Aug 12, 2009


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A revision of the query has been posted, click here to read it.
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Hello everyone! Revised the opening pages of BROKEN based on feedback. Interested in comments of all sorts. Thank you again for your time!

She didn’t notice the blood at first.
Glittering packs of high-heeled twentysomethings shivered past her on their way from one bar to the next, and her head was thick from dollar pitchers with the boys after shift change.
She waved off catcalls from a man across the street who wasn’t shy about telling her how happy he could make her New Year.
“You a cop?” he asked, eyeing her uniform. “‘Cause I’m a bad, bad boy.”
Flashing the badge and writing up a horny drunk for public intoxication would have taken less than ten minutes, but she was off duty and close to the two bedroom apartment she shared with her kid sister, Connie.
The first few riffs of “Come on Eileen” burst through an open door, pummeling dirty snow banks and wobbly patrons who’d stepped outside for a smoke. She couldn’t place the other songs in the air. They were heavy with base and drums. The kind of music that Connie would know.
She didn’t hear a scream.
Connie was probably in one of these bars, wearing the skimpy Max Mara dress she’d borrowed to impress the bartender with the goatee who couldn’t take the night off. Connie could do better than that guy, she thought. Better than most of the guys she’d been dating.
She turned into the alley near the back entrance to their apartment complex. A sodium street lamp on the fritz flashed an orange glow across the dumpsters at unpredictable intervals, and something flickered in the darkness beneath a shadowy mound that resembled a garbage bag.
She didn’t see the blood.
Mrs. Lipinski, the old widow on the third floor, was dropping trash off the back porch again. She swore under her breath, expecting to find the alley littered with spoiled fish and cartons of rancid milk like last time.
She didn’t.
Her footsteps slowed to a halt. Her eyes settled on a high heel shoe poking out of the snow and found the mate flung inches away.
And when the sodium lamp flashed at the shadows again, Madeline Gunn saw the rest. She saw the ground beneath her oil-slicked with her sister’s blood. Blood that still gushed from the places where Connie’s flesh had been ripped down to muscle and bone. She saw the Max Mara dress shredded past her sister’s waist, exposing Connie’s bare, beaten body to the cold and the night.
Mostly, she saw that her sister had been running towards home, Madeline thought. And that she wasn’t there to save her.
Madeline dropped to her knees and cupped her sister’s still warm face in her hands. She stared into the glassy eyes that looked out at nothing and called Connie’s name until she knew that her sister would never reply with a word or a whisper.
Madeline Gunn rose to her feet and unholstered the gun at her waist. Her hands, wet with her sister’s blood, burned in the frozen wind. She stepped into the darkness, and her breath quickened to the ragged pant of an animal poised to kill.


TLH said...

I really like this. I have a good sense of your writing, which I think is excellent, your main character's demeanor and life, and you show rather than tell, which is always good!

One thing I would say is that I like to know a character's name from the start. It helps me connect with them, differentiate them from others. That's just a personal preference, though.

I would definitely keep reading at this point, though. If I were an agent, I would quickly want more!

Gina said...

I agree with TLH. It kind of threw me that I didn´t know the character´s name from the start, and perhaps kept me from engaging as much as I could´ve.

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys!

(these are my pages)
Would you just drop in the first name in the opening line and leave it at that? Would including her whole name be more effective?

Gina - any other issues that popped up as you read this? Thanks again for you time!

gj said...

You're mixing the distance of omniscient pov with the emotional connection of limited third-person pov, which dilutes the emotional impact of the scene.

You may be trying too hard too make your first sentence exciting (which is where the omniscience starts): "She didn’t notice the blood at first. "

Okay, if she didn't notice it, then who DID notice it; who's telling us about the blood? It's the omniscient narrator. Which, incidentally, may be why you're having trouble figuring out where to insert the heroine's name. If you were starting from her POV, you'd just say Madeline Gunn saw/did/thought something. But you're not in her POV; you're in an all-knowing POV, who's seen the future, seen that eventually she'll see the blood, but she doesn't see it yet.

I like the repetition in theory -- she didn't see the blood, she didn't hear the scream, etc., -- except that b/c it's in the negative, it's all outside her pov (b/c you're telling me she did NOT see/hear/etc. stuff), which makes it distant.

I'm not entirely sure how it could be reworked in third-limited, while keeping the repetition, so you may need to consider whether the advantages of the repetition are worth sacrificing the emotional connection with the heroine.

Omniscient pov is a perfectly valid literary tool to create distance between the narrator and the emotions, but the point of this scene seems to be all about emotion, so omniscient may not be the way to go.

Also, beware of over-writing. The music "pummeling" snowdrifts struck me as a bit much.

Gina said...

I don´t think you can insert the name into the first line, for reasons of POV that have been so well put above.
Inserting it into the second line will, imo, fix the POV issues, because right away we get the sense that there are two entities at work here: Madeline, and something/ someone who looks on from outside - maybe even Maddie herself, looking back after her gruesome find; it´s a symptom of deep shock that a person feels they are looking at themselves from outside. Therefore I actually like your device here very much, and I speak as someone who´s normally bugged to distraction by mistakes in POV.
So: ´She didn’t notice the blood at first.
Glittering packs of high-heeled twentysomethings shivered past Madeline Gunn on their way from one bar to the next...´ does it for me. It would be interesting to know though if this sort of thing re-occurs in the rest of the novel; if it doesn´t, it might feel slightly odd as a one-off.

I really like the glittering packs of high-heeled twentysomethings shivering past, by the way, and I like your language in general, but I have to agree with gj that the song pummeling the snow banks seems a tad much.
Also, maybe you could use something more colourful for Mrs Lipinski than just ´the old widow´. Bearing in mind that Madeline doesn´t seem the sort of person who even thinks in derogatory terms about old women. (See! You´ve done a great job of getting her character accross already!)
I also think it´s important to say ´Madeline swore under her breath...´ ´cause otherwise we might be thinking that it´s Mrs Lipinski who´s swearing.
I would leave out the ´Madeline thought´ after ´Mostly, she saw that her sister had been running towards home.´

The paragraph where she drops to her knees and holds her sister is very good, very touching. I also like the ´ragged pant´. Well put.

And although I don´t normally read thrillers, I like Madeline already. She seems a great balance between tough and soft. Would actually very much like to know what happens when she gets set up. This is a female protag that could make me pick up a thriller, especially since there is a lyrical quality to the language.
Nice job!