Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Critique contest Entry no. 11

Many thanks to this author for submitting to our critique contest. For your own chance to win a 10 chapter professional manuscript edit and $20 ebook voucher, follow @katherineamabel and @lisaslanding on twitter and tweet "I'm in!" Share your thoughts here for extra entries in the draw, and check out the rules to score even more! (http://beyondthehourglassbridge.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/critique-contest-and-giveaway.html)

Title: The Watershed
Genre: Suspense/thriller
First Page:

They were dead. They were all dead and they knew it, but the survivors of flight D41173A were too scared to put words to the thought. After the elation of surviving a plane crash wore off, reality set in for the eleven strangers that they wouldn’t survive much longer. Snow fell around them in earnest, the wind howled, and the only thing for them to do was to rush down the mountain they had found themselves stranded on.
“How do you make God laugh?” Dwayne asked.
He was walking just behind Brody, who was jolted out of a deep thought by the question. Brody had no time for riddles. He had been on his way to confront his ex-fiancée when the plane crashed in the Rockies.
The group of strangers had only been hiking for a couple hours, but to Christopher, a man unfamiliar with physical activity requiring more effort than putting a chicken wing in his mouth and chewing, it felt like an eternity. The skies had lightened a shade or two in the past thirty minutes, which only helped highlight the large amounts of snow falling. Each of them knew rescue could not come as long as the storm continued. That was, unless they got far enough under the storm where helicopters could safely maneuver in for a pick up.
“Son, maybe it’s best not to talk about God at this time,” Yuki Ikejira spoke up near the back of the pack, “Who knows, He may be listening.”
Ike was the oldest of the group. You could tell the cold was hitting him the hardest as he labored down the mountain with assistance from a cane. Each breath was a hard day’s labor for him. Yuki Ikejira, or, “Ike” as he asked to be called, had not accepted any extra clothing or blankets for himself when the extra supplies were divided. He was a globe-trotting pastor who wore a traditional black pair of pants, black shiny shoes, black dress shirt, and a recognizable white band in his collar. The only outward protection he had against the fierce wind was a purple scarf around his neck. Well, that and his faith.
Dwayne laughed and retorted, “Perfect answer, Ike, especially from a priest. Isn’t it you who should be talking our ears off about God right about now?”
Nora O’Grady, the first female detective to make the missing persons division in her former precinct, was ready to put an end to any bickering. Before she made a sound, a quick surprised inhale was heard to her left.
O’Grady turned to see Stephanie Berea struggling to breathe, her red cheeks flashing to purple. The older woman, O’Grady estimated Stephanie to be in her mid-sixties, burst into a fit of violent coughing.
This was the third or fourth outbreak from her that night. It was becoming apparent to everyone shivering down the mountain together that Stephanie was not well, crash or no crash.


  1. Just to stir up some comments I'd like to mention i just completed an edit that chopped about 8000 words from my ms including a 900 word prologue...I also shaved several pages in the first chapter because several reAders mentioned they wanted to be introduced to the characters quicker...is this too fast? Is it confusing to have so many names thrown at you like this? Thanks

  2. I didn't find it confusing to have so many names at once. If they're important later, then we need to know about them up front.

    You did repeat yourself here: "Ike was the oldest of the group....Yuki Ikejira, or, “Ike” as he asked to be called". I'd pick the most important instance of it and use that.

    Over all, I liked your beginning. It is a bit plodding that they are walking down a mountain, but considering that's where the plane crashed, it was bound to happen. I'd see if you can make it a little less "walking to mordor" and more "walking to get to safety", if you know what I mean. Right now, I picture a group of survivors, ill-prepared for a winter storm, meandering down a mountain hoping to get to safety. I think you can embellish this a bit more and give us a beefier start.

  3. The setting of your story is good and gaurantees tension. The survivors aren't in the best shape and are racing against the clock and the weather to safety. I'm wondering if this a person against the elements / other group members story, or is there a more sinister element at play?

    Probably the biggest suggestion I can offer, is try to show what's happening rather than tell. For example you tell us reality is setting in, it is snowing, the wind is howling and they are heading down the mountain.

    Consider the feel of the snow against their faces, getting in their mouths, drenching poor old Ike and his clothes unsuited to the weather. What direction is the wind coming from - are they pushing into, or is it driving them down the mountain toward safety.

    You do introduce a lot of characters in a short period of time. This isn't necessarily a problem, but try not to jump around from person to person too quickly. For example you start a conversation between Dwain and Brody, and then jump to Christopher in a way that doesn't tie in to the conversation and is a bit jarring. Introducing Ike is more natural as he interjects and becomes part of the interaction.

    The description 'hard days labour' is a bit too much to describe his breathing. Laboured would probably suffice.

    As a reader I'm still not sure what to expect from this story. It might help if you had them face a hurdle, and introduce them as they respond as a group.

    An interesting group of people and a potentially dangerous setting. Best of luck.

  4. The intro is very good. The backdrop induces immediate tension. However, the introduction of the characters is jarring and forced.

    It's like the narrator is giving us a bio on the screen with the photo of the person. Try melding them in the narrative through dialogues or actions.

    I hope this helps.

  5. I was actually going to suggest you pull it back and start with the plane crash. I think it would bring us into the story faster and what an opportunity for suspense!! But I'd keep it short, maybe a page or so (it could be just a prolouge maybe?). Use it to show the intesity and fear in the characters then jump to this scene.

    This of course is just my opinion.

  6. Surviving a plan crash would be quite horrific, especially have seen a bunch of people die next to you. From the scene, I get the impression that they've already done their freaking out, panicked and then decided to climb down the mountain for coverage from the weather. Usually, when major catastrophes happen, one or two people will take lead of the group and most become followers. Just pointing out I didn't notice this... everyone was plodding along as if they had one unison thought on the matter... they probably do - safety, but in such situations everyone reacts differently. Perhaps one person can't stop crying. Another keeps saying they should remain with the plane since it will be spotted easier etc.

    Also, personally I did find the introduction of too many characters hard to keep track of, and also meant I didn't have time to connect with any one character. I'd spend a bit more time in the head of one character so we can get a feel for them, then slowly bring the others into view.

    I like the concept of surviving a plane crash and am interested to see what happens from here. It is a means of survival?

  7. Lots of great feedback from all of you thanks! I'm excited to start a revision with your comments in mind. Keep it coming.

  8. Hi, and thanks for entering. Sorry it’s been a while – with a number of gig’s my band had to prepare for and no readily available internet I haven’t had a chance. It’s no excuse, but I’m still sorry. :)

    Anyway, I love that second line. It shows so much in just a few words and really chills you through.

    I’d try making this 2nd paragraph line sound less passive: i.e his question jolted Brody from a deep thought, rather than Brody was jolted. Nice introduction of another layer of conflict in that paragraph with the fiancée. Does feel like a bit of an information dump though. Maybe using slightly different wording – i.e. putting it more in Brody’s voice – would feel more natural.

    Your writing is beautifully done and highly polished – I got pulled up by the use of labour and laboured in two lines.

    The line about the breath ‘was heard’ is a case of filtering. i.e. no one thinks ‘I’m hearing a sound’ they just notice the sound itself. Great ending though. Love to know where this is going. Good job!