Today, another Brave Author gives us a first page to critique, The Blood Zone.
Let me take a deep dive into this first page, and then you, TKZ readers, can give our author your thoughts. Here’s the page, and my critique follows.
### ### ###
The Blood Zone
They’d lost contact with the dive team over an hour ago.
Reece Jordan looked up from her monitors and through the foot-thick tempered glass window. The one hundred meters of water above muted the sun’s radiance. At best, it illuminated the depths like moonlight through a cathedral’s windows.
Her chair squealed as she shifted back to the screens. She did her best to ignore the sound. Everything creaked, squeaked, or shed rust flakes in an underwater habitat like Sirenica. On a bad day, her monitoring center sounded like a fleet of cars with worn-out brakes.
A rap-rap-rap came from the open hatchway. Jordan didn’t look up. She knew her boss’ tics better than anyone.
“Anything?” Dylan Sawyer asked. The woman’s short blonde hair clung to her scalp as if she wore a skullcap. Another perk of living in a high-moisture environment.
Jordan shook her head. “Not a peep. I’ve got both ROVs on a search pattern.”
The remotely operated underwater vehicles were the size of large dogs. They sported a pair of grasping claws on either side of a cyclopean camera lens. Each could operate long distances without a tether.
But the ocean was a big place.
“Peterson would’ve said something if he felt uncomfortable.” That was an understatement. Peterson and the two other men on his team had a combined fifty years of experience working under deep dive conditions.
“Even three people can get the nark. At the same time, too.”
Jordan nodded. Nitrogen narcosis could hit hard and fast at this depth. A too-quick depth change could fog the brain as effectively as chugging a bottle of Tennessee whiskey.
Her monitor emitted a ping.
“I’ve got something.”
In an instant, Sawyer was up and looking over her shoulder. “Show me.”
Jordan tapped a few keys. The monitor switched over to one of her ROV’s cameras. Her breath whistled out through her lips as the image of two divers came into focus.
Peterson swam with a crab-like motion. His right arm curled around one of his fellow divers, dragging him forward through the water. Dark streamers of some strange material rippled from the edges of the two men’s suits.
“The hell is that?” Sawyer peered at the screen. “And what’s that black cloud trailing them?”
Jordan swallowed. “It’s blood.”
### ### ###
Elaine Viets’ comments
This is an excellent beginning, with one major problem: Where the hell are we? As readers, we’re as adrift as the three lost divers.
This problem can be easily remedied in the third paragraph, Brave Author. Tell us about the underwater habitat, Sirenica. You say it’s rusting and noisy, but how old is it? How many people live aboard? What is their purpose: Are they oceanic researchers? If so, which ocean? Are they explorers on another planet, and this takes place in a sci-fi future? Let us know.
Otherwise, there’s much to like here, starting with the title, which immediately grabbed my attention. The writing is clear and crisp, and the various dangers are pointed out quickly: the divers could be lost in a vast ocean, or suffering from nitrogen narcosis.
A few nits to pick: I’d change moonlight through a cathedral’s windows to moonlight through a cathedral window.
Also, I’d say the woman’s short blonde hair clung to her scalp like a skullcap, not as if she wore a skullcap.
And is clinging, damp hair really a “perk” – a benefit? Or is it simply a “result” of living in a high-moisture environment?
And finally, you need a more specific object in this sentence: “Shouldn’t have sent them down there in suits” might read better as:“Shouldn’t have sent the divers down there in suits.”
Otherwise, you have a good beginning with a nice, creepy opening. Well done, Brave Author. I hope the rest of this adventure makes it to publication.
Can you kill someone with a pink plastic flamingo? Read The Pink Flamingo Murders and find out. Win the new e-book version by clicking Contests at www.elaineviets.com