I'd just knocked off work, still in my Sunday best, when the bark of gunfire – .45 ACP by the sound of it – stopped me in the middle of lighting up a smoke. I hit the sidewalk, tugging my .38 from my waistband. I always wrap the handle in rubber bands when I carry it that way, so it won't slip.
This dope was an eager beaver. He hadn't got the message – I was out of that racket. Another slug ate into the bricks of First United Methodist like a starving dog. I found my smoke but it was a total loss. That was my last one, and the stores were closed today. I tugged off my clerical collar. Maybe the meek would inherit the Earth, but I was willing to settle for less: I'd just got this parish, and I intended to hold on to it awhile.
[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited September 14, 2011).]
Ricky was a dead man and he knew it. He crouched in the vestibule as the car rolled past. Steam rose off the pavement like the cool breath of a gin and tonic. The air smelled like honey wine drenched in citrus kisses.
He could feel them closing in ready to collect their catch, their slow hands winding up for the punch. The wait was burning through him like a neon sign. They would make another round just for kicks before they stopped their rusty tin can.
There was nowhere to run. He was just buying time for them to cool down. He saw a spotter in a grey overcoat walk past the johnny pump like a pigeon over a sewer grate.
“All right, Ricky!” the spotter yelled, his voice slicing through the heavy mist. “We just want to talk.”
He was a smart one; I could tell from the press of his collar, and the cockeyed way his cigarette perched in the corner of his mouth. It'd be almost impossible to lie to him and get away without a noose for a scarf. He eyed my body as I stood in his doorway, so I arched my back, and looked up at him through my eyelashes. His throat clenched as he lowered his polished shoes below his desk. “I need your help,” I started, my voice husky with emotion, “My husband is missing.” I closed my eyes, and heard the splash of water from when I rolled the cold body off the edge of the dock. I could smell the moldy fog from the river. The last time I saw my husband’s
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[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited September 19, 2011).]
Jimmy Knuckles leaned against a lamp post, relaxing under the amber glow. He inhaled a final drag from his Marlboro then flicked the butt into the night. The Longcoats appeared. Obvious. Sloppy. They took him down, pressing hard onto his back like some horizontal dame who was either getting paid or unconscious. Cuffed, they flipped him over, seeing his eyes for the first time. One green, one blue. "Jimmy?" Shocked, no doubt. "We didn't know it was you." "Now you do," he muttered. "Any last words gentlemen?"
Three Fingered Freddie and the Case of the Dastardly Delicatessen Poisoner
A train thundered overhead, spilling steam and smoke and shaking dust from the crumbling, old bridge.
Three Fingers Freddie peered through the gloom and saw dark shapes in the deeper shadows. He slipped a hand into a pocket, fingers grasping the old thirty eight. A voice muttered something unintelligible, muffled by the cloying fog and the rattle of the train. It was Dr Ham Butty and, if Freddie knew his marks, that frocked sillhouette, swaying like a saturday night drunk and looking as used as a hooker's drawers was Old Pickled Lily. Her cackled laugh, scraped rough by a lifetime of gin and cheap cigarettes, confirmed it.
Freddie pulled his piece and stepped into the fog. One thing concerned him. Who was the broad with the wheelbarrow?
[This message has been edited by pdblake (edited September 13, 2011).]
“I deal in stolen memories,” the motto stated. It was a late November afternoon and these words from the yellow-stained office window projected onto the wall above the plaid couch like a sci-fi flick’s opening crawl. For Archibald McBrewster, they served as a reminder and, more often than not, his alarm clock.
Business had been slow, but after six weeks of nickel-and-dime bits, including an old bag with a lost dog that turned out to have been missing for thirty years, Arch had his first solid gig. Maggie Denton, a banking consultant in her late twenties, was single, never been married, or so she had thought. Two weeks ago, she received an email at work addressed to Mrs. Maggie Cardello. She opened it by mistake, but there was no
(Edited because almost everyone else has done it)
[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited September 14, 2011).]
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited September 19, 2011).]
Big Eddie was a trouble boy with pale, dead eyes that crawled over my body like meal worms. “Hey, doll,” he rumbled, sauntering out of the night into the weak light cast from the building behind me. “It’s late for a broad like you. Need a lift?” “Oh!” I said, my voice sweet as sugar with a pinch of fear. “I wouldn't want to put you to any trouble mister.” I backed toward the shadows of the alley, out of the gritty, spitting rain. “Ain't nowhere I need to be,” he moved closer. Too close. I let my eyes get big and my lips part, drawing his gaze like a bee to honey. I make sure men notice my mouth; keep it red as a cherry on an ice cream sundae. That way they never see the .38 Special until well after too late.
[This message has been edited by mythique890 (edited September 14, 2011).]
[This message has been edited by mythique890 (edited September 14, 2011).]
I needed that drag to walk along sweaty streets in the middle of the night. I coughed and spit up blood, like those kung fu guys always do when they're dyin', except I wasn't about to die… yet.
I didn't want any of the mucks in the force to know that I looked on. Suspension was hell. They all treated me like burnt toast in the best of times. I slid in among the crowd. Bertha stood there--my gal and I couldn't talk to her.
I coughed, again--my chest felt like a boa was crushing out my life--freakin' bra. It sucked that I had to dress like a woman--all to take a look at the corpse who put a slug in me. But there it was--plain as my spinster Aunt Molly--a moon cut into her forehead.
[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited September 14, 2011).]
I knew she spelled trouble the moment she arrived. It was afternoon, on the 36th of the month. My office is never open after the 31st – that’s my mulling time, when I pour through cases, read the latest pulp electrics magazines, or simply let my id and synchronicity battle for dominance. It’s precious alone time; I can face the world again after the 40th.
I picked her type right away. You know, jealous, possessive, just hardened past pretty, the one that most men like to ogle but never touch, the one that draws only violent and retrograde into her orbit. This type makes up 80% of my clientele.
I took down her name and address, and assured her, if her husband was cheating, I would find out. She tabled a small advance, turned and left – walking right through the door.
(Edited to change the entry number and some other things)
[This message has been edited by Brendan (edited September 15, 2011).]
I flicked the switch in my office – nothing. Looked like the Electric Company had finally followed through on their threats. I lit the kerosene lamp and flicked through the mail. Mostly unpaid bills, which joined an ever-growing pile at the side of the desk.
The door opened – no knock, no footsteps even – and there was this woman. Tall and slender, auburn hair, in a dress that shimmered like the moonlit sea. Cigarette smouldering on the end of a holder.
“Stefan Giorgio, I presume?”
“That’s what is says on the door. And you are?”
“Zerafina Drake.” She moved forward, smooth and silent on dagger-sharp heels. “I have a job for you, Mr Giorgio.”
I thought I knew trouble. I would stare into its face every morning in the mirror and find it in the bottom of a whiskey bottle every night. I beat trouble a 100 times before. Trouble 101 was about to walk through my door. Times were tough. So tough I took a job helping a poor slub who fell for the ole I’ll pay you on the 36th gag. That’s when she walked in. She had eyes like diamonds, a chest that stood out like the twin peaks of Axeminister mountain, skin as smooth as marble, and a stomach so hard you could sharpen steel on it. If it weren’t for the craters on her face, I would have called her beautiful. "What's the matter?" she said. "Never seen a rocktroll before?"
[This message has been edited by snapper by request.]
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Woodbury because she's sick of me winning (edited September 19, 2011).]
[This message has been edited by snapper (edited September 23, 2011).]
I puffed on the e-cig. I hated them but thatÕs all they would let me smoke in this time. While I waited, I checked out the town square. Things looked newer but I could spot those who still had business to attend to, if you know what I mean. She rolled up. Yeah, roll. Instead of high heels to impress me with her legs, she wore roller blades. When she stated she would wear blue and gray, I thought a dress that fit her age, thirtish from her face, but she wore ÒsweatsÓ. She know my mug from the photograph she found online. She wanted help to stop a stalker. From the three thugs I spotted following her, she would not only need a bodyguard sooner than expected but the hired muscle showed that their boss wasnÕt a stalker. I could take them, they looked less tough than other thugs IÕve tangled with. If they packed, so did I; a reliable 38 and a new fangled
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[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited September 19, 2011).]
I ducked under the tape and entered the blue-red glow of the crime scene. The room had a conspicuous lack of dark corners for me to slip into. Creating my own gloom, I pulled it around myself and waited. Finally one of the coppers suggested something stupid. Inevitable.
"I wouldn't do that if I was you," I said, stepping out of the shadows.
I flicked my lighter open so that the flame licked the cigarette hanging from the corner of my mouth, then snapped it shut and looked up at them. The coppers stared at me open mouthed. Classic. I pushed at my fedora without actually moving it. Their gaze slowly shifted down to where tattered bits of shadow still clung to the bottom of my long coat like rags to
[This message has been edited by Delli (edited September 17, 2011).]
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited September 19, 2011).]
Critiquing is not mandatory, (but that's why we're here!) however, voting is.
Please vote for your top 3 openings, with a mention of your favorite title.
To make this competition even sweeter than it already is, the winning entry may send me a story up to 5,000 words which I will thus critique to the best of my ability. (Should you so desire, and have something to send.)
1st Place: snapper, for “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” (entry 11) 2nd Place: mythique890, for “Dead Hot” (entry 7) 3rd Place: pdblake, for “Three Fingered Freddie...” (entry 5)
Best Title: “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” (entry 11) Honorable Mention for Title Style: “Moonlight Sinatra” (entry 9) Most Obscure Pun in at Title: “The Widow's Might” (entry 3)
(Did anyone notice the horrible pun in my title entry?)
Now onto the critiques.
------ Telflonmail Entry Number: 2 Road into Darkness
Ricky was a dead man and he knew it [“and he knew it” softens the punch of this openining]. He crouched in the vestibule [“vestibule” doesn't sound noir-ish to me] ...like the cool breath of a gin and tonic. ..l ike honey wine drenched in citrus kisses.[two metaphors in a row don't seem to work as well as one, second metaphor is mixed.] … to collect their catch, their [instead of “their”, consider highlighting the simile by using “like”] slow hands winding up for the punch... like a neon sign.[two metaphors in a row again.] They would [consider “they'd”; sounds more colloquial] ...stopped their rusty tin can. [needs another observation before throwing in yet another metaphor] There was nowhere to run [consider “he had no place to run”]. … He saw [“He saw” – these kind of wrapper phrases are usually poison but they work better in this kind of piece; here I think it could be dropped to add heat to the narration.] [Consider a piece of narration that focuses our attention on the spotter here, instead of the dialog tag, e.g. “The spotters voice slieced through the heavy mist.”]“All right, Ricky!” [Conclusion: the author has mastered the art of the noir metaphor, but the metaphors need to be balances by scene painting and action narration. It's a hot-and-cold style of narration: a vivid piece of narration followed by the HBD's cynical assessment, often delivered as an outrageous metaphor or simile.]
----- shimiqua Entry # 3 The Widow's Might
... It'd be almost [consider losing weasely “almost”] impossible to lie … and get away without [syntactically complicated; consider “not end up with”] a noose [“rope”?] for a scarf. He eyed my body [“eyed my body” – a little medical examiner-ish; maybe something like “his gazed stroked my curves”] as I … (I) looked up [consider something that would emphasize her intent, like “eyed him back”] at him through my eyelashes.
… as he lowered his polished shoes below his desk. [A bit odd; is he leaving his beloved shoes there for her to polish?]
… I closed my eyes, and heard [here's where a state-of-mind wrapper works: consider “could hear”] the splash of water ... I could smell the moldy [?] fog from the river. The last time I saw my husband’s face assaulted me [??? the memory assaulted her I think.] as viciously as Tommy did on a drunken night when his dinner was cold.[Not a bad sentence, but there's as lot of stuff strung together for this kind of voice; I think the rhythm could be punchier.]
[Conclusion: See my note to mystique below on seductive HBDs. I love the pun in the title, but it doesn't sound quite noir-ish to me.]
----- axeminister Entry # 4 Death's Acumen
Jimmy Knuckles ... night. [Nice piece of scene setting.]
The Longcoats [???] appeared [makes them sound like apparitions, especially given the mysterious name]. Obvious. Sloppy.[This is attitude is good; the H.B.D. Is always judging other guys.]
They took him down, … like some horizontal dame who was either getting paid or unconscious.[This bit of narration is too “cold”; they took him down … how? Without that details the metaphor misfires.]
Cuffed, they flipped him over [Ye Olde Dangling Modifier here: they flipped him over while *they* were wearing handcuffs?], ... One green, one blue. [nice bit of detail]
… Shocked, no doubt. [My, Jimmy's internal narrative sounds genteel.]
"Now you do," he muttered.[muttered? Really?]
[Conculsions: Author gets the HBD ethos right, but there's three things about this piece that could improve. First, it's a bit vague on the setting and the action. All we have is it's nighttime under the lamppost. The longcoats materialize – where are they? Is his escape cut off? Compare to teflonmail's piece where Ricky is holed up in the entryway to a browstone while the mooks are circling the block in their car. Second, Jimmy's a bad-ass, we get it. But when the H.B.D. gets in trouble, he really gets in trouble. You telegraph here that these mooks aren't a serious threat. This relates to what we're doing in the ASG; an action scene has to matter to be exciting. Third, the title. I dunno. “Acumen” just isn't a hard-boiled word. It sounds almost like “Death's Accountant.” Hey, that's not half bad, actually.]
----- pdblake Entry Number: 5 Three Fingered Freddie and the Case of the Dastardly Delicatessen Poisoner
A train thundered overhead, spilling steam and smoke and shaking dust from the crumbling, old bridge. [I really love this setting. We're under a railroad bridge. The scene could use some set-up, though, to give it that pungent whiff of hobo pee that no doubt permeates the atmosphere. TFF could slip into the gloom under the bridge, then the train (harbinger of doom, no doubt) could thunder overhead, and then TFF could see dark shapes in the deeper shadows.]
... It was Dr Ham Butty and, if Freddie knew his marks, that frocked sillhouette, swaying like a saturday night drunk and looking as used as a hooker's drawers was Old Pickled Lily [This sentence is long and meandering. It needs a punchier rhythm. Also it's “cold” narration; we're entirely in TFF's opinion-space here; it might help for him to make out one of these mooks at a time then give the zinger.].
...Her cackled laugh [What, like a picked herring?], scraped rough by a lifetime of gin and cheap cigarettes, confirmed it.[Again, the hot-and-cold noir thing; let's have the ominous thing, then let the HBD's cynical metaphor deflate it.]
... One thing concerned him [I'm not sure HBDs suffer from such petty ailments as “concern”, although they are often “bothered”.]. Who was the broad with the wheelbarrow? [As a hook, this comes out of the blue and gives the piece a bit of a word salad feel to it. Compare to snapper's witty rock troll twist, where he strings us along then tweaks our nose at the end; the twist is an organic part of the opening.]
[This piece gets an A+ for setting. Narration could be dramatic; even though it's third person we need to get inside TFF's head. Narration should be a like a two part harmony between the gritty, ominous world of sensation and TFF's caustic opinions of it; you're not bad on the opinion but you should exploit your setting for more atmosphere. Title sounds like something you'd find in the “young readers” section of the bookstore. Author gets honorable mention for his/her noir author pseudonym: “P. D. Blake”.]
----- philocinemas Entry Number: 6 The Forget-Me Knot
“I deal in stolen memories,” the motto stated [Nice way to lead with a metaphysical hook, but its a bit disembodied for an opening; it is no particular place or time, just a random memory. Also, what else do mottos do other than state? I think working the motto's words into the next sentence would work better.].
… like a sci-fi flick’s opening crawl [nah. Too 1980s to be noir; goes with ladies in designer jeans and men with feathered, blow-dried hair-dos].
…. they served as ... his alarm clock. [A bit obscure. You're saying he wakes up when they turn the neon sign on, I get it, but I had to think about it, and it still doesn't really make sense unless he's sleeping something off.]
...including an old bag with a lost dog …[HBDs are down-on-their-luck, but they don't get crazy cat (or dog) ladies for clients. Their offices tend to be in bad neighborhoods.]
... a banking consultant in her late twenties, [this set-up is a bit info-dumpy. Reading a noir narrator is like watching a DVD with the director's commentary turned on. First you get the picture, then you here an opinion.]
…. It seems Mr. Cardello had also forgotten a few [MS breaks off here.]
[Conclusions: This entry leads with an intriguing sci-fi/fantasy hook, but it would be greatly strengthened by more specific details settign the scene and establishing atmosphere. Remember: DVD with commentary turned on.]
----- mythique890 Entry Number 7 Dead Hot
Big Eddie … meal worms. [Nicely creepy metaphor, but a little scene setting before plucking her opinions out of the ether would be welcome.]
“Hey, doll … Need a lift?” [Nice use of dialect]
… voice sweet as sugar with a pinch of fear [The HBD is always observing others and spouting judgmental metaphors; not sure the metaphor thing works well so when the narrator HBD talks about himself].
… Too close. [Mmm, not bad, but here I think the HBD might have something to say.]
… like a bee to honey [nice metaphor] … red as a cherry on an ice cream sundae [nice femme fatale image and topped with great metaphor.]
[Conclusions: Overall I think this is a strong entry, but I'm not sure about the femme fatale protagonist; this is more tomboy territory, and using the ole feminin wiles is a bit below-the-belt for the HBD, who can play the game but's a striaght shooter by nature. The female HBDs adhere to this; they can be alluring and are (according to the feminist critics) “in charge of their sexuality” like a femme fatale, but sex appeal is not their stock-in-trade, guts and quick thinking are. That why V. I. Warshawsky is kind of a slob. Shes' got it, but she doesn't flaunt it. The title sounds like we're in romance novel territory – that's a concern unless it's where you want to be.]
----- Owasm Entry #8 Black Moon
[Conclusions: This narrator comes across as kind of whiny. The HBD is usually more stoic and cynical. The cross-dressing thing could be interesting (the first transvestite HBD! Don't dare tell him that dress makes him look fat). But he's not a transvestite; he's just indulging in a strategem that's not dignified enough for a paladin of the mean streets.]
----- Brendan Entry Number 9 Moonlight Sinatra
… that’s my mulling time [time to spice that wine] ...
… let my id and synchronicity battle for dominance [Hmm. He's not quite a vivid about it as he should be. Compare “id and synchronicity” to mythique's cherry red lips that draw men like bees to honey.]. It’s precious alone time; I can face the world again after the 40th. [This guy is a little too anxious to tell us about himself. It makes him sound needy.]
… You know, ... just hardened past pretty [that's a good noir attitude]
...This type makes up 80% of my clientele.[That sounds more the way a life-coach would describe his business, not an HBD.]
I took down ... if her husband was cheating, I would find out [this is too much telling rather than showing here. I know this scene of the FF hiring the HBD has been done a million times, but if you open with it you've got to work out the details].
… walking right through the door. [Nice twist for a noir/sci-fi mashup.]
[Conclusion: Overall a strong entry with a nice surprise twist, but needs more specific detail, and opening is a little info-dumpy. Nice title, but it'd help if you tied it into this opening. Also, you may be getting a visit from the Chairman of the Board's estate...]
----- DavidS Entry Number 10 Drake
[Conclusion: This is competently constructed and shows a pretty good grasp of the noir voice. However it doesn't stand out; the setting (the HBD's office), the situation (FF client) and the HBD himself (down-on-his-luck) are totally generic. Of course it's tough to put in that touch of individuality in 13 lines, but that's where the cynical wit of the HBD comes into play. The HBD probably has opinions about dames who “think” their husbands “might” be cheating on them.]
------ snapper Entry #11 Between a Rock and a Hard Place
I thought I knew trouble. I would ... find it in the bottom of a whiskey bottle every night ... beat trouble a 100 times before... 101 was about to walk through my door. [OK. This imagery runs on too long. Also, this is another HBD whos' too anxious to tell us about himself. Open with a jab, not a haymaker.]
...“What’s the matter, Dick?” she said in a gravely voice. “Never seen a rock troll before?” [zing]
[This is another fine mash-up you've got us into Stanley … er, snapper. Terrific hook. Opening gets the noir ethos (do what you have to to get by) and perspective (the world's full of suckers) right, but the setting is a bit generic, the HBD's office. The opening gives us too much attitude (opinion) and not enough atmosphere (setting) or action. Overall a superior entry though.
Title is probably the most noir of the entries, but consider just “A Rock and a Hard Place” instead. HBDs are men of few words.]
----- LDWriter2 Entry number 12 A New Time
[Conclusions: This struck me as a competent opening, nicely composed and not needing any line edits, but not quite noir-ish enough. An HBD is always down on his luck and always dealing with people who are leaning on him, but his inflexible virtues are integrity and realism. He would not smoke an e-cig, nor would he drink near-beer. He'd go without.
It's intereting you've chosen to go against the femme fatale cliché here, but the cynical HBD has seen it all. Even though she's pretending to be *different*, she's just the same. So HBD takes in her act and dismisses it. Same goes for the bodyguards. They try to look like what they aren't. It's not enough to tell us they're mooks; they should look tough but HBD sees right through them. Also, we dont' have to know why she's hiring him; you dont' have enough space yet to do anything with it but tell us.
Title could be more evocative.]
----- Delli Entry Number: 13 Dinnertime at Marnie's House
… entered the blue-red glow of the crime scene [this is confusing. Why would the scene glow? Are you talking perhaps about the staccato blue police strobes chattering against the red drumbeat of the ambulance gumball lights?].
… Creating my own gloom [We're getting supernatural here, of course, but I think an active (e.g., “So I made my own gloom, pulling it...”) rather than a passive construction would carry it off better.],
… Finally one of the coppers suggested something stupid [We need to know what this is, otherwise we don't believe you. Also, it gives us a significant bit of narration between doing the shadow casting trick and then undoing it.].
... the flame licked the cigarette hanging from the corner of my mouth [It strikes me as a bit odd for him to comment on this when he's doing the lighting up, as if he's surprised. It's an effective image when somebody else does it, illuminating their features for an instant.]
… The coppers stared at me open mouthed. Classic. [This gag doesn't work without a punchline. This guy is some kind of supernatural beastie, I get it.]
...I pushed at my fedora without actually moving it. [Eh?]
… Their gaze slowly shifted down [Now the gag is really starting to wear out its welcome]
… I hate it when I ruin the opening effect. [Not a noir attitude. HBDs are *real*. Theyr'e not showboaters.]
[Conclusions: and Urban Fantasy/Noir hybrid, evidently, this has some potential as an idea but needs some smoothing in the narration department. A bit "on-the-nose" about the supernatural stuff, this piece could make better use of the a city's inherent spookiness and atmosphere.]
---- axeminister Entry Number: 14 Competition is now CLOSED
[Conclusions: At last, an entry which has an ear for punching rhythms of noir narration – and we're tallking Joe Louis, not Sonny Liston. Love the title too.]
[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited September 19, 2011).]
#1: Liked it but the ".45 ACP" and explanation of the rubberband wrapped handle jerked me out of the story. I think I could figure out why a handle of a gun would be wrapped in rubberbands - I don't need an explanation.
#2: Especially liked the sentence "The wait was burning through him like a neon sign." but didn't like the sentence before that. A lot of similes.
#3: Like the imagery but is the MC so short that she still has to look up at him when she is standing in the doorway and he is sitting at his desk?
#4: Liked it all except the simile about the dame. But definitely fits the Noir mood.
#5: For some reason my eyes keep slipping over the middle text and not actually reading it. Perhaps it is too dense? The last line is good though and hooks me.
#6: First line is awesome. But the rest doesn't live up to the opening line.
#7: Liked this a lot. Builds the suspense and keeps me wanting to read on. Only thing that tripped me up was "trouble boy", but only slightly.
#8: I was interested in the bit about a moon being cut into the girls forehead but the rest didn't interest me.
#9: Great idea but seems to be too much telling and not enough showing in this piece.
#10: No real hook for me here.
#11: I like the beginning about trouble and end about the rock troll but not the middle lines about tough times. It's too jarring going from the helping of the poor slub to "That's when she walked in." - When did she walk in, where did she walk in, is she related to the poor slub case or is he just working on that in his office when she walked in?
#12: I like the e-cig and the roller blades. But after the line about the roller blades my interest in the story wanes.
[This message has been edited by Delli (edited September 20, 2011).]
First place: #9 Second place: #3 Third Place: #1
Best title:Moonlight Sinatra
#1 - I like the action, and I thought the fact that your guy was a pastor(?) was a good hook. The language you used really reminded me of what little Noir I've been exposed to.
#2 - Also liked how this one started with action, though I was a little confused as to what exactly was going on, especially in the second paragraph. I get it, generally speaking, but I think the metaphors are throwing me off. I think you did a good job of setting the mood, though.
#3 - Love it, though the first time I read it, I was confused by the flashback. I thought she was hearing the water, etc, right then.
#4 - Interesting, though I guess I don't understand why they're arresting him... it didn't seem like he was doing anything arrest-worthy.
#5 - I like your description of "Old Pickled Lily" (and her name). The last sentence of the second paragraph is a bit long. Picturing Freddie holding his gun with only three fingers and wondering how he manages to hold it steady.
#6 - The premise is interesting, the first sentence is good, but the rest of the first paragraph meanders. I think you could have skipped from the first sentence to the second paragraph.
#8 - Loved the sentence "They all treated me like burnt toast at the best of times." Laughed a little when you mentioned he was dressed like a woman, but the mention of kung fu threw me off a little.
#9 - Favorite title, liked the 36th of the month joke. I thought this one was really good, but you probably don't need the italics.
#10 - Well-written, but I didn't feel hooked at the end.
#11 - Sort of like #10, well-written, but just a girl showing up at the office. I liked how you set the woman up. I was expecting her to be the classic Noir 'dame,' but because of her face, she isn't.
#12 - Interesting take. I like the futuristic thing, and get the sense that he's some sort of time traveler, but I don't feel like I know anything about the character.
#13 - This idea is cool, and I like it, but as a reader I'm more eager to know about the crime scene than the coppers.
This is the first time I've ever participated in a challenge. Nerve-wracking, but kind of fun!
[This message has been edited by mythique890 (edited September 20, 2011).]
What makes a good Noir for me requires a unique 1st person POV, bit on the overdramatic, with similes to emphasizes feelings and/or events – whether they fit with what is going on matters little. Over-the-top can be a plus. Most crucial for me is the protagonist must maintain a bound with the reader – as if they are talking to them directly.
Entry # 1 The Long, Cold Crook
Noirish. Starts with action (good). This simile…
quote: Another slug ate into the bricks of First United Methodist like a starving dog
…is incomplete. Starving dogs don’t eat bricks. But this simile…
quote:Maybe the meek would inherit the Earth, but I was willing to settle for less
…is great. Overdramatic in that unique Noir way. Good, I am expecting better.
Entry #2 Road into Darkness
Entry is written in 3rd person (not noir) but the setting works. Starts with action. This simile is grand…
quote: Steam rose off the pavement like the cool breath of a gin and tonic
…but the others not so much. Written in 1st person and this one would have done better.
Entry #3 The Widow's Might
Now this is what I’m talking about! The author must be a natural at noir. Lines like…
quote: It'd be almost impossible to lie to him and get away without a noose for a scarf
…is just one of many that I loved. The protag has lived a hard life, cynical, and crafty – just as a noir protag should be. Extra points since the MC is the girl that walks into the dicks office, making it a reverse of what noirs have been known to be. Loved it!
This one is going to be hard to beat.
Entry #4 Death’s Acumen
quote: He inhaled a final drag from his Marlboro and flicked it into the night
…fits well within the noir genre but the 3rd person pov does not, Events happen fast, too fast. The last line leaves too many questions for me as well.
Entry #5 3 Finger Freddy…
Another 3rd person pov. The title and narration gave this one more of a pulpish feel rather than a noir-ish feel to it. The language of the piece is consistent with old noir – a plus. The punny names help too.
Entry #6 The Forget-Me Knot
Love the title. This is written in 3rd person as well. The story has a very noir-ish feel to it. Not much of hook, though. Could have been chopped off.
Entry #7 Dead Hot
This is a good simile.
quote:I let my eyes get big and my lips part, drawing his gaze like a bee to honey
…works very well for noir. The ending line has a solid hook. This one is good.
Entry #8 Black Moon
Smooth noir. Liked this line…
quote:They all treated me like burnt toast in the best of times.
…works great for noir. Nice entry. It is in my mix.
Entry #9 Moonlight Sinatra
Good noir. Especially with lines like this…
quote:I picked her type right away. You know, jealous, possessive, just hardened past pretty, the one that most men like to ogle but never touch, the one that draws only violent and retrograde into her orbit
Although it appears to be missing a ‘the’ in their. Ending makes for an interesting hook, although a place with 40 days in month suggests anything may be possible.
Entry #10 Drake
Story could be an opening to a thousand different noir ideas. Clean, clearly noir, just not original.
Entry #11 Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Author has rocks in his head.
Entry #12 A New Time
Interesting take, a time traveling noir. Not a bad idea.
quote:She know my mug from the photograph she found online.
Should ‘know’ be ‘knew’?
Entry #13 Dinnertime at Marnie's House
Not bad. Would have liked an over-the-top simile, you had everything else. The hook, I suspect, got chopped. Too bad. It had promise.
First Entry #3 The Widow's Might (author thought out of the box. Loved it)
Second Entry #7 Dead Hot (best pure noir)
Third Entry #9 Moonlight Sinatra (entry 8 was close)
1. The Long, Cold Crook. Some great lines that had me laughing. I would definitely read on - hooked.
2. Road into Darkness. Great opening line, and some terrific description. The last line may take the edge off the opening line - if you believe the spotter.
3. The Widow's Might. The KDW edit lost a little of the impact of this one. However, the writing had me reading and wanting more well before the end. It took a reread to understand the flashback wasn't current-time.
4. Death's Acumen. Loved the bravado of the punchline. Very action oriented feel with the short sentences. I want to find out why the had so much respect for him.
5. Three Fingered Freddie and the Case of the Dastardly Delicatessen Poisoner. While you do need the specific picture to understand this, I thought it was hilarious. Over the top fun.
6. The Forget-Me Knot. Opening line gives the Twilight Zone feel, which does do elements of noir. Cut off at the end by the imposed 13 line limit, which unravelled the twist somewhat.
7. Dead Hot. The opening and final paragraphs were like food to a starving man. Well, actually, they were. Loved it.
8. Black Moon. This took a little for me to get into, partly because the cigarette opening is getting too cliche in this challenge. But had me thoroughly hooked by the final sentence.
9. Moonlight Sinatra. Indeed.
10. Drake. This didn't hook me. Nothing wrong with the sentence structure, but it felt I knew nothing about the situation that is about to unfold.
11. Between a Rock and a Hard Place. A host of in-jokes, so that I half expected the title "Dust In A Dame". Undermined a little by the KDW snip. Had me laughing at new things on every reread.
12. A New Time. E-cig idea was funny. Gets the feel, but not a strong hook, compared to others in the challenge.
13. Dinnertime at Marnie's House. This felt urban/dark fantasy or comic strip, with the "creating my own gloom" line. I bit too much information held back by the author for my liking, though that may be due to not seeing the last line.
[This message has been edited by Brendan (edited September 21, 2011).]
Entry 1: The Long, Cold Crook. The rubber bands line knocked me out of the story. I had to stop to think what you meant, which hurt the flow. Also, if he is being shot at, why is he worrying about his cigarette? I think that hurt the sense of dread. All in all though I like it, and would keep reading.
Entry 2:Road into Darkness. This is cool. I like the Steam rose line. The line there was nowhere to run, kind of bugged me on rereading, too unspecific for my taste. Overall it's neat, and I would keep reading.
Entry 4: Death's Acumen This line " like some dame..." what an interesting way to introduce the character. Well done. I really like this.
Entry 5:TFFatCotDDP This line "It was Dr..." is confusing. I think it would improve if you broke it up. I'm not hooked, and would probably stop after "Old Pickled Lily."
Entry 6: The Forget-Me Knot Cool. This line "For Archibald...alarm clock." hooked me. I would definitely keep reading.
Entry 7: Dead Hot I like the writing. I like this. My issue is that the POV character is being fake, she isn't showing who she really is, and Big Eddie is a goner, so I don't really have any character to hold on to. I think some clue to why she is a murderer would help me like her better. But that's just my opinion. I think the opening worked fine, and I would keep reading.
Entry 8: Black Moon The last line hooked me. Interesting. This felt different from the others, a little more modern. But cool. I would keep reading.
Entry 9: Moonlight Sinatra I love the title. The prose on this one flows, and is what would keep me interested. The actual actions of the scene seem very familiar.
Entry 10: Drake By this point I've read ( and written) too many gal walks into a gumshoe's office, so my opinion is tainted. If you had put yours earlier I probably would have liked it better. I like this line, "in a dress that..." but probably wouldn't keep reading just because I've read this entry before.
Entry 11: Between a Rock and a Hard Place. I miss the rock troll line. It made me laugh aloud when I read it. I would definitely keep reading. Could you edit out the 36th gag, so you could keep the rock troll line? That is what made it original, and the originality is what hooked me.
Entry 12: A New Time On first reading, I didn't quite get it, but then I read it aloud. It's much better read aloud. The line "in this time" hooked me, and I would keep reading to find out if it actually is a time travel noir.
Entry 13: Dinnertime at Marnie's House I loved this line "The room had a..." My issue with it, is that I don't really know what death in a fedora is waiting for, and I don't know what it is the copper suggested. If you had been clearer, this entry would have been in my top three. But cool. I would keep reading.
Votes: 1st: Entry 4 Death's Acumen 2nd: Entry 11 Between a Rock and a Hard Place. 3rd: Entry 6 The Forget-Me Knot
Entry 1: The Long, Cold Crook. Cute. The voice was great, but too much .45 ACP and .38. What's with all the .38s? Nice twist being a priest and all.
Entry 2: Road into Darkness. There is a limit to the hardboiled similes and I think this one exceeded it. What is honey wine with citrus kisses smell like? I have no clue. It cluttered up the action.
Entry 3: The Widow's Might. Unfortunately the little flashback ruined the flow of this. I enjoyed reading this from a woman's POV. Is having him clench his throat something someone can observe?
Entry 4: Death's Acumen This assumes that the reader knows something about Jimmy Knuckles. I don't know how different colored eyes makes him such a threat. Too much info needed to make this one work.
Entry 5: TFFatCotDDP Another .38. The first sentence/paragraph didn't do anything for the opening, IMO. Unfortunately for me, this one got going to late to enjoy the language. The voice just wasn't quite there. Really enjoyed the delicatessen-style names.
Entry 6: The Forget-Me Knot I had a hard time understanding the first paragraph and had to read it a few times. The second sentence was so long, I lost the thread by the time I finished it. The plot was interesting and KDW's snipping of the last line made it even more of a hook.
Entry 7: Dead Hot The only issue I had with this was if Big Eddie knew the MC before she plugged him. Other than that, I thought this opening was great (except for the .38 of course.
Entry 9: Moonlight Sinatra A speculative version. I must admit the mix didn't go down very well for me. However, I liked a lot phrasing: violent and retrograde into her orbit. Hardened past pretty. The hook was a good one, too.
Entry 10: Drake The names killed the tone, I have to admit. I liked Zerafina's entrance. That was well done.
Entry 11: Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Inside jokes. Inside jokes are always good for additional votes. Naughty. I wondered as I read, how do you see your face at the bottom of a whisky bottle? Do you have eyes on your tonsils, or something? How do you know her stomach is so hard? Maybe the sharpening will work better on her face. More edges. Liked the trouble line and her description.
Entry 12: A New Time e-cigs? You've gotta be kidding! …and another .38! LD, you've got to find a way of writing without those O's with the hair on the top. I must admit that knocked you down a bit.
Entry 13: Dinnertime at Marnie's House I think I'd like the book. The beginning didn't draw me in until you mentioned the tattered bits of shadow. That was a good line. I also got the impression that the MC was a midget. He looked up at them, so if that was so, why did he have to duck under the tape? Just a thought…
Votes: 1st: Entry The Long Cold Crook 2nd: Entry. Dead Hot 3rd: Entry Dinnertime at Marnie's House Title: The Widow's Might
A tiny comment on mine: Black Moon. Unfortunately I started out with a pun. The drag the MC referred to was that he had to wear women's clothes as a disguise. Sometimes I'm much to subtle for my own good.
Owasm -- About the .38, I'll share the fruits of a little research here. For the 1930-1970 era, a revolver chambered for .38 Special cartridge was close to the optimum balance of size, stopping power and low cost. That's why it was common caliber size for cops up until the late 80s.
These days most cops seem to carry a Glock automatic pistol chambered for a 9mm Parabellum round. That round has about the same diameter as the .38 Special, but is slightly lighter with a much higher muzzle velocity. The magazines hold fifteen or even seventeen rounds. That translates to a lot more firepower.
The .45 ACP round was a massive (13g) 11.5mm bullet developed after the US Army's nightmare experience with beserker Moro tribesmen in the Philippines. The M1911 pistol that would have been the most likely candidate for a 1930s .45 ACP user weighed almost two-and-a-half pounds empty, almost 3/4 lb more than the S&W 1905 police revolver, and a whole 20 oz more than a snub-nose revolvers that came into use in the 1950s.
There were many kinds of rounds in use in the 30s and 40s, but the popularity of the .38 special probably made it the cheapest reasonably capable round to buy.
1 – Sorry, couldn’t buy the chaplain with the .38 setup. Now if he had a Tommy gun... 2 – The similes seemed to be reaching - possibly in personification but not in hyperbole. 3 – Liked the wording and style, but needed a spoiler alert. 4 – Nothing really wrong with this, except a little rushed, but didn’t hook me either. 5 – Good job – great title, milieu, and wording – curious about why the “Dr” didn't have a period. 6 – Mine – Obviously too slow and subtle – evening California sunlight made the projection. - KDW - I CHALLENGE YOUR EDIT – I HAVE COPIED AND PASTED WHAT YOU LEFT AND I END UP WITH JUST SHORT OF 12 FULL LINES IN 12 POINT COURIER NEW – NO BIGGIE (I WOULDN’T HAVE WON ANYWAY) BUT I BELIEVE YOU ARE MISTAKEN. 7 – The “trouble boy” wording threw me off from the start along with inconsistencies with punctuation and verb tense. 8 – This has potential, but I think you should reveal that it is a guy in a dress more clearly in first sentence – I thought the “drag” was him inhaling a cigarette. The “kung fu” line doesn’t work for me. 9 – Nice pun in title – Great wording, but the hook was weak – writing would make me continue. 10 – Didn’t buy the “kerosene lamp” or the MC’s name (sounded like an Italian clothing brand). 11 – Great first paragraph, nice allusion in second, then you brought out the old “Rock Troll out of a Hat” trick - nice move - KDW – THIS ONE ALSO SEEMS TRUNCATED (OR TROLLCATED). 12 – Didn’t feel noir to me, and I didn’t buy the roller blades and sweats. 13 – Liked some of the wording, but seemed lacking somehow – also not much of a hook. Very subtle use of dialect - your MC obviously has difficulty with the subjunctive mood.
Choices: First - #5 Second - #11 Third - #9
Title - Three Fingered Freddie and the Case of the Dastardly Delicatessen Poisoner
[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited September 21, 2011).]
Voting: 1st #7 : Dead Hot 2nd #1 : The Long, Cold Crook 3rd #3 : The Widow's Might
Best Title Three Fingered Freddie and the Case of the Dastardly Delicatessen Poisoner
Entry 1: The Long, Cold Crook Liked this. Good voice, and I liked the dichotomy of the priest engaged in seemingly unpriestly goings on. Only thing that brought me out slightly was the rubber bands on the gun – didn’t seem to be something that would be the narrators focus at that point.
Entry 2: Road into Darkness Plenty of action, but not a lot of context for it. Even a bit of detail of who “they” were would give some grounding to the action.
Entry 3: The Widow’s Might Nice character in the “black widow” narrator. I had trouble visualising “His throat clenched”, but nice writing beyond that.
Entry 4: Death’s Acumen Not really sure where this is heading - not really enticing me onward.
Entry 5: Three Fingered Freddie and the Case of the Dastardly Delicatessen Poisoner Three Fingers or Three Fingered? Not clear how Freddy knows it’s Dr Ham Butty. Last question feels like it was thrown in to provide a hook at the end.
Entry 6: Forget-Me Knot I don’t think the tone’s quite what I think of as noir – not quite dark enough. Decent hook though with the stolen memories and mysteriously married spinster.
Entry 7: Dead Hot Nice – another dangerous woman. Tone spot on for noir. Love the opening sentence.
Entry 8: Black Moon This one mostly confused me – not obvious where he’s taking a look at the corpse. How long since the deceased put a bullet in him – not long if he’s coughing up blood, but what did he do – go back home and get changed into drag?
Entry 9: Moonlight Sinatra OK, 36th in-joke, and presumably she’s a ghost. Not that much more to go on there. Do you mean “pore” instead of “pour”?
Entry 10: Drake Mine.
Entry 11: Between a Rock and a Hard Place I think I read this pre-edit, which means I know the punchline. More a parody of noir I suppose, but well written.
Entry 12: A New Time Some sort of time-travel vibe, but not a lot else to go on here. Some of the sentence read a bit awkwardly – like the one starting “From the three thugs...”. In that case I think the section after “but” could go to a new sentence.
Entry 13: Dinner Time at Marnie’s House “...tattered bits of shadow” is interesting. Overall it’s a crime scene obviously heading into spec fiction territory. A touch of withholding when the copper suggests “something” – feels like that’s creating artificial suspense.
Thanks to axeminster for organising this - was about time I threw my fedora in the ring for one of these.
Votes: #1 #1 The minute I read this I knew no other entry would surpass it. I was right. #2 #8 Reminded me of The Fugitive. This has nowhere to go but exciting. #3 #12 You get my vote for sheer creativity. The writing needs some work, but the instant I saw e-cig a little light went off in my brain. Way to think outside the box I put you in.
HM - Snapper.
Title: Dead Hot - this says it all with only two words.
Crits: #1 The line about the rubber band wasn't necessary. Otherwise I loved the many instances of trusting the reader. "Still in my Sunday best" - I don't know yet he's a priest(pastor, etc) but I know he's well dressed. But wait, he'd just knocked off work. What else could he be? Then he's smoking. Packing. Out of the racket... All good stuff.
#2 Since I broke the rule I forgot to mention, and read the reviews before posting my reviews, I have to call out the lack of first person Snapps mentioned. While not 100% necessary, I'm sure, I'd have to go with 99%. Love the gin and tonic line, but the follow up line can go. It's an echo of sensory and kinda out there. Their slow hands? Lastly, I'm not sure where this is going.
#3 Love the twist. Instant mystery. Good stuff. "he eyed my body" Vague. Name the body part. This is hard boiled stuff here. "so I arched my back" I'm currently removing the middle words in my MS's. The word "so" has to go. Start a new sentence without it. Wait, she looked up at him? He lowered his polished shoes below his desk Oh, I see. He's standing on his desk...
#4 Ack! I wrote this in 3rd person. This is the 2nd time I failed to heed the advice I set up in the original post! Sheesh. However, I get a smidgen of a point for originally writing it in first then changing just so I could use the name Jimmy Knuckles. Or do I lose a point for that?
#5 Start with the person, then add the train. Maybe he can look up at it or be annoyed by it. Make it part of his sphere. "setting as character." He slipped a hand... Someone else's hand? I hate to say it, but after several reads I just can't connect with the text. I don't know what's going on.
#6 I think you could shuffle the words/phrases in the first sentence around for better effect and better grounding. This opening is strong in regard to it being the beginning of a story, but didn't have a strong noir feel.
#7 I think a shuffling of the first two sentences would do some good here as well. I don't mean swapping, I mean shuffling. "I let my eyes get big" is passive. Love the red.
#8 I didn't catch the "drag" meaning. Remove "except I wasn't about to die, yet" don't need it. Great noir feel and I love that he's sticking around despite the heat and the slug in the... hm.. where's he shot?
#9 You mock me sir! But I lol'd, damn it. Every word of this felt just right, placed right, and perfectly chosen. 'cept for that 36th bit.
#10 flicked echo. What I found wrong with this one is that it was too calm. This exercise was a chance to go nuts. What you've got here is a solid opening to a real story. This needed to be over the top.
Which brings me to:
#11 With three references to my person, how could an egotistical maniac like myself not vote this one #1? Well, I vote you #4 because you deserve the mention for writing something well despite the jokestering. I was hooked, damn it all.
#12 Love the e-cig. That's the way to throw noir on its ear. No, I don't know what you mean. Too much attention is given to her rolling up. Find another way to make it interesting instead of forcing me to notice it's interesting. Could she roll up in a 50's diner waitress outfit? I say that only to draw attention to her out of placeness other than her rollerblading. It's not a big deal (unless it is in the story, but then you'd better tell me why.)
#13 Love the other-worldly feel to this. Good plot. Too good. Less plot, more bullets!
But we voted for three places can we know who placed in the other two?
I want to say that with mine I wanted to say that the outfit she wore was one of those tight black pants some wear while exercising but I couldn't describe that and fit in the 38 . I thought that might fit better with the modern Noir Motif I was going for.
And the guys going with "business" was meant to be Mob or other crime business. And the three guys following her were what she needed to a bodyguard for.
Thanks everyone. I plan on doing a proper noir thank you as soon as my time allows. Stay tune.
I am honored you would compare me to the SSR, Louis. Did you know Harry Harrison first coined the word hooked long ago? He had the theory that editors had a mountain of stories to paw through every month so likely rejected most of them based on the writing of the first page. Harrison used to practice writing compelling openings that would guarantee the editor would want to read more. The Stainless Steel Rat was born in one of those exericizes.
Congrats snapper and thanks Axe for putting this on.
For those who missed the reference, the wheelbarrow was the one in the picture in the original post.
It should have been Three Fingers in the title. Had the story gone on it would have refered to the three fingers of scotch in his hip flask, a reminder of the drunk he used to be and a constant temptation he never quite gives in to.
The rest was just a bit of fun. Old Pickled Lily (piccalilly, not sure you get it in the US), Ham Butty, Deli. Just puns and word play.
Also wanted to say congrats to snapper and thanks to axe! It was fun and I learned a lot!
And since this was brought up in a lot of critiques, just wanted to say that "trouble boy" is slang for "thug." I found it in some online noir slang dictionary. Next time I'll stick to words that make sense.