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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Whack Start

   
Author Topic: Whack Start
Swordsman
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Two teams of killers staged themselves on the ground below me. From the rooftop I watched both groups perform a standard diamond pattern approach, a man at each point, eight men in all; one bunch in the street, the other in the courtyard. A man on each team sprinted ahead to advance his group, followed by the successive other members resuming their prearranged positions in the pattern, diamond-shaped to be out of each other’s line of fire. All of them wore a ski mask pulled over their face and cradled a submachine gun. Judging from the sound suppressor on each one I guessed they must be toting Heckler & Koch MP5s, the SD3 model, the most popular sound dampened machine gun in the world. No limited three round burst trigger groups on those suckers, they were full-tilt boogie fully automatic weapons, about 800 rounds a minute.

*****************

This one could veer like an unheld water hose turned up full blast in several directions. Have we got a good guy/gal up Krap Kreek in a faulty kayak? Is there a motorcade a block away and the SWAT lads have their eye on somebody upstairs? Whaddya think?


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baduizt
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Hmmm. This opening is good.

I'd suggest perhaps a little less description about their formation (I'm not interested in such things at this point, although I guess others might), and a little more about the narrator. Or rather, I don't want you to describe the narrator right out, but I do want you to give me an indication who/what the narrator is. Something simple like 'When I stepped outside for a cigarette, I saw them.' Or: 'Not every evening stroll was like this one.'

Adam
=D


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Swordsman
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'Preciate the comments, bad! I think "From the rooftop of the generalissimo's mistress' villa I watched both groups . . ." would be too much information too soon.

But those characters ARE introduced in the next paragraph!


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skadder
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Two teams of killers (mind reader? How does he know--they could be a snatch squad or (UK JOKE ALERT) a team from Black Magic!) staged themselves on the ground below me. From the rooftop I watched both groups perform a standard diamond pattern approach (How do you know it is standard), a man at each point, eight men in all; one bunch in the street, the other in the courtyard. A man on each team sprinted ahead to advance his group, followed by the successive other members resuming their prearranged positions in the pattern, diamond-shaped to be out of each otherís line of fire. All of them wore a ski mask (They shared A ski mask between them?) pulled over their face ( You start this sentence with ALL OF THEM, then you move to the singular, back the the plural (their) and then revert to the singular again (A single machine gun). How about: They wore ski masks and cradled sub-machine guns.)and cradled a submachine gun. Judging from the sound suppressor on each one I guessed they must be toting Heckler & Koch MP5s, the SD3 model, the most popular sound dampened machine gun in the world. No limited three round burst trigger groups on those suckers, they were full-tilt boogie fully automatic weapons, about 800 rounds a minute.

I am not hooked by this. It starts with the idea that the narrator knows they are killers and is au fait with murder squad/special forces tactics and arms and gives a running commentary from that perspective. It is far too technical and my mind drifts away because of it. Too much detail (that doesn't matter) mixed with too little (that does).

I am not interested in the type of weapon or the diamond formation etc. (and I love novels about special forces stuff--so I am your target audience).

I want to know who the narrator is; why he is watching and doing nothing.

You spent 64 words on what equipment they were using out of a total of 146 words in this 13 lines. You could have said something along the lines of:

They were dressed head to foot in black, and carried state-of-the-art sub-machine guns with suppressors.

...then used the remaining words to flesh out other stuff.

Also your 'diamond pattern' approach--which you reference twice (waste of words)--could better dealt with by following the approach of the leader of the team, for example. It would feel more specific to just track one of them more clearly than all of them vaguely.

e.g The leader squatted by the doorway and waved two of his team forward...

You can imply the professionalism of the team with having to specify things like lines of fire at this stage (intro stage).

You may feel that you have set up your narrator as an expert, but you have used the whole intro to do that. It has resulted in a feeling the men are simply chess pieces that you have moved around a chessboard, with little emotional attachment to them, and it therefore does little for me.

The prose isn't bad, but the content is off.

[This message has been edited by skadder (edited November 10, 2008).]


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TheOnceandFutureMe
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Fairly well written, but why does it matter? What do these people mean to the MC? Is he afraid? If he is, than all of the descriptions should show his fear. If he's not, than I need to know why.
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Swordsman
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Skadder, accept my long overdue thanks for your long and insightful observations dispelling my forest-from-the-trees syndrome. And answers to your questions are just mere short paragraphs away, TO&FM.

The narrator is qualified to spout the jargon, it lends credibility to the character. I edited it sparingly because what is read in the first 13 lines is the total extent of any jargon, where shop talk ends and action begins. When read in context (i.e. the whole story) it doesn't seem over-described, but that may be because I know how the rest of it reads. Frag me if I'm wrong, but I felt confident enough to risk making matters worse by modifying a couple more nouns in take two.

*****************

Two teams of professional killers assembled on the ground below me. From the hotel rooftop I watched both squads perform a standard diamond pattern approach, a man on each point, eight men in all; four in the street, the other bunch by the pool. A man sprinted ahead to advance his group, followed in succession by the other members resuming their prearranged positions in the diamond to stay clear of each other’s line of fire. They all wore ski masks, lugged their submachine guns at port arms. Judging from the sound suppressor on each one I guessed they must be packing Heckler & Koch MP5s, the SD3 model, the most popular sound dampened machine gun in the world. No limited three round burst trigger groups on those suckers, they were full-tilt boogie fully automatic weapons, about 800 rounds a minute.

[This message has been edited by Swordsman (edited November 15, 2008).]


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skadder
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You have toned it down by 5%, but not enough for it to make a difference. You state that this jargon ends fairly quickly, yet it totally dominates your intro.

If I was a slush reader I would be concerned this is how the story will continue (and I would put it down and pick up the next one). You make a contract with your reader from the off--'this is how I write' is one of the first.

You can establish your observer's credentials by an instance or two of knowledgeable observation, without it dominating the piece.

Other than that, I still have most of the same problems with your piece that I had before--you have changed the stuff about ski masks etc. but little else...I won't repeat myself, you know my concerns.


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Nick T
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Hi,

Ditto on Skadder's and The Once and Future Me's comments. There's no sense of charecter for me and no sense of emotional engagement from the protag. All I get is military jargon and that doesn't really interest me in and of itself. He may be qualified to speak the jargon, but most protags are qualified to speak jargon in whatever field they're in; it doesn't make the start interesting. You've got an entire story to establish his credentials, so develop them slowly. It's like a stranger coming up to you at a party and starting to talk about themselves and how good they are...let it come out slowly.


Regards,

Nick

[This message has been edited by Nick T (edited November 15, 2008).]


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deebum25
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Hi Swordsman,

I'm going to say right off that I am not your target audience but read on anyway. Perhaps some word shifting might help your paragraph to not appear so clinical. I played a little bit and came up with:

From the hotel rooftop I spotted the two teams of professional killers assembled on the ground below. The point man in each group sprinted ahead to staging position followed in succession by the other members assuming their designated positions in the standard diamond pattern.

My thought was that if you're writing for a general audience then detail but if you have a target audience in mind then then it's superfluous. You also write judging by the suppressor on the gun but you never state that he looks at it or hears it so I found that a bit confusing.

Absolutely just my 2 pennies.


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deebum25
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Doesn't sound like SWAT to me but then again..not your target audience. My first thought was Jason Bourne how's he going to get out of this fine mess?
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skadder
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quote:
From the hotel rooftop I spotted the two teams of professional killers assembled on the ground below. The point man in each group sprinted ahead to staging position followed in succession by the other members assuming their designated positions in the standard diamond pattern.

deebum

You can't state that they are professional killers unless you know that to be the case (you hired them or know that they have been hired to kill), or you have seen them do some killing. If the guy watching is guessing, then that should be made clear. If he knows then some information to that effect should be clear.


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kings_falcon
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Not hooking me for all the reasons Skadder said. You have a first person narrator but aren't exploiting the POV. Instead you've opted for an omniscient/ cinemagraphic approach. Is the MC concerned about these "killers" coming toward him? Did he orchestate this and he's anxious about thier achieving their goal? What?

If you give me a hint of why I should care, I can tolerate the rest and some of the detail is simply irrelevant.

My take:

quote:

Two teams of professional killers assembled on the ground below me. a bit of a tweak would make a world of difference. If the MC has dispatched these "killers" tell me "My two teams. . " if they are after the MC tell me - "The Corporation sent two teams of professional killers to eliminte the threat I posed. I watched them from the roof of my hotel as they assembled on the ground below." Now I know whether to be concerned for the MC or anxious that the objecting suceeds. I also have some reason to believe he'd know they were professional killers.

From the hotel rooftop I watched both squads perform a standard diamond pattern approach, a man on each point, eight men in all; four in the street, the other bunch by the pool. A man sprinted ahead to advance his group, followed in succession by the other members resuming their prearranged positions in the diamond to stay clear of each otherís line of fire.
this is deviod of any urgency or emotion

They all wore ski masks, lugged their submachine guns at port arms. Judging from the sound suppressor on each one I guessed they must be packing Heckler & Koch MP5s, the SD3 model, the most popular sound dampened machine gun in the world. Really he can see this detail from 100+ feet up??? This comes off as dry and contrived as a result. The average reader doesn't care about this level of detail. Great for you to know it, don't force it on me all at once. Don't try to establish his bone fides all at once.

No limited three round burst trigger groups on those suckers, they were full-tilt boogie fully automatic weapons, about 800 rounds a minute Why do I care? Also what is a "full tile boggie fully automatic . . " .


Get me someone to connect with and back off the jaron especially if you don't use it in the rest of the story. Let the MC establish his credentials through action.

[This message has been edited by kings_falcon (edited November 16, 2008).]


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