Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Cassandra's Curse Critique
CASSANDRA'S CURSE: First Page Critique
Cassandra picked her way across the roof and crouched beside the knee wall. She'd already mapped her escape route. The nylon bag slid off her shoulder and kissed the concrete with only a whisper. Salt water and car exhaust permeated the cool autumn air around her.
Two blocks north, the KNWF news van pulled up to the curb beside the decrepit church. As the reporter climbed from the passenger seat, Cassie unzipped her bag and extracted the Henry rifle. Assembly took seconds.
Her watch said 5:11 a.m. Perfect timing.
Saint Beatrice's Catholic Monstrosity cast a shadow over half the neighborhood, but the cameraman set up to the southeast, taking advantage of the sunbeams just now clearing the mountains. Meredith Leighton, the blonde newswoman everyone trusted, patted her hair, smoothed her red dress, and glanced up at the building behind her.
Stained-glass windows pocked with holes gave the building a toothless look. Sloughed paint and misspelled obscenities decorated the entire facade.
And Meredith Leighton positioned herself so that all her faithful viewers would see the horrific site and jump on her “save this building” bandwagon.
Cassie wanted to puke. She planted her elbow on the knee wall, slid her finger off the trigger guard, and peered through the scope. The crosshairs settled between Meredith's brilliant green eyes.
Now for my comments. This excerpt has some unique images and great sensory details. I like how the nylon bag “kisses” the pavement in the first paragraph. The “windows pocked with holes gave the building a toothless look.” Nice! And the use of five senses is done well: “salt water and car exhaust permeated the air”; “sloughed paint and misspelled obscenities decorated the entire façade”. Nice imagery.
However… The first paragraph, while interesting, leaves me wondering who Cassandra is, what she’s doing there, and where “here” is. I have no idea what city we’re in. So I need a sense of place.
It’s autumn and 5:11 am. Does that mean it’s light out? How else can she see her target?
How does she feel about the impending assassination, if that’s what this is? I get no vibes about Cassie’s emotions whatsoever, except that Meredith’s pet cause disgusts her (i.e. “Cassie wanted to puke). Why does she feel this way? Does she have a personal vendetta against the victim? Or is she a professional on assignment for someone else?
You could show her emotions when she’s assembling her weapon. Does she slide the parts together with a snap that shows her fury? Or do her hands tremble? Has she done this before? In other words, I can SEE this scene, but I can’t FEEL it.
It just so happens that my latest sci fi romance, Silver Serenade, starts with an assassination attempt, too. Here it is, and while it may not be perfect, this excerpt does answer the five basic questions. We know Who (Silver Malloy), What (her first kill), Why (revenge), Where (on Al’ron), and How (rifle). We also know how she got there (a lucky tip). More importantly, we see how much this kill matters to Silver and that revenge is her motive. She’s also inexperienced, this being her first kill. She’s afraid she’ll lose her chance to get Bluth if she relaxes even for a second.
Despite the coolness of the woods, sweat dribbled down the back of Silver Malloy’s neck. Her muscles ached from hours spent in a crouched position, but stealth mattered more than comfort. She’d waited for this opportunity for months--no, make that years--and wasn’t about to lose it due to a lapse in technique. This first kill might be her last, but at least she’d complete her revenge.
Using her rifle scope, she scanned the dusty street that stretched below her hillside vantage point. The few scruffy inhabitants who trudged between the ramshackle buildings didn’t interest her. A lucky tip had brought her to Al’ron, a watering hole for space travelers. Those who visited here were not often welcome elsewhere. They came to buy arms, men, and equipment to carry out lawless raids against innocent victims, and Tyrone Bluth had earned the reputation as the cruelest bandit of all.
Silver couldn’t wait to end his reign of terror.
Regarding your piece, I like your descriptions; they set the scene well. But I want to know why Cassie is aiming to kill this woman. I want to get inside her head and feel her pain.