Critique Corner #6: BIRTHDAY DISASTER

By: Nicole P.                                                              

Genre: Adult Romantic Suspense

Lead in: Malcolm had just walked away from Daniella, the woman he arrested earlier. He meets up with Larson, the medical examiner who has been working with him on a serial homicide case and gives Malcolm an update.

“I just discovered a possible suspect.”

“Who is it this time?” Malcolm voiced without a trace of emotion. They’d been down this road before. Had followed leads that took them on one wild goose chase after another that always led to a dead end. With each hope-busted failure, the guilt weighed on his shoulders a little more than the last.  Sometimes it seemed like Malcolm could feel the deceased victims’ disappointment in his lack of success and sense the killer’s laughing at his incompetence. It always ate at him day in and out until he felt like going mad. No, this time he wasn’t going to get his hopes up until there was concrete evidence behind it.

“Follow me to my lab, Mr. Bright Rays of Sunshine, and I’ll explain.” Larson turned and headed in the opposite direction Malcolm had been going. When they entered the lab, Larson walked to his desk and grabbed some papers. Flipping through a few, he pulled out one and handed it to Malcolm. On it, were a bunch of numbers and colorful spikes that made absolutely no sense to him.

“What is this, Larson?” Malcolm waved around the sheet of paper.

“It’s the DNA profile of the strands of hair we found.”

“Okay. And why am I looking at this?”

“I’m getting to that.” Larson leaned against his desk and crossed his arms. “So, do you remember how I told you I wasn’t able to find a match from the hairs in the criminal database because it was possible our murderer didn’t have any priors? Or just hadn’t been caught?” When Malcolm nodded, Larson continued. “So I decided to check other databases in order to determine if there was something there.”

“I’m guessing there was?”

“Ding ding ding. You are correct, sir. And after some long hours of non-stop searching, coffee binging and hair pulling, there was a match in one of the genealogy databases I ran.”

“Okay, so who do the hairs belong to?”

Larson picked up another sheet off his desk and stared down at it. “Our possible murder suspect is this woman.”

“Woman?” Malcolm asked, unable to hide the surprise in his voice. All these years he’d envisioned someone ruthless to be behind the mask of those grotesque killings. Not someone…dainty.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, Malcolm,” Larson said as if reading his thoughts. “Women can be just as vicious as or worse than men. Only difference is that they do it in heels, which I think is the root of their evilness. ”

“Focus, Larson.”

“Right. Sorry.” Larson shook his head before handing the paper over to Malcolm. “That’s her name and driver’s license picture right there. The suspect is a Miss Daniella Montgomery.”

“What?” Malcolm quickly glanced down at the paper and sure enough a picture of the beautiful woman who hadn’t left his thoughts –that was in the lobby waiting for him to release her –was staring back at him.

6 thoughts on “Critique Corner #6: BIRTHDAY DISASTER

  1. myinnermg says:

    Hey Nicole!

    Thanks so much for submitting this!

    I feel like this entry is pretty tight as is. If I did have any suggestions at all (and this would just be my personal preference) it’d be to play around with some of the wording to add more voice…make it less clinical, less predictable CSI speak, if you know what I mean. (-: Again, this is just my opinion. Your dialogue is strong, and the ending is edgy. But if you could somehow differentiate this from reading like just another cop/examiner conversation by infusing some personality into it, you’d have a great opportunity to add some attention grabbing voice in there. I made a few notes within and one on the last paragraph as an example, but, of course, you know your story best!

    I hope some of the notes are helpful to you! Best of luck with this, Nicole! Thanks again for letting us check it out. (-:

    Melyssa
    @myinnermg

    Title: BIRTHDAY DISASTER
    Author: Nicole P.

    Lead in description: Malcolm had just walked away from Daniella, the woman he arrested earlier. He meets up with Larson, the medical examiner who has been working with him on a serial homicide case and gives Malcolm an update.

    “I just discovered a possible suspect.”
    “Who is it this time?” Malcolm voiced without a trace of emotion. They’d been down this road before. Had followed leads that took them on one wild goose chase after another that always led to a dead end. With each hope-busted failure, the guilt weighed on his shoulders a little more than the last. Sometimes it seemed like Malcolm could feel the deceased victims’ disappointment in his lack of success and sense the killer’s laughing at his incompetence.

    (This is good internal thought here. Consider subbing “it” for something like: the pressure or the guilt to give us even more of how he’s feeling) It always ate at him daily day in and out until he felt like going mad.

    No, this time he wasn’t going to get his hopes up until there was concrete evidence behind it.
    “Follow me to my lab, Mr. Bright Ray(s) of Sunshine, and I’ll explain.” Larson turned and headed in the opposite direction Malcolm had been going. When they entered the lab, Larson walked to his desk and grabbed some papers. Flipping through a few, he pulled out one and handed it to Malcolm. On it, were a bunch of numbers and colorful spikes that made absolutely no sense to him.
    “What is this, Larson?” Malcolm waved around the sheet of paper. (by using Malcom after the question and in the previous paragraph, it’s implied who’s being addressed).
    “It’s the DNA profile of the strands of hair we found.”
    “Okay. And why am I looking at this?”
    “I’m getting to that.” Larson leaned against his desk and crossed his arms. “So, do you remember how I told you I wasn’t able to find a match from the hairs in the criminal database because it was possible our murderer didn’t have any priors? Or just hadn’t been caught?” When Malcolm nodded, Larson continued. “So I decided to check other databases in order to determine if there was something there.”
    “I’m guessing there was?”
    “Ding ding ding. You are correct, sir. And after some long hours of non-stop searching, coffee binging and hair pulling, there was a match in one of the genealogy databases I ran.”
    “Okay, so who do the hairs belong to?”
    Larson picked up another sheet off his desk and stared down at it. “Our possible murder suspect is this woman.”
    “Woman?” Malcolm asked, unable to hide the surprise in his voice. All these years he’d envisioned someone ruthless to be behind the mask of those grotesque killings. Not someone…dainty.
    “Don’t judge a book by its cover, Malcolm,” Larson said as if reading his thoughts. “Women can be just as vicious as or worse than men. Only difference is that they do it in heels, which I think is the root of their evilness. ”
    “Focus, Larson.”
    “Right. Sorry.” Larson shook his head before handing the paper over to Malcolm. “That’s her name and driver’s license picture right there. The suspect is a Miss Daniella Montgomery.”
    “What?” Malcolm quickly glanced down at the paper and sure enough a picture of the beautiful woman who hadn’t left his thoughts (there was an extra space here)–that was in the lobby waiting for him to release her (and here)–was staring back at him.

    Oooh! I’d imagine his heart was going wild at seeing her picture. Consider adding some deeper thought on what Malcolm feels when he sees Daniella’s face. Put us in his gut. Make our hearts stop as his might at seeing the woman who’s been haunting his thoughts and who might be the person who destroys him. EX:

    Malcolm’s heart pumped against his starchy shirt that now felt a size too small. His mouth hung open in disbelief. The face that haunted his thoughts for weeks was in now in his hands––The beautiful, deceiving face of Daniella Montgomery––the woman who was waiting in the lobby for him at that very moment. The woman he couldn’t release from his mind let alone prison.

    (again, all total suggestions. Your voice, your story, but you get the idea! (-:).

  2. swirlandspark says:

    Hi Nicole, I like your entry a lot. It’s difficult, being dropped into the middle of a story, to feel a part of it. That wasn’t the case here. I can feel Malcolm’s frustration and even his weariness at not having cracked the case after all this time. I love “each hope busted failure.” (great voice here).
    In the sentence: “Sometimes it seemed like Malcolm could feel the deceased victims’ disappointment in his lack of success and sense the killer’s laughing at his incompetence,” the word “sometimes” weakens this thought. I suggest taking it out. I also suggest taking out “always” from the next sentence and instead say, “It ate at him day in and out until he felt like going mad.” In both cases, the thought has more impact without those filler words. I also suggest deleting the sentence: “Larson turned and headed in the opposite direction Malcolm had been going.” I’m not sure it’s necessary to the story and the wordiness of it slows down the action.
    In the paragraph where Larson starts explaining his theory, you don’t need: “When Malcolm nodded, Larson continued.” Again, too wordy. You could simply say, “Malcom nodded.” The reader will infer that Larson is continuing with his explanation.
    My overall thought to improve this scene is to differentiate the personalities of the two men, even more. I get the feeling that Larson is a more positive, upbeat guy. (“Ding, ding, ding. You are correct, Sir!) Malcom is more beaten down and negative. Could you possibly expand on these personality traits even further in the way they speak or even walk down the hall? Maybe Larson walking quickly with a sense of purpose and Malcom dragging behind? These are golden opportunities to get to know the characters better.
    I love the tension of the last paragraph. Nice twist! Of course being dropped into the story I don’t know much about Daniella, but I love that a possible suspect to such horrible crimes could be sitting right down the hall, and that for some reason, Malcom is drawn to her! One picky note: “that was in the lobby” should be “who was in the lobby.” I’m also wondering if changing “picture of the beautiful woman” to “face of the beautiful woman” would be more immediate. If he’s really drawn to her, that simple word change may make the impact stronger.
    You’ve done a great job with this scene and I would love to read more. I hope the suggestions help. Thank you for sharing with us and I wish you good luck!

  3. emilygmoorewriter says:

    Okay, I helped you with the query as the Query Helper, but its super fun to be able see some of the actual writing! This is a great scene, but I feel like it could be played out a little more, the environment feels vague (I don’t know much except ‘”lab”). Great voice bits, but I sometimes got the two men mixed up in the dialogue. They The ending leaves me wanting to know how he is going to handle locking the girl back up. Hope this helps! Best of luck with this!

  4. Rachel says:

    Hello!!

    I’ve seen your story around other contests and was always curious about what it actually was. Now that I’ve gotten a sample I can see why it’s been popular XD

    You have a voice that definitely fits the MC. It’s perfect. However it can get a little wordy and I also suggest cutting some of the backstory, especially since this is the middle and it turns into showing instead of telling. Otherwise, looks good and clean 🙂

  5. Scarlett Kol says:

    Nicole,

    I really liked this piece. I found that I read it very quickly because it all flowed very smoothly and I wasn’t ever really thrown out of story.

    I think the comments Larson makes about women in heels is great to giving us a glimpse of his personality. Both voices were distinct and identifiable. Well done!!

    I am intrigued and would read on.

  6. Daniel Beerse says:

    Nicole,

    Being more of a “who dun it” type reader your story immediately drew me in (even, as many of the other readers have said, being dropped into the middle of it). I quickly got a sense of what is happening and how Malcolm is feeling.

    There are a few areas where you could tighten up the writing for instance this sentence: “Sometimes it seemed like Malcolm could feel the deceased victims’ disappointment in his lack of success and sense the killer’s laughing at his incompetence.” I agree with another person that “sometimes” weakens this line also the word “feel” jumped out at me. How about this: It seemed like Malcolm could feel the deceased victims’ disappointment in his lack of success and hear the killer’s laughter at his incompetence.”

    I clearly want to know more about the beautiful Daniella and why she is being considered as a prime suspect (hard to imagine a hottie committing a gruesome murder), even as Larson points out that it’s because of the high heels. (love that!)

    Thank you for sharing and good luck!

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