!) is not "box office poison.(twice!)"

It was especially disquieting since you're so brilliant elsewhere. Makes me doubt my own ear. I hate that.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. Don't doubt yourself, tstockman. #55 is all pulpy cliche, ham-handed sentences, and flat characters we've seen 1,000 times before. The "icy terror" alone makes me want to go lie down. Sorry Miss Snark, I can't agree with you on this one.

Anonymous said...

Now, if we'd had a short scene that was intriguing and raised a story question before this one, then maybe I would have felt some connection to the character(s).
So you mean "Why has she got a gun shoved in her face?" isn't a story question. We're supposed to be dropped into the action. We can get exposition of Liz later.