3rd SR Crapometer #24

Dear Miss Snark:

After sending her ex-fiancé, Jack Fishen, behind bars for murdering her father, Stephen Parks, Holly Parks comes close to losing it. (losing what? she has mixed feelings about the murder of her father?) When Stan Jacobs offers her the chance to work in Mexico City, Holly jumps at the opportunity. But when Stan begins stalking Holly, she must
return to Minnesota and fight for the truth about her father, ex-fiancé, and past. (what's the Spanish word for lurid?)

"Guilty as Charged" will be (is it finished? it better be. Query me about an unfinished novel and it's an auto-no) about 85,000 words in length. Those who read it will also enjoy the works of Mary Higgins Clark and Catherine Coulter. (err...you've got the comparison wrong. You mean to say people who read Mary Higgins Clark and Catherine Coulter will also like your work. So far however, that's not the case)

I have lived in Mexico for more than six years. I have worked as a freelance writer for one year.
(do I want to know what you were doing for those five years? Stalking? Bullfighting?)

Following is the opening of "Guilty as Charged." I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you! (I won't hold you to that)


I'd stop reading here if this was in the slush pile.

Guilty as Charged

The black waters of the Mississippi swirled twenty feet below me. I leaned over the ledge, peering into the darkness. The first raindrops of the approaching storm landed on the river. They splattered on the surface and then dissolved into the murky waters.

The storm intensified. The rain, now coming down in sheets, slammed into the back of my neck. I bent further over the edge of the bridge, searching for a glimpse of the water. Bolts of lightning flashed above me. In the instant of light, the river was clear. It churned below me,
offering an invitation. Then the thunder rolled, taking the light and the river scene with it.

My thoughts swirled together with the waters. I saw Jack, sitting in the courtroom, his shoulders squared. He faced the judge, who was reading something. "…by the authority…sentence Jack Fishen to life in prison…"

"No!" I cried. My voice was swept away in the wind and swallowed by the thunder. I gripped the ledge with both hands. Lightning flashed. The ring on my left hand appeared for a moment. I tugged it off with my right hand and leaned further over the edge. The ring dangled
between my thumb and index finger. The only thing separating it from the water was air.

So it was over. We both knew it. It was time to accept reality. I had to move on, had to rid my chest of the awful pain, had to put the past behind-

"Don't jump!" The loud voice boomed into my ears. Startled, I straightened up and took a step away from the ledge. A tall figure stood about five feet away. Faint shades of blue and red fell on his face. I followed the light sources back to a squad car. It was parked behind my Nissan Altima. "Is everything okay, Miss?" he continued.

I slipped the ring back on my finger and raised both hands in the air.
"No problem here, officer." (yes there is)

He held my gaze. "What brings you to park on a bridge during a thunderstorm?"

"I was just…" my voice trailed off as I searched for a reasonable excuse.

He took a few steps toward the ledge, using his body to separate me from the railing. "Did anything go wrong? Something that made you want to end things tonight?"

I took another step back, away from the officer. "No, no, nothing like that. Don't worry, I wasn't going to jump." (I'll pay you to fling me over the rail right now..will a $20 be enough?)

He didn't seem convinced. He scanned my soaked hair and suit. Then, slowly, he continued, "Well, alright. But you can't park here. It's illegal to park on this bridge." (yea, there's a strategy for would be suicides---ticket them for illegal parking)

"I'm sorry. I was just leaving." I headed to the driver's side of the car. (wait! wait! you forgot to fling me over the side!)

The rain had let up during our conversation, making it easier to see. I put my hand on the door handle. Before I opened it, I glanced at the police officer. His whole face looked grim. Under a large nose, he wore a drenched mustache that turned down at the corners, matching the
frown on his lips. He must have caught a glimpse of me, too, because
he exclaimed, "Hey, you look familiar."

I opened the car door and turned my head away from him, but it wasn't enough to stop him. He continued, "Aren't you Mayor Park's-"

"Yes, I am." I jumped in the car and slammed the door shut. I drove off before he could ask any more questions.

What's the problem, the "my heroine is beset by this dilemma and must..."
Opening with weather and ring flinging is best left to Victorian melodrama.
For good visual assistance on "opening scenes" go watch The Wire. See what they do to open the show. It's very rarely static. We need action, not introspection. Unless of course she actually flings herself off the bridge, on fire. Now THAT I'd be interested in.


Anonymous said...

The writing is smooth and decent, but the situation and dialogue lacks believability. I didn't think for a moment that the woman was going to jump, and I actually (sorry) snickered when the officer yelled for her not to. Since I knew she wasn't going to jump, the whole scene was rendered pointless. The story didn't start here; this was disguised backstory, more than anything.

I think it's your transitions that are hurting your story's believability most. For example, the sheets of rain pounding onto the protagonist's neck were nice, but that came as a surprise to me, coming so quickly after mere rainsplats. Also, the transitions between committing-suicide and not-committing-suicide, and intervention and everything's-fine-now, are just a bit too abrupt to be believable.

Keep working on it, Author; you mostly just need practice. Good luck!

Bernita said...

Are sentences such as "The only thing separating it from the water was air." really necessary?
This is artificial drama, imho.

Anonymous said...

I'm agreeing on all counts. I think you just need to find a more immediate starting point and leave the flash backs, which feel like info dumps, for later. The jumper line of plotting needs more realism if you want to keep it. I also can't help suspecting that the brevity of the query was to get more room for the story itself. You have some interesting things in the query (too many names though, the father and ex-fiance can remain just that for purposes of the query). The plot shows promise.

December Quinn said...

I actually liked this opening. It reminded me of the gothic novels from the 60's I like so much.

I didn't like the plot, though.

Anonymous said...

I thought the opening was pretty good - the only thing I didn't like was when it flashed to her seeing her ex in the courtroom. (Do people really do that?)

However, the writing was good and I think that with a little fixin' this could be VERY good.

Anonymous said...

I liked the writing at the beginning of this excerpt, but I really wanted her to actually jump. There are a lot of bridge-jump scenes out there, but most of the ones I can think of off-hand don't have the character actually jump, so if she had jumped I would have been very interested.

Jo Bourne said...

I didn't get a sense of suspense from this one. I probably should.

There were a couple small points that distracted me
... are bridges across the Missip only 20 feet above water level?
... can you see rain drops hitting the water surface 25 feet below you ... would they make a noticeable speckle on a moving river?
... would a cop come running up saying 'Don't Jump!' instead of something more reassuring and placating?

If the writing grabbed hold of my throat I wouldn't read along, wondering these things.

Maybe I need a more specific, visual, vivid picture of what's happening.

Anonymous said...

At 20 ft. above water level, you're dangling from the bottom of the girders closest to the concrete river bank. Otherwise, you're on some creek bridge.

Now, you don't specify which part of the river you're on. So, I can only go by personal experience when I say that in St. Louis the Mississippi River is a muddy brown. On a good day, it might be a murky green. But in all my travels, I've never seen the "black waters of the Mississippi". Please send pics.

And what about the bridge traffic? You and the cop are parked on the bridge, yet no one is swearing, honking a car horn, or offering to assist you over the edge. WTF?