First Page Feedback: Untitled #2

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Untitled #2 by Wes W.

Original

Amos Stark squatted in the shadows next to Langdon Hall Annex on the campus of Auburn University. Students and fans streamed by en route to Toomer’s Corner with rolls of toilet paper underarm. They paid Amos no mind. Shouts of “War-Damn-Eagle” and “Bama Sucks” filled the air.

Amos peered at the building’s second floor to ensure the office light remained lit, and shivered against the cool of the October evening. The blinds were closed, and no other lights were on in the building. Good. A rustling in the bark mulch under the fragrant tea olive bushes caught Amos’ attention.

Hello Mr. Toad.

Amos flipped up the hood on his navy Auburn sweatshirt and pulled a Ruger SR22 from his backpack. He checked the safety and the SilencerCo SS Sparrow suppressor. He stuck the pistol in his blue jeans waistband under the hoodie. He pulled on a pair of surgical gloves, and tugged on the backpack.

Time to upset the Auburn family, toad-frog. The toad looked at him and blinked.Don’t look at me. Amos stood and ground the toad under his heel and smiled. No witnesses yet.

Amos stepped from the shadows and slipped to the entrance. He ignored the crowd racket and cascades of toilet paper flying into the oak trees on the corner 100 yards away. He pulled a magnetic key card from his pocket and slid it through the reader. The lock clicked and he entered. He looked back through the glass door to ensure no one saw him. As far as he could tell, no one had.

Perfect timing; the rolling party will go on for at least two more hours.

He climbed the stairs. The corridor was dark and he made his way to the fourth office on the left where a slice of light leaked into the hall. The nameplate on the door read Dr. M. J. Walker, Emeritus Professor, Sociology.

Amos tapped on the door as he entered.

Mike Walker looked over his bifocals and laid a manuscript down that he was editing. “Can I help you sir?”

Amos thought he saw a glimmer of recognition in Walker’s eyes, maybe not. “Dr. Walker, I found this ID outside on the ground, and someone said your office is in this building. I took a chance you might be here.”

Amos handed him the ID, and closed the office door.

Walker looked up at Amos, confused. “What the hell?”

“Put the card in your wallet.”

Amos pulled out the pistol.


Lorin's Feedback

Amos Stark squatted in the shadows next to Langdon Hall Annex. [Would wait to reveal the name of the university in order to give the opening line a bit more “punch.”] on the campus of Auburn University. Students and fans streamed by en route to Toomer’s Corner with rolls of toilet paper underarm. They paid Amos no mind. Shouts of “War-Damn-Eagle” and “Bama Sucks” filled the air.

Amos peered at the building’s second floor to ensure the office light still blazed remained lit and shivered against the cool of the October evening. The blinds remained were closed, and no other lights shone were on in the building. Good.  [Work to eliminate repetition of flat/generic “to be” verbs—in this case, a repetition of “were,” which gives the prose a slack feel.]

[New paragraph] A rustling in the bark mulch under the fragrant tea olive bushes caught Amos’ attention.

Hello, Mr. Toad.

[I wonder if this is really the beginning of your story?] Amos flipped up the hood on his navy Auburn University [To slip it in here fully] sweatshirt and pulled a Ruger SR22 from his backpack. He checked the safety and the SilencerCo SS Sparrow suppressor. He stuck the pistol in his blue jeans waistband under the hoodie. He pulled on a pair of surgical gloves, and tugged on the backpack.

Time to upset the Auburn family, toad-frog

The toad looked at him and blinked. [Perhaps another beat of detail here, something idiosyncratic that only Amos would notice.]

Don’t look at me. Amos stood and ground the toad under his heel. and He smiled. No witnesses yet.

Amos stepped from the shadows and slipped to the entrance. He ignored the crowd racket and cascades of toilet paper flying into the oak trees on the corner one-hundred [Spell out numbers to one-hundred and those that can be expressed in one or two words.]  yards away. He pulled a magnetic key card from his pocket and slid it through the reader. The lock clicked, and he entered. He looked back through the glass door to ensure no one saw him. As far as he could tell, no one had.

Perfect timing; the rolling party will go on for at least two more hours.

He climbed the stairs. The corridor was dark, and he made his way to the fourth office on the left where a slice of light leaked into the hall. [I wonder if you might bring in another sense here. Does the building have a particular scent, in Amos’s estimation? Help bring us more fully into the world of the story, if you can.] The nameplate on the door read Dr. M. J. Walker, Emeritus Professor, Sociology.

Amos tapped on the door as he entered.

Mike Walker looked over his bifocals and laid a manuscript down that he was editing. [Does Amos know that he’s editing and not just reading the MS?] “Can I help you, sir?”

Amos thought he saw a glimmer of recognition in Walker’s eyes, maybe not. “Dr. Walker, I found this ID outside on the ground, and someone said your office is in this building. I took a chance you might be here.”

Amos handed him the ID, and closed the office door.

Walker looked up at Amos, confused. “What the hell?”

Amos pulled out the pistol.

“Put the card in your wallet.” [I think transposing these makes for a more powerful, enigmatic ending to the moment.]

Amos pulled out the pistol.

 

Hi, Wes –

Thanks so much for sharing your work with me! I truly appreciate it, and enjoyed your fluid prose.

You’ve certainly created a compelling and mysterious set of circumstances here. My concern, however, is that this scenario feels very typical of a standard suspense novel prologue or opening scene.  I am not brought in via an unusual character perspective or an atypical setting. The actions taken by the character in the scene don’t present something new to me. In short, it feels like something I’ve read before, and it will most certainly, I’m afraid, seem so for an agent or editor who has probably a thousand times the number of manuscripts cross his desk in a year than I typically do!

So, I’m wondering—admittedly with zero knowledge of the entire project—if this is the best place to start. Is there another scene that might provide something less expected for the reader? Is there another location or set of circumstances that might provide a more compelling “hook” into the story? Or is there a way to take the expected semi-distanced point of view and bring us closer, give us deeper hints of Amos’s character and motivations? Find a way to express his desires with livelier, more unexpected language?

Perhaps there’s more to develop in terms of his (temporary) relationship with the toad. Maybe it speaks to him for one reason or another. Maybe he’s fascinated by its sound, finds it beautiful, feels as though he’s found a kindred spirit during his mission here, and then crushes it under foot without a thought, anyway.

Just some paths you might wish to journey down to find a more vivid and unfamiliar way into the piece. Your writing is solid; I have faith you’ll find that path!

Thanks again for sharing! 

-- Lorin