Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 2, Scene 1

Chapter 1 Scenes 12, 34a, 4b, 5.

So that was the first chapter, 3500 words. We introduced the following characters:

Police: Diana, Mustapha, Keller, a couple of spear carriers
Family: Grace, allusion to Diana’s ex
Victim: Alex Dawson
Shelter: Claire, Bill
Homeless: Willie, nameless guy

We established the setting, the crime and the theme(s), then moved the plot forward a bit.

Now let’s move on to Chapter 2, which opens with Mustapha, who up until now we’ve only heard on the phone. This is the draft, so I’ll go with what I have, but I’m already pretty sure I’m going to cut the bit about Peter, who’s not relevant to the plot.

Diana tapped a few notes into her tablet before she was distracted by the sound of a powerful, well-tuned engine coming down Peachtree toward her. She turned around to see a bright blue 1969 Mustang pull to the curb beside her. Mustapha was sitting in the passenger seat, no more disheveled or choleric than usual. His son Peter, a match for him in size and bulk but with a saucy grin and a prosthetic right hand on the gearshift lever, looked across his father and smiled at her. “Hey, Detective Siddall! How you been?”

“Hi, Peter! I can’t believe your dad’s letting you drive the car again.”

Mustapha chuckled humorlessly. “It’s really your kid that we need to watch out for behind the wheel.”

“What Dad means,” said Peter, “is that I have a date tonight.”

Diana clapped her hands. “Who’s the lucky girl?”

Mustapha shook his head. “He’s messing around on the job.”

“We work in different departments,” said Peter. “Dad, give me a call if you need a ride.”

“No thanks, buddy,” said Mustapha. “I wouldn’t want to interrupt anything.”

Diana stepped back as Mustapha opened the door and heaved himself out of the passenger seat. Instead of the usual dress shirt and tie underneath his tweed sport coat, he wore an ancient and tattered Army sweatshirt. He caught her looking at him and grinned, his teeth white against his short, bushy black beard. “Give me a break,” he said. “I was watching the game.”

“Keller made fun of me for being a girl because I didn’t ask you the score.” She reached up and brushed crumbs off his lapel as Peter gunned the engine and shot southward on Peachtree.

“What did he expect?” Mustapha began walking, silently for such a big man, toward the klieg lights surrounding the crime scene. “You really think it’s the Reaper, or just that we ought to cover our asses?”

“A little of both. Only two of the other victims were street people–“

“And both of them were hookers. Was this guy?”

“Selling his body? Not so much directly. One of his pals said he had a girlfriend with a job and a place to stay, but nobody said anything about his being a hustler.”

“Let me guess. There isn’t anything like a reliable witness here, is there?”

“I finally met Claire Longstreet. She said our victim was one of the guys who drinks in Renaissance Park, but not someone who caused a lot of problems. There was another guy—he used to belong to Andrew’s country club: can you believe that?—who said the girlfriend was a nurse of some kind, and that some of the other clients maybe resented our vic because he had it a little easier than them.”

“So, for all we know, this just is a public service homicide.”

“That expression is bad enough when people who aren’t my partner use it. And isn’t the usual version of that type of homicide a little bit less neat?”

“So this guy wasn’t killed with a broken forty-ouncer?” They reached the bushes, which Mustapha stepped over and Diana walked around. Keller was kneeling in front of the body; next to him was a fishing tackle box full of scientific and medical gear. “Hey, Dave,” said Mustapha.

“Inspector. Want me to walk you through it?”

“I already gave up on the game. What you got?” He knelt down beside Alex Dawson’s head, next to the box of equipment.

Diana stepped up onto the concrete lip overlooking the freeway and held onto the chain-link fence. Even this late in the evening, all fourteen lanes of traffic held speeding cars and trucks. In the hours before dawn, the flow would slow to a trickle, but by dawn the highway would be choked with suburban commuters willing to put up with an average speed of about fifteen miles per hour in order to have a square of lawn somewhere in the suburbs. Diana, a lifelong urbanite like most of the clients of the Peachtree-Pine shelter, had no idea why so many people preferred suburban life: every time she went outside the Perimeter, she got lost because there were no tall buildings to navigate by.

So, the point here is that we’ve established Diana’s and Mustapha’s relationship. She’s the primary character, but he’s the senior partner, at least technically. We get to see his character: he’s more cynical, especially once we get to the end of the scene where we have Diana being emo and wistful. She gets to recap the crime, in order to place things firmly in the reader’s head, and to provide an organic link to the Reaper. Show, don’t tell: the last thing I want to do here is have Diana say something like, “As you know, Mustapha, the Reaper killed his victims this way…”, because that sucks.


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  1. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 2, Scene 2 | Julian Cage
  2. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 2, Scene 3 | Julian Cage
  3. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 2, Scene 4 | Julian Cage
  4. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 2, Scene 5 | Julian Cage
  5. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 1, Scene 5 | Julian Cage

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