Critique #5

October 12th, 2010
The MC is an off duty DI on her way back from a murder case in Lincolnshire that is linked to other murders she is investing by the same killer.

Petrol was low so I took the slip road to the next service station and pulled up onto the forecourt. I jumped out and noticed a red Vauxhall Astra pull up at the pump behind me. A skinny youth got out and headed over to the shop to get sweets, I assumed. The next thing I knew there was gunfire. A bullet flew through the air and thudded into the plastic waste bin to the side of me. Fuck. All I could think about was petrol pumps and my arse being right next to them. I threw myself to the ground and yelled … GET DOWN … to anyone who could hear me. [Maybe instead of saying what the character said, make it as dialogue?] I scanned around from my vantage point behind the car and thanked God there was only me, the Vauxhall and a motorbike at the pumps.

I reached for my phone but it was still plugged into the cigarette lighter. I glanced toward the shop – a man fell through the door holding his chest, SHIT, SHIT – okay clam down, Lyns, think. I poked my head above the bonnet and BANG another bullet flew past me – stop the fucking shooting for Christ’s’ sake. [This is a little hard to follow because of the odd punctuation. Is the character thinking this? Saying this?]

“I need a fucking phone?” [This shouldn’t be a question.] I yelled aloud, more to vent frustration than anything else. [“Venting frustration” is a very passive act in the middle of what should be a scene full of tension. The MC really does need a phone, right?] The guy belonging to the Vauxhall threw me his phone. Okay, okay, that’s good. I hit the emergency button …

Fire, Ambulance, Police

“Police and an ambulance.”

The guy who’d been shot was lying on the floor bleeding to death. I could make out someone through the window; he/she was waving something around – a gun – possibly. [This is the first mention you’ve made of the possible shooter. Your MC is a trained police officer. The first thing she would do is to try to locate the shooter. I think you might wait too long to bring this up. She would most likely locate the shooter before screaming for a phone.]

Only one service madam

“Listen dickhead, I’m an off duty police officer in a hostage situation get me the fucking police and an ambulance – NOW.” [She should report shots being fired and an injury. If you’re going to write what seems like a police procedural, make sure you’re having your character stick to appropriate procedures (unless you’ve established her as a renegade officer who says bugger all to the rules.]

Police. Where are you?

“I’m on the A15 between Peterborough and Cambridge…” I looked up, BP… “At a BP garage in …” shit, I looked over at the Vauxhall guy, he was crouched down behind his car staring at me.

“My son’s in there…”

I tried to stay calm, I steadied him with my hand, “Okay, it’s gonna be fine, just tell me where we are?”

“Little Hampton.”

“…BP service station in Little Hampton.”

Okay, we gotcha. What’s going on there?

“There’s a fucking madman waving a gun around, I’ve got one man down, and there may be more – hurry up.” [Good that this came up, but it needs to be the first thing she reports.]

He hung up. I flattened myself onto the floor and tried to edge my way toward the Vauxhall – slithering along on my belly like a snake. I reached the boot end of my car and looked round it – BANG – SHIT – a bullet ripped through my jacket.

“Oh fuck, oh fuck … Sam, Sam …” The Vauxhall guy was up and ready to run toward the shop.


He stumbled and fell onto me, I realised then I’d been hit, there was blood soaking into the sleeve of my jacket. [I don’t think people would “realize they’ve been hit.” I’ve never been shot, but plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests that bullet wounds are intensely painful, and even in the heat of combat, your MC would likely know right away.]

“My kid’s in there, fuck, Sammy …”

“Okay, it’s gonna be okay …”

Police sirens had never sounded so good.[This scene has potential to get a lot better if you put in some more detail. If we break it down into Blocking, Scripting, and Choreographing, we’ve got this:

1. Shots are fired at the MC, who ducks under cover. Blocking
2. MC calls for a phone. Scripting 
3. MC has a conversation with the operator, then the police. Scripting
4. MC converses with the other driver. Scripting
5. MC crawls around the car and gets shot. Blocking

What you’ve got here is an action scene with very little action in it. Your MC is a police officer. She should be more focused on serving and protecting and taking some kind of action to stop the shooter. She’s got a gun at least in her car, doesn’t she? At the first sign of shooting, I’d think she’d know a car is little protection against bullets (Mythbusters proved this) and would be better off risking being shot to retrieve her weapon and try to put the shooter down before anyone else gets hurt. 

Whatever choices you ultimately make with this scene, remember that your MC is your Hero, and your Hero should never sit passive and wait for others to take action if she can take action herself first.

Finally, and this is more of a technical note: you’re using far too many hyphens and ellipses and ALL CAPS in this narrative. Any agent or editor would strike those, so you’d be better served to eliminate them yourself. Thanks for your submission!] 

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