Critique Group – Time Echoes

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Another mission for you, should you choose to accept it:

Since I have no more critique submissions, today is your chance to critique something I’m working on. I am rewriting my book Beyond the Reflection’s Edge. The new title is Time Echoes. I am posting the opening scene. If you wish, you can compare it to the original here.

I will look forward to your comments. Also, feel free to ask questions about the changes I made, or you can post your guesses about why I made them.

Don’t forget the critiquing guidelines. All you have to do is post a comment about the submission below. Don’t feel like you have to critique the whole piece. Even a short comment on one aspect can be helpful.

If you want to submit a manuscript for critique, please read the guidelines as well as this list of common mistakes to avoid before submitting.

This post will stay active indefinitely, so you can come back and add comments or questions at any time.

Time Echoes – by Bryan Davis

I sat on my bed tapping on my laptop computer while Clara peered out the window. She was being paranoid again. The Mustang driver who followed us to the motel had really spooked her. “Chill out, Clara. He can’t possibly guess where we are.”

“I suppose you’re right.” She closed the curtains, casting a blanket of darkness across the room. When she turned on a corner table lamp, its pale light seemed to deepen the wrinkles on her face and hands, though her dressy gown made her look younger than her sixty-something years. “How much more time do you need on that spreadsheet?”

“Just a couple of minutes.” I winked. “Dad’s slide rule must’ve been broken. It took almost an hour to balance his books.”

“No excuses, Nathan. I saw you playing one of those shooting games a little while ago.” Clara retuned to her window vigil, one hand clutching a curtain. “He looks like one of the henchmen for that Colombian drug lord your father took down last year.”

I pushed the laptop to the side, slid out of the bed, and looked over Clara’s shoulder. The Mustang sat parked under a tree, the driver watching the motel’s front door. An intermittent shower of leaves, blown around by Chicago’s never-ending breezes, danced about on the convertible’s ragtop. “He’s not Colombian, Clara. He’s Middle Eastern.”

“Is that supposed to settle my nerves?” A pallor passed across her face, hiding her usual confident expression. “My intuition says we should leave.”

I shrugged. “Okay. I’ll pack up.”

“Make sure your father’s mirror is protected.”

“I’ll double wrap it.” I walked over both beds and bounced to the floor in front of a shallow closet. From the top of my open suitcase, I picked up the square, six-by-six-inch mirror, bordered by an ornate silver frame. Dad had called it a “Quattro” viewer when talking about his latest assignment, retrieving stolen data for a company that used reflective technology. I was supposed to keep it safe while he was gone.

I gazed at my reflection, the familiar portrait I expected, but something bright pulsed in my eyes, like the split-second flash of a camera. A second later, Clara’s face appeared just above my dark cowlick.

I spun toward her. Strange. She was still near the window. When I turned back to the mirror, her image was gone.

As she walked up behind me, her face reappeared in the glass. I glanced back and forth between the mirror and Clara. The inconsistent images were just too weird.

The opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth chimed from my computer—an email alert. After wrapping the mirror in two shirts, I leaped back to my bed and pulled up the message, a note from Dad.

We enjoyed our anniversary vacation. I hope you and Clara had fun sightseeing. Your mother is rehearsing with Nikolai. After her first piece, she’ll call you to the stage to play your duet for the shareholders. Nikolai repaired your violin. He says it’s as good as new and ready to sizzle. Since it’s the Vivaldi piece, you shouldn’t have any problem, even with no practice the last three days. Just don’t mention your performance to Dr. Simon. Trust me. It will all work out.

Clara flung a wadded pair of black socks. They bounced off my chin and landed next to my motorcycle helmet on the night table. “Put your tux on. I’ll finish packing.”

I trudged back to my suitcase and set the laptop inside. “We’ll look amazing riding the Harleys through town, you in that fancy dress and me in a tux.”

“Not through town. Just to our storage unit where we can park the bikes. Mike’s picking us up there in the limo. No sense arriving at the concert looking like windblown scarecrows.”

“Good enough. We’ll get Mike to take a picture of us.” I walked into the bathroom where my tux hung on the shower rod. After dressing in a rush, I reentered the main room while fastening the bowtie. Attending too many formal dinners had given me plenty of practice with a bowtie. I could handle one without a mirror.

Two small suitcases and my backpack sat next the door. Clara stood at the window, peering around the curtain yet again. “He saw me, Nathan. He’s getting out.”

“Here we go again.” I threw the backpack on and grabbed our suitcases. “We’ll take the hallway exit”

She slid my helmet over my head and put hers on. “Let’s go.”

We rushed out of the room and jogged toward the door at the end of the corridor. I looked back. The Mustang driver appeared from around a corner, a gun in hand.

He fired. A bullet zipped past and clanked into the metal door.

I shoved it open, pulled Clara through, and slammed it, shouting, “Run!”

While she took off in a trot, I set the suitcases down and waited a step or two in front of the door. Seconds later, it eased open a few inches. The moment the gun and a forearm appeared in the gap, I slammed the door. The arm crunched, the man yelped, and the gun dropped to the ground.

I threw the door open. The man stood in the hall, grasping his arm, his face twisting in pain. I lunged and crashed my helmet against his nose. In a spray of blood, he toppled and collapsed.

After pocketing the gun and grabbing the suitcases, I ran to the motel’s front parking lot. Clara had already straddled and started her Harley, her dress hem pulled up to her thighs.

While she revved the engine, I strapped the suitcases to the backs of the bikes and jumped onto my Harley. I kick started the engine, swung the bike around, and scooted out of the lot, Clara close behind.

Once on the road, she accelerated to my side and shouted, “What happened?”

“I gave him a nose job. Tell you more later.” Now sweating in the warm tux, I glanced back. No sign of the Mustang. Whoever that guy was, he meant business. He wanted us dead.

Inhaling deeply, I focused ahead. My hands trembled, the same hands that would soon have to flawlessly manipulate a bow and strings. Playing next to Mom was nerve-racking enough, but now with a murderer on my tail, I had to watch my back or my next performance might be my last.

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35 replies

  1. Going to the title you originally wanted? Cool. 😋

    I loved it! I couldn’t resist a rewrite of my favorite trilogy, of course. The only thing I noticed is the missing “the” before “door” in this sentence: “The moment the gun and a forearm appeared in the gap, I slammed door.”

    Love,
    Connie

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  2. I thought I submitted this reply already, but I guess it didn’t go through.

    Must feel great to be able to do that. Will this re-write be self-published when finished? That would be cool, cause you’ll have more freedom over what’s in the books and what’s on the covers. I have other questions but I’ll hold them….for now…

    Now that I’ve re-read the original opening scene, I see a lot of the differences, but I like it. I especially like that Nathan and Carla got to ride the Harleys. I bet Nathan begged you for that, huh?

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  3. I like your character development of Nathan. First you show him as very confident

    There are many tidbits of key character traits subtly revealed here. First of all, the confidence of Nathan’s character and his knowledge. He knows what he needs to do, and he is unwavered by a potential threat. This is contrasted by Clara’s worrying. Nathan is ready to finish his duty (helping with his dad’s accounting stuff) without panicking. This shows he has a good head on his shoulders. Later there is potential for Nathan’s confidence to either be a strength or weakness depending on whether Nathan becomes prideful or overconfident or of he humbles himself by realizing he’s wrong about something.
    Nathan has quick thinking when he takes out the goon. A few important things happen there to for story development. First we see the goon underestimating the skill of his prey. (Will he learn from this and not be defeated so easily again by nathan? Perhaps). Second, Nathan aquires a weapon, which may be helpful or cause problems in the future. However, at this point we know that he has acquired one. And he seems skillful enough to know how to handle it properly. This shows his quick thinking. Take the weapon away from the bad guy when he’s down.
    One critique. I was uncertain as to what is meant by “slide rule” when referring to the spreadsheets. Perhaps I just don’t know much about accounting.
    Also, Nathan seems to be more of the Kawasaki Ninja type of bike rider. Is a Harley the best bike for him?

    Thanks for posting writing tips and such, I really appreciate it. It’s been a long time since I have read the original of these books. But it looks like you’ve made some interesting changes for the better.

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    • You have picked up on a lot of my intended character development. Good job.

      Nathan’s slide rule comment refers to his father’s old-fashioned ways. In the next scene, you will see that his father uses an old, film-developing camera. It fits with his style. Nathan was just poking a little fun. Maybe slide rule is too outdated and I need to think of something else.

      Good thought on the motorcycles. Kawasaki might be a more fitting brand. Thanks.

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      • If Nathan is supposed to be good naturedly ribbing his father’s outdated ways, maybe he can use the abacus. If it is something he actually uses, I think slide rule works fine.

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        • His father doesn’t actually use a slide rule. I’m wondering if the majority of readers even know what a slide rule is? How about an abacus? What would be the perfect comment that the young generation would pick up on immediately?

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          • Haha! I just googled slide rule. Now I understand. I have a feeling that most younger readers might miss the joke. Although, an older reader might appreciate the reference.

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            • I really liked this version better, I think the pacing is better and like CJ mentioned, it does a good jog of showing Nathan’s character. But I too had no idea what a slide rule was, until I googled it. I do know what an abacus is, but I’m not sure how many others teens would.

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  4. Loved it!

    Also, my friend is wanting to submit something, and the submitting guidelines isn’t working. Any idea why??

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  5. It’s been a while since I’ve read EFtE. I enjoyed re-reading the first chapter, but wow, you did a great re-write! I like it much better. You cut out a lot of info and wordiness that we didn’t really need, and got right to the point. It sped the plot along much better.

    And you definitely made it more thrilling! I pity the poor hotel service people or other guests when they discover blood around the door! Good action hook.

    Quick question: was there a specific reason you cut the “divide by zero” lines? Just for “time” sake.

    Biggest change was the first person POV. Is there a particular reason you changed it? Your stories are usually third person.

    Since you changed to first person, I would almost like to see more emotions come in. But then again, you did do that at the end when his hands trembled. That was good!

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    • I switched to first person in order to have an opportunity to bring out more emotions, which will happen more as the story progresses. Since the entire story was already from Nathan’s POV, it’s not going to be hard to change the POV.

      The scene was way too wordy, so I cut out a lot. I wanted to get the story moving while still allowing for some character development. The divide by zero line didn’t do anything for me.

      In the original, Nathan and Clara just thought about and talked about their previous adventures, which was supposed to inform readers of their escape skills. That’s telling. I decided to show their skills instead by providing a real-time escape.

      Also, the original never explained why Nathan and Clara were away from his parents or why he didn’t have his violin. I added an explanation in what felt like a natural way.

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      • I think you did a great job with it, and I look forward to more! I enjoy re-writing scenes myself. I’ve re-written the opening to my novel four times…which is probably why I have a hard time getting the rest of the novel written :/

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  6. I thought it was good how you showed the “Quattro” mirror in action. By the way, the link to the original version didn’t work.

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  7. Third question, this is for my own writing. I thought that each time a character does an action, there should be a paragraph break. But, in your example, that wasn’t the case. Would just like clarification, thanks. 🙂

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  8. Okay, so it’s not necessarily a hard-and-fast rule either way?

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  9. Great googly gravy…

    Loved it!!! 😀
    I loved the original, but the first person POV really makes it pop! I can definitely see how much more can be revealed about Nathan, and how much closer the action will be, this way. 😀
    Makes me wonder how the scenes with Mictar will read… *shiver* O-O

    Um, what else can I say without fan-girling…? 😉

    Only thing I spotted:
    “Now sweating in the warm tux…”
    He’s running for his life, he just majorly clocked a guy, so yes, I expect sweat, but the word “warm” made me some part of my mind pause just enough to go, “Huh? He’s sweating because of the tux?”
    That could just be me, though… 🙂

    Looking forward to a re-release of an amazing series! ^.^

    God bless,
    -Merenwen

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    • I can see how the “warm tux” can be a curiosity. I was going for “Nathan is accustomed to this kind of action, so he’s just as worried about messing up his tux as he is about getting away from this assassin.”

      I can see how communicating this idea might have fallen flat. I will work on it.

      Thanks for the help.

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  10. I’d have to say the main thing I noticed—or rather, didn’t notice—was that you switched to first person in this rewrite. It was only while reading the comments that I noticed this. First person works well for Nathan’s character, evidently.

    You’re also missing a period at the end of this paragraph:
    “Here we go again.” I threw the backpack on and grabbed our suitcases. “We’ll take the hallway exit”

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  11. I like the first person and fast pace.

    One thing that felt off to me is this doesn’t feel like a first chapter. I feel like some sort of inciting incident already happened, even though I know from reading the original book it hasn’t happened yet. I like that Nathan’s so quick to figure out how to disarm the guy, but I’m unsure of if this is because he’s just a quick thinker, or if he has been dealing with this issue for a while.

    Also, this wouldn’t be a turnoff since I know you, but if I see a Middle Eastern villain early on in a book by an unfamiliar author, I’m likely to think, “not another book about evil Muslims” since they seem to be a common cliche villain when the author wants to get preachy. My taste is probably influenced by a very boring book that I read a while ago, but it’s also possible other readers have been burned by this sort of thing.

    I can’t see anything else to critique in this. Good job.

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    • I didn’t want to info dump Nathan’s past experiences. I thought the combination of his skill, coolness, and the statement, “Here we go again” were enough to let the reader know that he was experienced.

      I see your point about the Middle Eastern issue, but since I won’t mention such nationality or ethnicity again in the story, it shouldn’t be a problem.

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  12. The story seems amazing, as your stories always do!

    I did notice one thing, though. You say that Clara is 60+ years old, but the way she talks, how she acts, and the fact that it is perfectly normal for her to be riding a motorcycle don’t exactly fit normal old lady characteristics. You might want to play up the idea that she is not a typical old lady. Maybe you could have Nathan make a comment about how to most kids it would be quite a sight to watch an old lady out run a gunman and hop on a motorcycle.

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    • Amanda, thank you for the comment. It is thoughtful and well taken.

      My hope is to show what kind of older lady she is through her actions and dialogue. Since Nathan is accustomed to her after being with her for years, it wouldn’t be natural for him to think or talk about how unusual she is, so I chose to just show it.

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