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Author Topic: Please critique My first five pages ( a prolog)  (Read 376 times)
bradnewby
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« on: October 01, 2018, 05:35:39 PM »

Prologue
The headlights of the old truck bounced from skyward into the ground as it lurched and rocked over the unpaved weather-beaten road.  The two passengers bounced hard on the squeaky seats with broken springs sometimes hitting their heads on the ceiling.
    “Must we go so fast?” the stranger said.
    “I drive this road every day and believe me it doesn’t help to go slower, it only takes longer,” the driver said, “My name is Abdul-Hakim, but you probably know that.”
    “I am Ali,” the stranger said.
    “Ali?” Abdul said.
    “Just Ali.  Your brother promised me you know every road and alley in town and you know the location of all the Army outposts and rebel strongholds.  He says you drive through them with impunity every day.”
    “Impunity?  There’s a good word.”
    “How is it you can do this thing without getting shot?”
    “Chickens.  I sell chickens to both sides, all sides, even the Christian rebels.  I drive through the outposts and strongholds almost every day.  If they move, I ask around and go find them again.”
    “You know where we are going and how to get there?”
    “Like the back of my hand, but that part of town has been abandoned for weeks.  What’s your business there?”
    “You shouldn’t ask so many questions.  It might shorten your life.”
    To the relief of the stranger, the road flattened out when they reached town.  The truck weaved through streets and alleys obviously avoiding certain parts of town.  Abdul stopped in a dark alley and engaged the emergency brake.
    “We are here,” Abdul said.
    “Where?”
    “That building on the left.”
    Suddenly, there was a pistol pressed against Abdul’s temple.  As Ali loaded a round into the chamber, Abdul trembled uncontrollably.
    “Abdul, you will be here when I come back no matter how long it takes.  If you are not here, I know where you live, and I will find you and kill you.  If you try to hide, I’ll kill your family, and then I will still find you,” Ali said.
   “Don’t worry.  I’ll be here even if I am dead,” Abdul said.
    Ali el-Aziz sat in the darkest corner of a sandstone hovel, ravaged by artillery the night before.  Moonlight flooded the doorway and much of the room, but not a sliver touched Aziz as he sat cross-legged on the floor waiting for his visitors.  Now and then, he heard footsteps on the rocky gravel road outside.  He could tell from their pace, scuff, and stagger they were dodging from doorway to doorway to not be seen.  Syria was at war, at war with itself.  Some of the rebel factions were as dangerous as the regular Army.  His burning desire to punish the infidels in the United States and rain a new terror on their putrid American lives was the only thing that could make him go to this God forsaken place.  He could only hope his visitor would make it through the roadblocks and snipers along his way.
    Aziz heard two sets of footsteps coming that were different; the fools did not dodge the rebels’ eyes as they ran, although they had their own unique, irregular patter.  The one with the staggered gait sounded like an old or injured man with a tendency to drag one foot.  The other sounded like a short-legged young sprout with small nimble feet.  If they were not more careful, they might lead the rebels right to his hiding place.  Their hurried footsteps got closer and suddenly they were in the doorway, an old man and a boy silhouetted by the moonlight.  The young silent boy lugged two large briefcases and was clearly exhausted from carrying them.  The old man looked bent and exhausted just from the trek alone. 
     “Aziz?” Yakob Gazzara whispered.  “Aziz, we are here.”
    Aziz recognized the voice of the old man.
    Aziz thought Christians, infidels, but they serve His purpose.
    “Who is this piece of snot you have with you?” Aziz said.
    “It is only my poor idiot grandson.  His idiot friend picked up a mortar shell and now he cannot hear, and he can only see through one eye.  I think he is simple, but I cannot carry this burden so far.  Please forgive me, Aziz.  I am your humble servant.” 
    “If you brought the goods as promised, then there will not be a problem.”
    “I have, I have, exactly as you directed.”
    Aziz leaned forward, so the moonlight lit his face, but not the pistol he clutched tightly under his robe. 
    “Bring it here and show me.  Sit down, both of you.  I want to see your faces and know the truth or treachery in them.”
    “No, Aziz, no.  There is no treachery here in my face or in my heart, and the boy is not smart enough to deceive anyone.”
    “I warn you.  I have men just around the corner waiting for my call.  Do not test me.  Show me what is in the cases.”
    Yakob Gazzara sat down cross-legged on the floor and signaled his grandson to put the cases before him.  The boy had one eye closed by recent scar tissue.  Gazzara opened the first case and tipped it forward for Aziz to see into it.
    “No, you idiot!  Do not spill them out.”
    “They cannot spill out, see.”
    Gazzara reached inside and slid out a finely machined aluminum cylinder.
    “See.  The globules are in aluminum, encased for shipping.  Now, watch this.”
    Aziz moved his seat back, putting more distance between him and the old man.  Gazzara slowly and carefully unscrewed the top of the aluminum cylinder, removed a piece of foam, and slid out something wrapped in foam.  He carefully unwrapped it to reveal a sealed hand-blown glass globule.
    “Hold it in the moonlight so I can see it.”
    Gazzara held it high in the moonlight and it showed the globule contained a clear liquid.  Aziz moved closer.
    “That could be water.  How do I know it is not?”
     “Would anyone go to such risk and cost for water?”
    “How many containers are there?”
    “Twelve cylinders, they are all the same.  They used only the highest quality precursors and stabilized it with aluminum.  If the sarin is inside the globules, it has a shelf life measured in years.  Once the sarin is removed to another sealed container, its lifetime is still up to twelve months.”
    Gazzara carefully wrapped the tear shaped bubble in its foam packing and slid it back into the cylinder.  He screwed the cap back onto the aluminum cylinder and expelled a sigh of relief.
    “Aziz, how many more would you like to see?  I swear on my mother’s eyes they are all the same and to drop only one would end us all within a minute: an agonizing death.”
    “No, I have seen enough.”
    “Then, perhaps, I could see the gold?”
    “Of course.”
    Aziz pulled his pistol from under his robe and shot the old man in the forehead.  He swung his gun around and his grandson’s one good eye bulged in terror.  Aziz shot him too.  Then quickly Aziz picked up the two cases and ran through the door into the street.  He glanced both ways and ran around the corner where the pick-up truck was already running, waiting to take him home, away from this war-ravaged place.
    It was no secret where to find the sarin; the Syrian military had stockpiles of it scattered all over Damascus.  The rebels had commandeered some sites and controlled its own stockpiles of sarin.  The promise of gold in sufficient quantity, never to be paid, brought out a willing army of traitors from either side of the conflict who would smuggle it out.  Until now, the only problem was transporting it to the United States, a problem Aziz had finally solved.  His mighty sword would soon fall on their heads in the name of ISIS.
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TigerAsh
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« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2018, 06:16:37 PM »

You should post this in the "First Five Pages" forum. I think you'll get more eyes on it there.

Here's the link:
http://querytracker.net/forum/index.php?board=18.0

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debbie.rosenberg58
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« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2018, 07:42:05 AM »

Be aware that the advice of most of the literary agents who comment on this issue think prologues are a bad idea. Can you begin your prologue as Chapter 1?

Also, I think the opening pages would be much stronger is you began here:

"Ali el-Aziz sat in the darkest corner of a sandstone hovel, ravaged by artillery the night before.  Moonlight flooded the doorway and much of the room, but not a sliver touched Aziz as he sat cross-legged on the floor waiting for his visitors.  Now and then, he heard footsteps on the rocky gravel road outside.  He could tell from their pace, scuff, and stagger they were dodging from doorway to doorway to not be seen.  Syria was at war, at war with itself.  Some of the rebel factions were as dangerous as the regular Army.  His burning desire to punish the infidels in the United States and rain a new terror on their putrid American lives was the only thing that could make him go to this God forsaken place.  He could only hope his visitor would make it through the roadblocks and snipers along his way."

The other critique I have is there is a lot of dialogue without much differentiation between the characters. Action beats might help solve this problem. For example:

 “Impunity?  There’s a good word.” Abdul tightened his hand on the wheel. He checked the rear view mirror.
 Ali held onto his seat as the truck bounced over a rock.   “How is it you can do this thing without getting shot?”

Hope this helps.
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