HH Com Rd 2- #6 (100)

Hook Here

Okay, Megan." Bill the engineer's voice echoed in the shadowy studio. "Your second caller tonight is Regina, who says she's having suicidal thoughts."

"Are you—" The intro music blared, ended. Megan glared both at Bill and her new boss Richard Randall, the station manager. They'd agreed calls like this would be referred to a suicide hotline. The silence stretched. Bill waved his arms and pointed, his face reddening.

Dead air was the worst thing that could happen on the radio. Richard drummed that into her so hard in the last few weeks leading to this inaugural show, silence of any kind was starting to make Megan uncomfortable. Not good when you lived alone and had no friends.

"Welcome back to Personal Demons," she finally said. "Our next caller is Regina. Hi Regina, how can I slay your demons tonight?"

Richard nodded. They'd fought over that stupid opening line, just as they'd fought over the immense publicity campaign the studio orchestrated. (radio stations are called stations, not studios. Movie companies are studios)

Richard won, because Richard signed the paychecks. (take out the because and make two shorter sentences. It brings that bit of explanation to a close and signals we're moving on)

Silence. Megan tried again. "Regina? Welcome to the show, Regina."

"I'm scared." The small, almost childish voice brought with it a rush of images that raised goosebumps on Megan's skin. The pale, pointed face of a woman, her limp blond hair tucked behind her ears. Blood, red and viscous, washed across her skin and hid her features. Gnarled six-toed feet stepped in the blood and left prints. (take out everything in italics)

Megan gasped, jumping back in her chair. The vision was so real for a second she expected to see the horrible footprints on the floor of the studio. She shook her head. What the hell was that? (you say this better in the next paragraph)

Bill and Richard went crazy behind the glass. Oops. Time to pretend she wasn't psychic and hadn't just been assaulted by images she didn't understand.

"Sorry, sorry Regina . We had a minor technical problem. You said you're scared?"

"Yes." Regina sniffled. "I can't do it anymore. I can't take it anymore."

"Can't take what?" Now the initial terrifying flash had passed, Megan received more mundane pictures. A car, an office looking like every other office. An attractive man, smiling down at her—at Regina. A boyfriend, maybe?

"The voices. They talk to me all the time. When I'm awake, when I'm asleep…I hear them."


Regina didn't answer right away. Megan pictured her nodding, forgetting they were on the phone. "Evil voices. They tell me to…to hurt myself. To hurt other people. And I don't do it, but I think I might. I have to make them stop."

Shit. This was much, much worse than anything Megan could handle over a quick radio phone call. "Okay, Regina," she said. "Where do you hear these voices? Is it just when you're alone, or is it when other people are with you?"

"At first it was just when I was alone. I tried to be around people all the time, you know? To keep them quiet. But now they're always talking, singing…chanting."

"And you're thinking of harming yourself?"

Regina sobbed, her hitching breaths loud through the phone. "I don't know how to make them be quiet. They won't go away, they won't go away, and they say horrible things, and they want me to do horrible things, and I think if I were dead I wouldn't hear them anymore. I don't want to die. But I can't listen to them anymore either." (exclamation points, use judiciously are your friends)

Regina's problems went further than simply being lonely and depressed. Megan didn't feel organic mental illness from the girl, but mentally sound people did not hear voices. And none of this accounted for that scaly, misshapen foot or the panic it inspired.

"Regina, suicide is never the answer. Listen to me. You can be helped. We can find out why this is happening to you, and we can make those voices go away. Okay? You can be happy again. You're a good person, Regina, and you deserve to be happy, right?"

"I don't know. I don't think so. They told me I'm not, they told me they're with me because I'm bad."

"You're not bad, Regina," Megan forgot her nerves, forgot the radio listeners, and spoke directly to Regina. "Not at all. I bet the people you work with don't think you're bad, do they?" The face of the man in the office flashed up again. "Maybe there's a few people there you can trust, who you can talk to?"

Regina blew her nose, which sounded wonderful on-air. "Maybe."

Pare down. You only need to say things once. And you'd benefit from speaking this aloud and seeing how you'd say it if you were actually talking.

I like this idea, I thought the hook was really good, but it needs more polish before I'd read past the five pages you'd send in a query.


Anonymous said...

I loved this hook, and I think the writing here is strong. Sure, it could be pared down a bit, but I'm definitely hoping someone picks this up. Good luck, author!

Knightsjest said...

I don't understand why she is doing a radio show, it seems like the last thing someone with her abilities but lack of other social skills would choose to do. How can she be thrown by this with her abilities eg.

"Shit. This was much, much worse than anything Megan could handle over a quick radio phone call."

I think you need to give us a reason why she there soon (and money is not enough). It may be you need a different aciton opening to give some set up on the character and story to keep it convincing.

Stacia said...

Let this be a lesson to all of us:

Don't panic and re-write your opening because of an unexpected pages request, and send what is essentially a barely-edited first draft!

(The "studio/station" thing was a typo, oops.)

angie said...

Minor quibbles here. I'd suggest letting the reader know that Megan is a therapist. You could fit this info in with the intro "Welcome back to Personal Demons with..."

I'd ditch the part about Megan being uncomfortable with silences - any therapist worth his/her salt knows the value of silence at key moments. Also, no therapist worth a damn would say "how can I slay your demons tonight." It's always about working together, not about the therapist "fixing" the client. So maybe something like "how can I help you" or "how can we slay."

Sorry, but after a number of years in the field these details rang false for me.

I still think this could be a great story - really interesting way to turn expectations upside down. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Intriguing idea. Slow, dense execution. Chop out some of the underbrush so we can get to the trees.

Dave Fragments said...

You have to go back to your writing and look for repetitions and redundancies. Miss Snark gave you a look at some of them. It's hard to edit for repeats because both sets of words sound so good. What it does is to tighten the action and make the story flow.

As you currently wrote it, the time between "Megan gasped" and "Bill and Richard's reaction" slows to too many words. Those two were vigilant enough to see the reaction and know to jump into the radio broadcast. Let the original description of the the vision float in the reader's mind as Megan gasps and thinks What was that?... Bill will interupt them just like he did on the radio show.

I hope that helps explain the edit.

The other repeat is much harder to find. I do it in my writing and I spend many edits trying to remove the repeat. It's the repeat of the line: "This was much, much worse than anything Megan could handle over a quick radio phone call." and the line "Regina's problems went further than simply being lonely and depressed." They both describe the fact that this caller has mjore problems than can be handled on the phone. However, the first is lef thanging because Megan has to make sure the caller doesn't hand up before she thinks aboutfinding a non-radio solution. It's hard to find them because they are so displaced from each other. However, one is out of place and disrupts the action and the other is not.

I hope that helps. This is good stuff.

Anonymous said...

I'm with lpa. There is nothing wrong here that a good editor couldn't fix. I'd like to read this story.

Good luck and speedy publication, author.

McKoala said...

DQ, didn't you have an opening up on EE that was kind of like this and yet different?! I think I preferred that one, from what I can remember it was tighter, but if this was a first draft rewrite then that's probably why.

I would read on, like I said on one of the others, the blurb would make me want to stay with it and see the story unfold. I just think that the writing could be tighter. One thing that I don't like, but it might just be me, is too much explanation and naming in the first few paras of a story e.g. 'Bill the engineer' and 'her new boss, Richard Randall, the station manager'. I'd rather see this come out of the story - particularly in Bill's case where I think that we can see his role through his actions. I also think that we could do without the private life revelation in para 3 - that could be shown later. These are just things that would allow you to get to the phone call faster - the phone call that I assume is going to kick off the plot.

Camille Alexa said...

I like the way this jumps right into action, while still giving a sense of what direction the story's heading and who the main character is. Sometimes, writers seem so enamored of their action they forget to reveal enough about the personalities behind the activity (or so 'into' their characters' internal workings they forget to create any external action). Not so, here. Nice work.

Angus Weeks said...

I thought the hook had promise. I get the impression there might be somewhere else in your story that would make a better starting point.

If you stick with this start, perhaps the the caller could have a problem a little less intense than suicide? It just seems to me that we as readers should be more concerned with your main character Megan and her state of mind, and not the state of mind of the caller at this point (I am of course assuming the caller as a person is peripheral to the plot).

This is just one opinion, however. I think you have promise, and it is a pity you sent in, as you say above, a hastily written first draft (I revised my own before submission and I also think I might regret it!)

Stacia said...

Yes, I did post the original opening on EE a month or so ago--and people liked it, so I guess my decision to cut the first radio call and start with this one wasn't a good one, huh? :-)

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

Anonymous said...

I like it though I agree it could be tidied up a little bit. Good luck, I would like to read it one day.

Anonymous said...

I think we all out-think ourselves every now and again. I say don't sweat it. Do what you know you need to do and press on. A lot of people like this story and for good reason.

I was thinking exclaimation point! at the same place MS was. I think that's the first thing I've been right about this year. -JTC

Nancy Beck said...

Great job, December! :-) Loved it on EE (and I know it's different here), and loved it here.

A bit o'tightening, and I think it's a winner. I definitely buy it.

Good job!