Today we have the first page of a story called CRYSTAL WHITE. My comments follow in the bullets.
Assistant Special-Agent-in-Charge Nick Lafferty swore at his vibrating cell phone, trapped in the breast pocket of his suit jacket, trapped under his DEA-issued body armor. He ripped open the top Velcro strap. The noise reverberated through the warehouse. Then he contorted to fish his hand under the vest trying to reach the damn thing before it rang again.
A passing police sergeant, in gray urban fatigues, body armor and carrying an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, let him know, “Sharp shooters are in position, Agent Lafferty. Ready when you are.”
He nodded thanks. With the cell phone firmly in hand, he flipped it open. “Lafferty here.”
“Lafferty here too,” his wife, Renee, said, mimicking his stern, gruff voice, then laughing. “Except for us here is on the boat. We’re missing you. Any chance you’ll be able to join us?”
It was Sunday morning. He’d promised to take Renee and Vicki, their seven-year-old daughter, out for the day on their 32-foot Chris Craft Catalina, the YOU CAN RUN. They kept it docked at the marina off Harbor Drive in San Diego Bay. By now the sun would be full up, warm, baking the dry, gray wharf and the teak aft decking of the boat. Gulls would be circling and cawing, begging for handouts from the boaters and fishermen hanging off the piers.
A light breeze gently snapping the harbor flags, carrying with it an intoxicating aroma of salt water, wet rope and diesel fuel. He could practically hear the lapping of waves, the thump of fiberglass hulls against rubber bumpers, the creak of straining ropes.
He glanced around at the warehouse his
Instead he was here, with his Mobile Enforcement
“I don’t know, honey,” Lafferty said into the phone. “I need to see how this thing plays out.”
- This first page seems to be a promising story–I like the sense we’re getting of the main character. I would keep reading, but I did get frustrated by the fact that the opening scene lacks action and suspense. We open on an armed officer, and he’s at a stakeout. This setup should be suspenseful. But then: 1) his cell phone rings; 2) his colleagues are seen standing around joking; 3) he has a conversation with his wife; 4) we get a description of his boat, which is docked someplace else, gulls circling, etc. All of these things drain the drama from the opening scene.
- I think it would be more effective to open later into the action–open big, provide some drama and suspense, and then you can add the personal background, the wife, etc.
- I’m not a big fan of prologues, in general. But if you do use a prologue, it should draw the reader in faster than this one does.
- I don’t think you need to have “Assistant Special-Agent-in-Charge” in the first sentence. We’ll get an idea that this character is an agent through the dialogue and action.
- I would like to see more about the goal of the “impromptu operation,” and less about the things that distract from the suspense. So I would suggest that the writer tighten the scene.
- There’s a lot of description of what everyone is wearing (vest, camouflage, body armor), but nothing that conveys what they’re trying to accomplish.
- Is there supposed to be any tension in this scene? The fact that the men are joking and telling war stories conveys an air of relaxation, not suspense.
What do you guys think?