Author Topic: First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel  (Read 1347 times)

Offline AspiringAuthor

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First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel
« on: December 16, 2018, 08:31:01 PM »
Quick, rhythmic tapping on the hotel desk drowns out the evening news. I’m barely listening. Repeating the pattern, as I have for the past 2 years, I realize these are my fingers. Sometimes I use objects. I quickly recall practicing with a 9x19mm bullet to make the noise; then a single action, then double, then hotel keys, coins, a shot glass, and finally, my uncut fingernails suffice. Motions of unloading the cylinder, loading, cocking, firing, all constantly practiced, all throughout the day. Helps me sleep, helps me think. It’s relaxing. It is my favorite tune, the precursor to the beginning and the end.

The sound is now melody, and it drowns out the broadcast, so I switch hands. My nails and fingers tap my thigh: the knell beat, played by a dozen players in the orchestra pit getting louder. I’m at the symphony. The conductor nods to me. The other hand lays dead, waiting, then gripping nothing. I can barely hear her when--

“–over fifty injured and seven dead in this heinous attack right here in London. Preliminary reports suggest that the lone gunman suffered from a nervous breakdown at the time of the attack and--”


Another one. The music stops despite the persistence of my hand, the players now looking at me dubiously. They’re right, of course. Fiction sells better than the truth but I know better. A radical Islamist like all the rest carried out this attack. Correction, attacks, one of dozen in England alone. More in Europe.  I know who is behind it all. One mind, one man, overlooking the stage behind the curtain, awaiting the clutch of my bare hands around his neck. He triggered the show but I intend to end it.

Right on cue, the players, now satisfied, play the music once more. The beat is powerful and relentless like the rhythm of a steam locomotive screeching over the rusty joints of an old track. I can see it in my mind approaching. It would be so easy to just… stand there, let it all go.

My quiet fist jumps in reflex, grabbing air; I see a reflection in the dead TV, familiar nails digging into my palm a thousand times. Was it I? Who died in those attacks today? Lucky few, they got over it quickly. Survivors, families, loved ones. They’re the unlucky ones now wishing for it all to end.

The phone next to me is vibrating, been doing so for quite a while given its current position. List of people knowing I’m in England let alone know about this number is short. It’s probably Wilmer, half-tempted to ignore him. Did something happen? The orchestra shifts its tune just as I ask. It is now playing a melodious, gentle string. I should be able to hear him so I answer.

“What’s wrong?” He knows not to call me unless there is an emergency.

“No, God no. Nothing’s wrong, I-“His tone is careful, too careful. If nothing happened then why is he calling? He’s fishing for something, but for what? Expects me to say something, anything, what is there to say? I can barely hear anything anymore; the symphony is slowly dying down, the silence to come I know to be painful.

“It’s late. This call is international and you called, what is it? ‘’ I ask, if only to get rid of the quiet. No answer, more quiet. I check the phone’s signal out of habit. 3 bars. No static. Clear. As I’m about to respond, I can hear him groaning into the phone.

“Listen need to end this and return home. I stood by and supported you for two years. But, I need to draw the line and stop you...before you get yourself killed. God knows you have no one else left to tell you this.”

The symphony left me, or I left it, or something. Gone completely. The reflection in the TV now sits next to me, a woman. Yeah, she’s sitting next to me now. Her face is blurred, pixelated like the film of many cheap security cameras I went through. She, him, both makes me angry and my hand tightens in a claw. I look away from her. Damnit Wilmer! Why must you do this to me? Furious, I can only hear my heart pounding thanks to them both.

“I don’t need advice coming from a coward.” He tries to answer but I raise my voice further. “No! I’m still talking right now, and you better damn well listen. Since you seem to have forgotten...let me remind you; your daughter is dead Wilmer.”
The past is behind me, buried. Why, why must he bring it up again? I look upon the faceless woman. Who is she? New, not part of the performance. Why doesn’t she go away?! I put the phone down and try to calm myself. Doesn’t work. It’s too quiet and my thoughts won’t stop. The rhythm is all in my head now. I count my breaths, ignore the woman, and pick up the phone in time to hear Wilmer talking. Pissed still but slightly better.

 “Before you left, you asked me to come with you.” Wilmer’s voice sounds resigned, weary, beaten. “I said no and let you walk out. God, I shouldn’t have done that. I should have stopped you when I had the chance, I should have-” He is lost. Like the families of those that died today. “You’re right, I am a coward.” He is an old man, not his charge, not his fault. “I’m a coward for letting grief blind me. I was selfish and looked the other way while you suffered alone.” Wrong. I don’t suffer; I endure. “But it’s not too late, you must come back home and get help.”

Help? I’m genuinely amused now. He doesn’t know anything of what I’ve been doing these past two years. I look past the woman towards the stage. Some of the guests nod to me and chuckle. It must be an intermission. I answer once again, resolved in words. “I don’t need help, don’t need anyone. I especially don’t need you of all people telling what I should or shouldn’t do.” I’m about to raise my arm and signal the symphony to carry on but Wilmer is a persistent bastard.

“Do you even listen to yourself Sebastian? God, you have a daughter of your own! She needs you… or have you forgotten about her?” The question rips through what is left of my anger. I miss it already, I’m better with it than this, better than… damn him. He’s opened that door and I can’t shut. My knees suddenly feel very tired and weak and I… when was I standing? I sit down next to the table, waving away the conductor. The audience stop to watch, as I sit, not appreciating this little distraction. I can’t do anything about that and Wilmer carries on.

“I’ve lived at lot longer than you have so I know a thing or two about guilt. You lost your wife but she was my daughter. I’m asking you, begging you to come back. If not for your sake but the sake of my grandchild.”
Back? No, no, definitely not. She is in good hands. Better than mine. They know. Only they… the conductor waggle his baton in impatience. I know, I know damn it! She is young, she won’t remember me, the opera or any of this; I don’t want her to. I don’t what her to see me as I am now. I still have time, time to be a father and be a part of her life. That is what keeps me going. That is what gives me strength.

I look back at my quiet, still hand. Blood under the nails. Just picking at old scabs. Not even a small cut, just a graze from the constant practice. Needs a trim but I can’t tamper with the sound, so I bite into it. I rip it with my teeth, thinking; can’t focus, can’t hear. Words… words, I’m at a loss of them, and yet Wilmer is patient, keen on waiting. He doesn’t realize how cruel he can be so I answer, if only to assure him.

“No one will right our wrongs, Wilmer. I know that I have failed. Failed them both. Need to do this, no one else will. Promise you this though; I will come back. Until then, tell her that… tell her that her father loves-“

My mouth turns to ash and I feel tears running down my cheeks. Resigned in defeat I nod towards the conductor who urges the symphony to play again. To my frustration, it is but one solid held note, not loud or soft. I feel like screaming out but I’m not a musician; I’m just repeating the sound from the opera anyway. It is just the percussionist hitting a sour note, or the violinist breaking a string. That’s all.

 “I love her Wilmer. Tell her that I love her. Keep her safe until I’m finished.”

“Sebastian, wait-”

I end the call. The conductor looks back at the crowd, bowing, apologizing for the error. I block his number and stare aimlessly across the room until I find the audience. They’re impatient and irritated now but they don’t mean anything. For a brief moment, I feel alone, overwhelmed and very tired. I’m back before the opera now though. Everything’s fine. Almost.

She is still here, whoever she is. She doesn’t fit with all the rest. The performers, the audience, the guests… all of them distant, pale, bled of any color in nuances of white, gray, and black. She is close. Her evening dress, a golden yellow. I can’t see her face but I feel her smiling as she wraps her arm around mine. I realize now that my hand hurts; the bruises, the swellings, the cuts… all of it hurt. Her caress brought the pain and yet it feels good. I have forgotten what is like for someone to touch me with kindness. I enjoy it, if only for one, brief moment. The moment fades though as I remember my purpose.

I pull my hand sharply away from her and the pain goes away. Numb and ready once more, my hand is. More than that, I’ve been neglecting the opera with these distractions and I feel an itch in my fingertips, anticipating action. I give the wounded hand a rest and switch the other, repeating the rhythmic tune that guides the players once more. It is the choir’s turn now. Relaxing, sublime… perfect. I turn my eyes away from the cast on stage and realize the woman is finally gone. Good riddance. No more delays. An introduction is in order I suppose so where am I?


Birmingham, United Kingdom, housed in a local three-star motel next to a museum. The conductor and his assembled cast wrap up their performance and yield me the floor much to the cheering of the audience.

Load, close, cock, bang.

Offline LunaStar

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Re: First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2018, 11:58:35 AM »
This is amazing. The suspense was literally killing me.
However, I was a bit confused about the setting of this scene. Is Sebastian in a hotel room, a motel, or a theater? Is the orchestra really there or is it all in his head? I read it a couple of times. Is it possible that the only thing that was real about this entire scene was the phone call? If that is the case, then it just adds that much more volume and tragedy to the state of mind of the main character.   

I would love to read more.

Offline AspiringAuthor

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Re: First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2018, 07:11:54 PM »
Appreciate you taking the time to read. Indeed, Sebastian is a quasi-unreliable narrator, the opera & co a construct of his disturbed mind. I wrote this novel from the perspective of four characters vastly different and yet linked together by the fourth character; the antagonist. I wrote tragedy as a genre because of the Sebastian angle but frankly, I’m not sure what the novel’s genre is but I guess I scratched the suspense angle!

Offline nosuchmember

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Re: First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2018, 07:13:41 PM »
I read your story twice. I agree with LunaStar. It an amazing write.  jt

Offline Thral Dom

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Re: First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2018, 09:47:07 PM »

Welcome aboard.
« Last Edit: December 17, 2018, 10:34:40 PM by Thral Dom »

Offline Dustin91

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Re: First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2018, 10:48:36 PM »
Certainly an evocative piece. I read it and then went and watched American Psycho and couldn't help feeling the film was one of your influences.

The orchestra is an interesting device for showing the narrator's disillusionment, but I never quite caught the pattern of behavior between the two entities. One is presumably meant to inform the other, but the conductor's cues and narrator's actions weren't obviously linked. Not that they should be, but perhaps more than they are now. I'm guessing the orchestra is goading the narrator into suicide or murder, but again, I didn't find this particularly clear.

There were a few misuses of words you'll likely find on another read through. I believe your punctuation could use some work. The dialogue was a bit too plainly expository in my opinion.

Overall, at times it was an enjoyable read, and at times it was confusing. Just my opinion.

Hope this helps and thank you for sharing.

Offline AspiringAuthor

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Re: First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2018, 11:09:49 PM »
Re - Dustin91

Regarding the American Psycho, it is a coincidence. Ironically, I couldn't watch the film for more than 30 minutes because I found it dull, boring, and pretentious. Thomas Harris more likely influenced me.

The orchestra angle – You’re reading one quarter of a chapter and I build context and understanding gradually. Confusion is intentional and expected but you raise a very good point; a clearer parallel between the opera and the character’s actions should be emphasized. I’ll think on it and consider. It is good for I didn’t before so thanks for that.

Misuse of words and punctuation I already noticed as I’ve started editing the whole thing. As far as dialogue is concerned…. The exposition is necessarily for the following scenes but I guess I can re-work it better. Another good point.

Overall, it helped a lot, thanks.


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Re: First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2018, 01:12:58 AM »
Hi, I Would love to read more content. Awesome read, but in some spots items were descriptively confusing, flow of some sentences were confusing. May be a problem for a reader not quite as prolific with words. For the casual reader it may be confusing at first. I hope this helps, and it looks to be a great beginning! From just this reading and your explanation it could possibly be a series.

Offline landmersm

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Re: First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2019, 09:15:13 AM »
Take my opinions on what they are: A random internet person telling you things. (Besides, you read mine, so I thought I'd return the favor!)

I enjoyed it. It's an interesting concept, and I like your vision: Seeing things in the reflection of the TV; the tapping of the fingers, some orchestra somewhere; the disturbed mind trying to appear normal in a public place. Plus, the mystery of the connection between bombing mastermind and the disturbed individual in the bar somewhere. These parts stick out to me. Well done.

It was a little confusing at points. I lost track a time or two. Maybe streamline it a little. If this is going to be the opening, maybe make it a little easier for a reader to jump into. It's the first thing they're going to read from you. You, a complete stranger to them. Make them want to turn the page. If the beginning is too cloudy, they may not want to keep going. I kept thinking, "What is the connection to the bombings?" A little more of a hint would go a long way to bringing me further in. (Throw the dog a bone, so to speak.)

Also, you struggle from comma usage, much like myself. Sometimes too much. Sometimes too little. One or two run-on sentences, but nothing too terrible.

Overall, I did like it. I think a little pruning would do wonders.

Speaking of American Psycho. Ever read the book? I've read it once and never will again. It's . . . . . an impressive piece of fiction, but a wholly horrible experience.
My blog is  (It's new-ish!)

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Offline Rantideva

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Re: First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2019, 11:45:26 AM »
It is well written, but often confusing (it doesn't help that I am reading this sitting at my work desk).  The pacing was really fast and the main character's thoughts seemed to be changing a lot. 

Maybe if I was able to totally focus on this writing, or if I read it twice, I would understand it better. 

Definitely good writing though!

Offline Kit

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Re: First 1800 words of a suspense/thriller/tragedy novel
« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2019, 03:24:37 PM »
Intense writing.  I agree with lots of what's already been posted.  I'll add that you refer to the orchestra and then the symphony, which felt like one kind of performance.  But when you later said opera, that felt like a different kind of performance and it changed what I envisioned.  Was that intentional?  Just a small thing, but it stood out to me as a musician.

Good read though.  Thanks for sharing.