First Page Critique – Renegades

Jordan Dane


My first critique for 2016. For your reading pleasure, we have RENEGADES, submitted anonymously for feedback. My comments will be on the flip side. Please provide your constructive criticism in your comments. Our brave author appreciates the help.

I'm dating myself with this pic of Lorenzo Lamas as RENEGADE

I’m dating myself with this pic of Lorenzo Lamas as RENEGADE


Miami, Florida
Friday, March 30, 2012
3:25 PM

Silvana Machado’s cell phone went off while she was pistol-whipping a street punk. He’d gotten up in her face when she and Vargas confronted him after they spotted two hookers slipping cash into his palm. He wasn’t particularly well turned out, wearing fairly ordinary clothing, utterly lacking the gaudy flash popular in pimpdom. She made him as a newbie, just getting his enterprise off the ground. He’d gotten out of a black Dodge Charger, not a bad car, but a far cry from your typical pimp’s tricked-out ride. She eyed the caller ID on the bleating phone. Headquarters.

She holstered her weapon and opened the call. “Machado.” Bobby Vargas held on to the the punk.

“Sergeant Machado, Lieutenant Santos here. What’s your location?”

Silvana stepped away from her partner and the punk, just out of earshot. “Northwest 26th Avenue, just off 50th Street, sir.”

“What are you doing?”

“Questioning a suspect, sir. Possible involvement in last week’s drug murder in this neighborhood.”

“Forget it. Get over to 75th and Biscayne, the Sea & Sand Motel. On the double. The manager found a body in one of the rooms.”

“Yes, sir.” She swiped the call off and turned back to the punk, now sniveling. His lip was slashed open. A mouse was forming over his swollen left eye. She pushed a heavy lock of mousey-brown hair back from her face and held out her palm. “Give.” Two snaps of her thick fingers.

“Gi-give what?” the punk said.

Vargas landed a hard knee into his skinny back. He buckled.

“The money, dipshit,” Silvana said. He resisted no more. She reached into his pockets and pulled out a wad of cash, maybe twelve or thirteen hundred. “Now, I understand they call you G-Man.” His head went up and down fast a couple of times. “Okay, G-Man, get this straight.” She held up the cash, close to his bleeding face. “This is your initiation fee.
From now on, it’ll cost you one grand a week to run your whores in this neighborhood. You understand?”

He said, “A grand? Man, that’s a ”

Another whack of her semiauto across his face. Blood flew from his mouth, nearly hitting Vargas’s sleeve. She was well-muscled and that one had to hurt.

“One thousand. Every Friday. Four PM, right here at this corner. You miss a payment or if we don’t find you on Friday, we’ll find you on Saturday and you won’t see Sunday. You hearing me?”

He nodded.

“Say it!” she said.

“One th-thousand. Every Friday. Four  four o’clock. I-I hear you.”


OVERVIEW – I think I met this woman at my last high school reunion. Interesting voice for this character. I’m not sure if she is an anti-hero or a baddee, but I’m willing to find out. I love a well-drawn anti-hero. I’d keep reading. Below are some suggestions:

STICK WITH THE ACTION – In the first paragraph, the first sentence sets up the action that is taking place, but then the author immediately takes us out of the action by setting up what led to the pistol-whipping and what the pimp is wearing and what he drives. I’d suggest taking care of some of this set up (ie like why the hookers were slipping him cash) with dialogue but stick with the action to keep the reader in the moment and totally buying into the danger of the scene. I can see her making taunting fun of him to her “look the other way” partner. The longer explanation diffuses the moment. But I laughed out loud when I heard her say, “Questioning a suspect” to her LT. Slam dunk on timing of a great line. I almost don’t want to read the next line – “Possible involvement in last week’s drug murder in this neighborhood.” Author might consider dropping it to sharpen the dark humor to this scene.

GUN USE – I have a thing about a cop using his/her weapon to beat someone with. She then puts the bloody weapon into her holster to spread the DNA. I know this is done a lot in TV and movies, but does anyone else take issue with this? My police officer friend gave me his input and I can’t post what he said here. This is a family blog.

TAG LINE/DATE USE – In the tag line at the top, the author uses the year 2012, which dates this story. I can see if a particular date is important for a period piece, but if the intention is simply to set the stage for something that occurred 3 years ago, then it might be better to use something like: March – Three years ago. I can see this set up to flash forward to present time when we encounter Silvana again.

EMBEDDED DIALOGUE – In the paragraph that begins, “The money, dipshit,” Silvana said, this weightier paragraph has a number of dialogue exchanges in it. Personally I like pulling out as much dialogue, for readers to follow easily. In a wordy paragraph that looks like a narrative, a reader might skim over or lose some lines. I prefer seeing dialogue more clearly and with more white space on the page as a respite for the eye.

SPELL CHECK – Words like “mousey” and “dipshit” show as misspelled and “”semiauto” should be hyphenated. Also, the time “Four PM” does not have to have the caps.

For Discussion: Any other comments of feedback for this courageous author, TKZers? Would you keep reading?

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