HH Com Rd 2 - #4 (76)

Down Under (hook here)

New York City. August 3.

“We have a problem.”

The man behind the desk reached for a pen. “Well? I’m waiting.”

“You’re not going to like this,” his caller warned. “McDermott’s dead.” (you don't need "warned" cause you've already got "you're not going to like this. You don't even need "his caller warned. We know who's talking)

“How? Who?” The man demanded, in the voice of someone who expects his questions to be answered. (too much description slows down the narration)

“I’m not entirely sure. Autopsy’s pending, but fortunately I’ve got a local contact feeding me the results. Prelim cause of death is drowning. He was fished out of the harbor in Cairns after one of the tourists spotted a body floating in the water. Apparently, our group went out on a little cruise to the reef, and somewhere along the way, McDermott went overboard.

“Since he’s not the suicidal type, I suspect he had some help, but whether he was pushed, doped and pushed, clubbed and pushed, or otherwise assisted, I don’t know. The crew’s pretty careful about keeping track of the passengers, so they know everyone was accounted for when they left the reef. They usually do a head count when they arrive back in Cairns, but hadn’t had a chance before the body was spotted.

“It seems he was entangled in some sort of rope. I don’t know if that was deliberate, because someone wanted the body found, or an accident. It’s possible that his killer thought his disappearance might be overlooked.

“The boat had a couple of other tour groups on board, so besides our friends, there’s about 100 more suspects to consider, not counting the crew.”

“What about the tourist that discovered him?” Theman was jotting notes on a piece of paper.

“That’s the funny thing. She’s about the only one on the ship that has an alibi. It was one of the Boston women, Zoe Chandler. Apparently the lady was suffering from a bout of mal-de-mer, and spent the trip back either inside under the watchful eye of the bartender, or outside under the watchful eye of the captain. They’re probably used to seasick tourists, but this one is young and cute, and the crew is mostly male. She was wrapped up in a bright fluorescent yellow and pink towel, not exactly inconspicuous. If she moved, she’d have had at least one if not more of
the men at her side. (this is all set up blather)

“I’m mainly concentrating on our group, but I can’t rule out a crew member, or even one of the other tourists. I can’t believe coincidence, but I also can’t understand who would have anything to gain from his death.”

“Don’t you worry about that.” The man capped his pen. (what an odd thing to notice or include) “Just keep your eye on all of them, and don’t forget what you’re there for.”

“I won’t,” his caller said softly, and hung up.

Boston. February 14.

When my friend Jenna first invited me to accompany her to Australia, I had no idea what the future held. I pictured a trip filled with fuzzy kangaroos, handsome cowboys, and exotic fish, all bordered by deep blue ocean. And sunshine, but since it was a typical Boston winter, I would have stuck a sunny beach into any fantasy. In fact, had I known what I was actually getting into, I would have stayed home. It’s too bad no one has invented a good way to predict the future like they do the weather.

(here's your starting point)
“The forecast for Sydney in August: cloudy and cool, with a chance of corpses.”

We had just gone to a movie, to celebrate both being single on Valentine’s Day, and returned to Jen’s Back Bay condo to drown our sorrows with the better part of a bottle of Chardonnay. Outside, the wind was blowing and the streets were covered in dirty grey snow, so it was no wonder that the picture of bikini-clad surfers caught my attention. “What’s this,” I asked, picking up the thick brochure.

“Oh, that’s a conference I’m going to this summer. One of those dull programming seminars, but it’s in Sydney and the conference people have arranged for a couple of tours around Australia while we’re there. It’s a great deal-you get to visit the major tourist sites, probably for cheaper than if I arranged it all on my own.

“Actually, Zoe, you should come with me. It’s even cheaper if I share a room with someone, but I don’t want to deal with some random stranger. You can take a week or so off in August, can’t you? It’ll be fun.”

“I’ve always wanted to visit Australia,” I mused, looking wistfully at the surfers.

Splat splat splat. You've got a big fat wad of information in the first part--a dreaded prologue I fear. First of all, no one talks like that. Shorter sentences will help.

Second, you've told us there's a corpse, then you go back to Boston to let us know that Zoe is on her way to Sydney in six months?? I KNEW that.

Get to the story. Prune ruthlessly.


Knightsjest said...

Start in Australia with the corpse or close to, unless there is something important that happens before. Any necessary back story can come out as you go, you can use your mc 'voice' but I don't think telling in flashback strengthens it any.

Anonymous said...

Didn't like the hook, either.

Sherryl said...

"Just keep your eye on all of them, and don’t forget what you’re there for."
It seemed that the prologue was all about setting up this particular character. Not needed. The prologue takes all the suspense out of it. I'd want to find these things out as the story develops.

Kiki said...

I hate the foreshadowing/flashback combo. It takes the reader out of the story.
Plus, maybe it's just me, but I will instantly forget what I've read in a prologue once the timeline shifts. it's as if I've simply discarded the opening story for another one. Then once we get back to the action, I may or may not realise I've read parts of it before.

Oh, and 'a week or so' in Sydney wouldn't leave much time for touring around Australia. Presumably, these people will be there to, you know, attend the conference, not travel. And it's far to *everywhere* in Australia. Several hours by plane in any direction. So they really couldn't do more than one thing in that week on top of their conference.

Anonymous said...

re: the "warning" note...

The very first sentence I read in any Harry Potter book, over the shoulder of a guy sitting next to me on the subway, was something like:

"Watch out!" Harry said warningly.

The redundancy along with the ridiculous adverb pretty much soured me to her writing ability from the start. And while I have gotten into the series since then, I still read with a pencil, circling the most absurd adverbs and sentences I see. Unfortunately for this writer and others, if there are exceptions to the rules, Miss Joanne's already taken her fair share and then some.

Anonymous said...

Author, you're missing a lot of opportunities to make things interesting for your reader.

New York City. August 3.

“We have a problem.”

The man behind the desk reached for a pen. “Well?”

“You’re not going to like this. McDermott’s dead.”


“I’m not entirely sure..."

I know I left you with only talking heads which is not the best, but it's up to you to spice things up. I won't write that for you.

I would give the man a name, for one thing, not call him "the man".

Also, phone guy is giving out an info dump and answer guy is not reacting. You have an opportunity to give a bit of a description of answer guy's reaction, so we can understand his relationship to phone guy and dead guy. No one would really pump all that info into a guy on the other end of a phone and not pause, apologize, etc. something.

Show us a bit more who phone guy, answer guy, and dead guy are by how the living people react to their conversation about dead guy.

Good luck!

McKoala said...

I'm sorry, I didn't like the first part either. I found it very indigestible and we learn nothing about either man. Are they important to the plot? Either way, I think that you don't need this conversation here. I also think that you could start with her right in Oz. The conversation with Jenna seems to be there only to let us know that she's single and going to Oz - we can find that out when she's there. Start with her on the deck of the boat? Spotting the corpse? I liked your 'forecast' sentence - it had a tone to it that was missing from the rest.

I've got to agree that 'a couple of tours around Australia' in a week is impossible. This place is vast.

Anonymous said...

This one really intrigues me, not so much for its own merits, but why snarko got hooked to begin with (sorry author).

In fact, seems the comments to the hook were nearly a unanimous "huh?"

So, it's interesting in that it reveals Snark's tastes in material. I hate to say it, but I think she likes formula stuff, the good-selling, fast moving, but well-written formula stuff, some-may-call-it-crap, but people buy it.

Note to author: You ARE on the right track, there's a market for this material, just prune like snark says and you'll get there.

Anonymous said...

The girl's looking for sunny beaches. Isn't August in Sydney like, winter?

Anonymous said...

We call cowboys jackaroos/jillaroos in Australia. Australia is in winter in August, but Sydney has mild winters - not exactly beach weather, but if you're keen enough...