Oct 25, 2010

Sample Pages - Liquid Smoke

Click here to read the query.

Rick got up off of the couch and reached into the inner lining of his jacket. He pulled out a large manila envelope and tossed it on the coffee table in front of Danny.

Danny reached over and snatched the envelope off of the table. He eyed it closely and then looked up at Rick. "What's this?"

"Just open it."

Danny peeled the top of the envelope open and dumped out the contents. Photos and papers fluttered to the coffee table.

"What am I looking at?" Danny asked.

Rick bent down and began sifting through the paperwork. He pulled an old photo of a boy from the stack and held it up for Danny to see.

"Carlos Rimerez, age ten in the photo. He was number twelve in the group."

Danny studied the photo. It was an eight-by-ten snapshot of a boy with black curly hair and olive skin, standing awkwardly in front of a smooth concrete wall. His large, chocolate brown eyes stared back at Danny with fear. He was wearing a plain white t-shirt and his statistics were scrawled in tiny block letters across the bottom of the photo.

Rick riffled through the rest of the paperwork until he found what he was looking for. He shoved a single page of a newspaper into Danny's hands and pointed at a circled article in the paper.

Danny leaned in close to read it, only to find the entire paper was in Spanish.

"This kid was shipped to Mexico to live with his grandparents after the program ended," Rick said. "He died two years ago. Local Federales claim he committed suicide by driving his car straight into the Rio Grande."

"So what if he did?" asked Danny.

"They located his car at the bottom of the river about two hundred miles away from Santiago, where he lived with his grandparents," Rick said, "Why would he drive almost two hundred miles away from his hometown to commit suicide?"

"Maybe the kid had some thinking to do before he died," Danny said, shrugging.

Rick nodded, "Okay, good point."

He riffled through the paperwork and pulled another photograph out of the stack. He slid it across the papers so that it came to a stop in front of Danny.

"Patricia Clark, age thirteen in the photo. She was number eleven in the group." Rick said, pointing to the photo of a dark haired, green eyed little girl standing in front of the same bland cement wall. She was also wearing a white t-shirt and the same tiny, blocked handwriting was scribbled on her photograph.

"What happened to her?" Danny asked.

"She lived in West Virginia with her aunt and uncle. Approximately twenty-two months ago she cut the padlock on her uncle's gun cabinet and blasted a hole through the back of her skull with a single-action semi-automatic pistol," Rick said, pulling a stack of photos out from underneath the pile and slapping them down in front of Danny.

Danny looked down at the photos and scowled. They were vivid pictures of Patricia sprawled out on the floor in front of an opened gun cabinet, blood splattered down the wall behind her.

"What did the police have to say about that one?"

"They ruled it a suicide. Funny thing is the uncle swears the girl never touched a gun her entire life and wouldn't know how to use one."

Danny had never fired a gun either, let alone had one in his house for Jenna to accidently stumble upon.

"So? Don't kids accidently shoot themselves all the time?" Danny asked.

Rick grimaced, "A single-action semi-automatic pistol can only be cocked by operating the slide or cocking the hammer manually if a round is already in the chamber. The uncle claims the gun was not loaded. His gun cabinet was stacked with bullets for several different types of guns. Let's say even though Patricia had an aversion to guns, never even touching one before, that she knew what ammo to load in the pistol and knew how to load it, cock it and unlock the safety on the handle. Then it would make sense that it would be pretty easy for her to take the next step and end her life."

"Okay, so what am I missing here?" Danny asked.

"Uncle claims not only was the gun not loaded, but he had taken it apart to clean it the day before and wasn't finished cleaning it when Patricia had apparently put it back together, selected the correct bullets to load into the chamber and then used it to blow her brains out." Rick said.

"So you think this Brad kid somehow drove Carlos' car into the river with him in it and then a few months after that broke into a gun cabinet in this Patricia's uncle's house, put the uncle's pistol back together and forced Patricia to shoot herself with it?" Danny asked.

Whatever Rick was trying to tell Danny didn't make sense. This Brad maybe tried killing Jenna at the facility when she was eight and eleven years later kills a couple members of this disbanded secret group of kids?

"Not convinced yet?" Rick asked. He pushed another photo of a child in front of Danny's face.

"Stephanie Haze, age ten in the photo, group member ten. Hung herself in her college dorm room in New York eighteen months ago," Rick said, replacing the photo of the little girl with one of a young woman's body hanging by a thick rope over a twin bed littered with stuffed animals.

Another photo was thrown at Danny.

"Daren Childs, age twelve here, group member nine. Mauled to death seventeen months ago by a black bear in the woods of South Dakota."

Rick slipped another photo in front of Danny with a barely recognizable body ripped to shreds, lying in a patch of grass next to some trees.

Another photo.

"Katie Benson, age nine, member eight. Slipped and fell down three flights of stairs at a hotel in Florida and broke her neck thirteen months ago."

Rick pushed more photos of the grown-up Katie Benson into Danny's hands. Her body rested at the foot of a flight of stairs, left leg curled underneath her, right arm splayed at an unnatural angle, tangled in a thick mess of dirty blonde hair. Her vacant eyes stared directly at Danny.

"Jack Fox, second oldest of the group at fifteen, seventh member. Overdosed on Vicodin twelve months ago," Rick said as he flipped two photos over to Danny—one of the fifteen year old Fox, the next of an adult male lying facedown on a dirty couch. A trail of vomit led from the edge of the couch to a small pool formed on the floor. 

"Do I really need to continue or are you getting this now?" Rick asked in exasperation.

Danny sat still on the couch, surrounded by photos of young children interspersed with photos of their older, dead selves. A sinking feeling settled in the pit of his stomach as he stared at the pictures.

"Member six is Steve LaFonde, age ten in this photo here," Rick said, holding up the picture, "Slit his own throat on a beach right here in Washington a little over eight weeks ago."

Rick held up the other photo of a young man lying next to a smooth log on the rocky beach, blood pooled around his head.

Danny's blood ran cold as Rick threw the pictures at him. He knew the kid in this photo. It was the obituary he was reading on Jenna's last morning home before returning to college.


Mesmerix said...

You have a problem common to a lot of writers. I like to call it prepositional phrase abuse.

Writers love prepositions (myself included) and we tend to overlook them as we're writing. We throw them in there, overexplain, reiterate, and generally beat our reader over the head with them. Let me try to explain by showing you what your first few paragraphs would look like without prepositional phrase abuse...

Rick stood up and reached into his jacket. He removed a large manila envelope, tossing it on the table in front of Danny.

Danny snatched up the envelope. He eyed it closely and looked up at Rick. "What's this?"

Do you see the difference? We don't need to know that Danny reached over, we assume that. We already know it's on the table so we don't need you to tell us he took it off the table.

There is only one cure for prepositional phrase abuse, and that is to go through every sentence systematically and weed out your excess words. I think you will be amazed at the difference it makes in pacing, allowing the reader to focus on the characters and story rather than getting caught up in phrases.

I hope this helps you, truly. It seems to me you have a very intriguing story here, but you need to watch out for the redundant prepositional phrases.

We all have our ticks. Keep working. There's a fantastic story in there!

Draconium said...

is this the very beginning of the story? if not why did you select it?

In the query you call rick danny's enemy, but i don't sense any hostility here. Danny seems to be the main character and yet i get no sense of him and his person. His reluctance to believe what he's hearing seems more like a general disposition toward the skeptical, not the visceral denial and fury you'd expect a parent to feel when being confronted with such a possibility.

Also i want more physical details, facial expressions etc. body language tells us alot (this is also a good way to liven up the dialog tags, which can get a little clunky)

Also, (at least in my oppinion) anytime when you can be specific, do so. Information summery is only useful for two things, economy (you can't tell this persons whole life blow by blow) or to show a subjective experiance, "the teacher said something about some nonsense,"
Otherwise it's best to be specific. What are these statistics, exactly specifically, at least in the first photo i wanted to see them up close, show us, "his statistics were scrawled in tiny block letters across the bottom of the photo: 5'4' 120 cauc. 11.5 128b."

We don't have to be able to make since of it, the inscrutability of possible clues is pleasurable in itself.

Any way, the story looks really interesting! Best of luck!