Today we welcome an Anonymous Author with a first page that takes place in an unusual location—the East Siberian Sea. Please enjoy this submission. My comments follow.
Overhead clouds cast pale grey shadows over the floating ice chunks adrift on the East Siberian Sea. The Wolf stood at the prow of a crimson, expedition vessel, inhaled the unpolluted air of the Artic, and wondered if this refreshing air existed anywhere else on Earth. He marveled at the inviting crystal-clear water imprinted with cloud shadows, and the magnificent ice shelf that erosion had sculpted into a piece of frozen art. The silence stirred something within him a memory of gentler times, peaceful times.
The Wolf, aka, Dimitri Volkov tore his eyes from the surrounding beauty of nature and focused on a drifting iceberg 100 yards in the distance. He gazed at the NASA Aqua satellite photograph of a massive iceberg floating off the shoreline. He raised his binoculars and zoomed in on his target, inspecting the surface of the immense mountain of ice. A sharp crack vibrated through the air. Startled, he watched as a wall of ice broke off the ice floe and crashed into the sea. It disappeared beneath the icy water and shot an angry spray of seawater hundreds of kilometers into the air.
Dimitri grabbed his satellite phone and punched in a number. “Zdravstvuj, “Its here, but melting,” he said, in Russian. He listened for a moment, nodded several times, and ended the call. He twirled his fingers in the air and pointed to the sea. A sleek Poseidon inflatable boat splashed into the water; The Wolf shouldered a mustard-colored, waterproof equipment bag and lowered himself over the side, jumping the last few feet into the rubber dinghy. He revved the engine and maneuvered the inflatable toward the iceberg.
As he approached the glacial mass, Dimitri noticed the iceberg cast a blue-green sheen, a dead giveaway; the iceberg was melting faster than he thought. He nosed the inflatable to the base of the berg, shut off the engine, and pitched the anchor overboard. He opened his equipment bag and snagged a pickaxe, ice drill, laser, clawed shoe cleats, and a spool gun. Aiming the spool gun at the iceberg, He shot an aluminum wire into the iceberg twenty feet above the waterline.
The ice creaked, moaned.
Concern clouded Dimitri’s deep-set, black eyes as he glanced up. A crack appeared in the center of the blue-green haze.
Okay, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.
The setting with ice floes and an expedition ship in arctic waters is exotic and intriguing. But you need to spell Arctic correctly. I’m guessing this is the start of a thriller or Clive Cussler-style adventure about climate change and melting polar ice caps, with the potential for international conflict because of the geographical location, north of Russia near Alaska. That’s compelling.
However, the title Sofa doesn’t hint at anything like that. My first thought was couch? Not compelling. You’ll come up with something better, perhaps relating to the locale, the intrigue, or the conflict.
The second sentence begins with The Wolf. Right away, I thought that was the ship’s name because ship names are italicized while human names generally are not. Why introduce the character in a way that causes momentary confusion?
Instead: Dimitri Volkov, aka The Wolf, tore his eyes from the surrounding beauty…
Whoops, another hiccup. Eyeballs generally stay in their sockets unless someone tears them out. It’s the gaze or focus that can be torn from the surrounding beauty.
Your description is vivid and colorful, but inviting doesn’t feel like an accurate adjective for water that must be near freezing temperature. You do a good job with sensory detail–I can smell and taste the fresh bite of pristine air. Nicely done. His memory of “gentler times, peaceful times” hints that the present is neither gentle nor peaceful–good foreshadowing.
Strengthen the sentence even more by cutting the vague word “something”: The silence stirred
something a memory within him , a memory of gentler times, peaceful times.
Work on more precise word choices (details below). Improve the clarity of action so the reader can see exactly what is happening. Also cut repetitions of ice, iceberg, and icy. Here’s a possible rewrite of the second paragraph to address those issues:
The Wolf, aka, Dimitri Volkov, aka The Wolf, tore his eyes gaze from the beauty of nature surrounding him beauty of nature and focused on a drifting iceberg 100 yards meters in the distance. He gazed at compared it to the photograph he held in his left hand–a the NASA Aqua satellite image taken a year before of photograph of a massive the same iceberg floating off the shoreline. He raised his binoculars and zoomed in on his target, inspecting the surface. of the Although still immense, the mountain had shrunk significantly of ice.
[Paragraph break] A sharp crack
vibrated through the air. startled him. He watched as a wall of ice broke off the ice floe and crashed into the sea. It disappeared beneath the surface, icy water and shot an angry shooting spray of seawater hundreds of kilometers into the air.
Watch out for switches between US and metric measurements. The iceberg is 100 yards away, then water shoots hundreds of kilometers in the air. One hundred kilometers equals 62 miles in the air. I’m guessing you mean meters, not kilometers.
Next Dimitri jumps the last few feet into the dinghy and shoots a wire twenty feet above the water line.
Incorrect or inconsistent word choices jar the reader. Suggest you stick with the metric system since presumably Dimitri is Russian.
Need to fix typos in the following: Dimitri grabbed
his the satellite phone from his belt holster and punched in a number. “Zdravstvuj, “Its it’s here, but melting,” he said , in Russian.
This excerpt has been written in fairly close third-person point of view (POV). Yet you deliberately withhold the other side of the phone conversation. That may lead to the reader feeling cheated since the close POV gives him/her the expectation of hearing responses from the person Dimitri called. If the plot requires the speaker to be kept secret (and it probably does), suggest you come up with a different technique to mask that information.
Clarify the action in the below examples:
Why does Dimitri nod several times? That doesn’t make sense because the listener can’t see him unless it’s a video phone, unlikely in 2007.
Make clear when Dimitri twirls his fingers in the air that he is signaling to deckhands and giving the order that they lower the inflatable. As it reads now, the dinghy appears to fall magically from the heavens.
Recommend you replace semicolons with periods. Semicolons belong in nonfiction, not fiction.
Calling him both Dimitri and The Wolf seems unnecessary because, at this point, the reader doesn’t know the significance of the alias or code name. Suggest you defer the nickname until later, for instance, when another character refers to him as The Wolf or it comes up naturally as the plot unfolds. Right now, switching between the two names seems forced and pretentious.
Dimitri first needs to start the dinghy’s engine before he revs it.
Snagged is a good verb but it doesn’t quite fit here because he’s removing a number of items from the gear bag. Snagged sounds more like grabbing one item on the fly.
The following should read: Aiming the spool gun at the iceberg, he…
You say the iceberg cast a blue-green sheen. I like the visual a lot but the verb cast implies a reflection on another object, like the surface of the sea. A paragraph later, you write: A crack appeared in the blue-green haze. Is the reflection cracking or is it the actual iceberg? Suggest you find a more precise verb than cast, perhaps emitted a blue-green sheen or glowed with a blue-green sheen.
Don’t need italics for The ice creaked, moaned. By putting the sentence in a paragraph by itself, you’ve already emphasized it without using italics unnecessarily.
Concern clouded Dimitri’s deep-set, black eyes is a POV lapse. He can’t see his own eyes cloud or that they’re deep-set. Also black eyes raises a question for the reader. Does he have a pair of shiners? Or is the iris color a very dark brown?
A few paragraphs earlier, Dimitri just watched a massive wall of ice crash into the sea. Now he’s at the base of the same iceberg. It could come down on him. Wouldn’t his reaction to the cracking sound be more extreme than simply glancing up? If it were me, I would jerk back, haul up the anchor, and get the hell out of there!
I realize you’re at the end of the first page but Dimitri should have a stronger reaction to the danger.
Brave Author, you have a colorful setting and you’ve set up a promising conflict that could go in interesting directions. But your attention to detail needs work. Correct punctuation, accurate proofreading, and precise word choice are vital. Once you master those skills, you should have an exciting story.
Be especially careful with word choice. Remember Mark Twain’s admonition:
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning–bug and the lightning.”
Your turn, TKZers. What suggestions can you offer our Brave Author?