OK, first, I'm not a native. So, what you do by instinct and a bit of research, I do by extensive research, including accents and dialog style.

I’m dead. ‘But you have a chance,’ I was told, ‘Then why not take a leap of fate?’

Fate? Hhh… One wonders how I am dead. But… I’m stuck in a future to which I did not belong for reasons I could not understand. I neither knew my captors nor did I share their motivesI despised them. All of them. I shall rip their hearts, one vein for everything they forced me to see. The one time in my life I could do without reason. My mind wouldn’t work without reason. She… Huh… She allowed me to do so. Or rather denied me the choice. You’ll get to know her, eventually.

This is a world so strange to me. Where nothing is possible until it’s flipped over. But, as everything is another face of something, nothing is truly possible. You see? I can’t understand! Me! This means no one can.

My name's Adam.

Though not good news, this is your story.

For the past five decades, people and governments of the world lay down differences and conflicts, pursuing the dream of the Utopia to which we’ve always aspired. We still have a long path to take. But a sudden and unexpected ripple might be in its way to disturb the flow.

Are they rumors? Some say it is coming down from the sky. Others say it is coming from beneath the ground. Some even say it is the end of the world.

We weren’t able to reach any scientists to comment on the seismic activities in the South-Pole or the interference in communications for the past three days. Internationally, governments preferred to keep citizens in a deep state of information black-out. No one answered these questions. And we’ve asked international organizations, universities, private research companies… But no one really knows what to ask; not yet.

NASA just announced that a press conference is to be held at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York at hour thirteen-hundred (13:00), Eastern-Time; eighteen-hundred (18:00) GMT. Until then, the only official word we’ve received does no better than reinforce the rumors, conspiracy, or whatever is happening; which the political system so far played catch up to hide.

One thing is certain, a change is occurring. A change that will add to a world’s history that remained relatively peaceful for half a century.

I will be joining you in New York at ‘1 PM’ to cover the press conference NASA has announced. This is Elizabeth Blitz, WWN; reporting live from The White House; Washington D.C.

“Don’t trouble yourself with that,” Tana finally said. She’d been closely watching the broadcast; but not for the news that was said. “You need rest. Just forget it.”

Adam smiled. “Why’s she on TV?” He’s been heeding the picture on the wall, not for any news however. The bed he lay on was comfortable, but his body still didn’t like it. He tried to adjust his pose but pain shot through his spine; he gritted his teeth and let go.

“Mmm…” Tana was hesitant to reply. She remained silent as she headed for the projected control-display on the nearest wall. It’s not worth it at all. Not by any shot. She didn’t care what reason he’d put into this, but she wasn’t going to be the one stressing him, opening Pandora’s box, on her son.

“Hh… Don’t think about it. It’s really nothing. She’d applied long ago and today they needed her,” she finally said. Then, pushed by her nature, she continued honestly, “With some of your friends too. They were given jobs… That’s all.”

Tana left the control-display and watched Adam closely; he stared blankly at the television projection on the wall. In the rare occasions he was silent, thinking, debating, it was never good. “Friends? An’ jobs?”

She took a deep breath. “OK… You landed in New York.”

“America! What the—?” He tried to sit up again; he could almost hear his back and elbows complain. His mother quickly took hold and forced him into a more comfortable pose. He continued, commanding yet gentle in tone, but not yet wishing, “Don’t tell me they know. Please don’t.”

“OK, you know what? Just forget about it all. People have more important things to do. Rumors are the thing of the day… Every day, actually. And just a couple of here-says about a grand conspiracy in outer space won’t have their attention. Politicians have other things to hide, things that really matter to people now. I imagine if we told them of a school on the other side of the moon, they’d sue us for wasting their time.”

“You know it’s not just a school, mother.”

“Adam. If you didn’t do it, all of you would’ve… died,” she sat next to him and stroked his hair. Her hands trembled from the mere thought. “And you… You’re not supposed to worry about anything further. They got you into this and they’ll have to get you out. The jobs your friends received were actually a sort of gift; they got the jobs officially as prodigies. The last thing the UN wants is minors getting into the mix.”


A moment of silence followed. The walls of the room were a pure white that, contrary to popular belief, didn’t help you relax at all; its brightness almost followed your eyes through the lids. There, far into the distance, sang a bird, just faintly. Adam knew there was more to it. He knew more. When he knew and others didn’t, it was okay to him, the other way around wasn’t an option. His mother didn’t tell him how many were injured and if there were any dead. For his secrets, if he didn’t tell, someone else will. He moved his arm on top of his chest; he felt a strange tingle in it, as if felt by someone else.

The same reporter returned to the picture, this time the background was a more soothing view of the country, possibly the gardens of The White House or a green land on the road. She seemed very nervous, not transparently, but enough for Adam to notice. He watched, becoming increasingly worried. She’s been tapping her palm with her index finger; there’s more to it.

This just in: The PHFO has issued a worldwide alert, advising everyone to evacuate Atlantic and Pacific coastal areas within three miles from the shore. I repeat, three miles offshore, the Pacific and the Atlantic coastal areas. We haven’t yet received any comment on this but you are advised to stay clear from the coast. Go to a safe-house further into land if you can. Local police forces will be available to help you. Although we are still waiting for official word from the White House, NASA, or really anything, it remains for now up to public decision, and prayers.

Repeatedly tapping her palm with her index finger, in rhythm, with something Adam knew. As he kept looking at the Elizabeth's picture projected on the wall, loud, erratic, footsteps came nearer and nearer. Her finger... A tick, a tock. One, and zero. 1011101-000-1010111-000-11101


“My god…”

31 days before…

Does the opening tell you enough to make you want more without telling too much? Does it have enough suspense, with every line? Is it too long-winded?

  • 2
    Can you edit your last paragraph to make it an actual question? I'm not feeling the love on this one. Dec 19, 2011 at 21:46
  • 1
    This really isn't the site for writing games such as this one. If you edit it to a basic critique request you'll probably get feedback. Dec 20, 2011 at 13:43
  • @MNa'el - edit this to follow the critique guidelines, @ reply to me, and it can be re-opened.
    – justkt
    Dec 20, 2011 at 13:49
  • 1
    @M.Na'el: Please avoid making substantial edits to the piece under critique. Doing so is trying to change the "ask a question, get an answer" format into an ongoing discussion and revision process; that can obviously be great for writing, but it's really not what this site does, and it works very very poorly here. This is a poor venue for frequent feedback on frequent revisions - our focus is on answerable questions; please consider carefully what does and doesn't fall into that category, even if some things can be shoehorned into our format. Thanks :)
    – Standback
    Dec 26, 2011 at 15:28
  • 1
    I think Standback covered everything I'm thinking. Too much info, nothing's related, no context. And you keep switching from present to past tense erratically and inconsistently. Dec 28, 2011 at 21:11

2 Answers 2


I'm afraid this piece feels far too jumbled for me to be intrigued by it. I feel like a lot of unrelated information is being thrown at me, and most of it isn't even real information - it's vague hints at details that haven't been revealed yet, and at this point I still have no idea why these details might be interesting.

This may be counter-intuitive, but you need to give away more if you want to be suspenseful. Without enough grounding, your hinting and foreshadowing feel like amorphic hyperbole, and don't encourage me to continue.

A Glut of Foreshadowing

Consider: you've asked whether there's enough suspense "with every line." That's a great question. Now look at your piece: one line talk about being dead. The next about a "leap of fate." Then about "captors." By the time we're at the third line, we're lost all the power the first line had, because we're talking about something else already.

Similarly, I think I can safely say that the method you're using to generate suspense is by using vague foreshadowing. You mention:

  • Somebody "dead," but speaking to us.
  • Despised captors.
  • A "she" who allowed the narrator's mind to "work without reason," whom we will "get to know, eventually"
  • An "unexpected ripple" which could apparantly be anything
  • "A change that will add to a world’s history"
  • "Friends" given "jobs," and this is somehow alarming
  • A school on the other side of the moon, for prodigies, which is "not just a school"
  • There is more to it (to what?) than Adam's mother is saying (even though we don't understand yet what she's said)
  • A worldwide alert to evacuate the coast
  • A warning to RUN

All this, you'll note, occurs before the "story" has really "started." (In fact, the next line implies a complete change of scenery to somewhere else.) I think the effect you're aiming for is to excite the reader about various elements the story will be addressing later. But when you throw in so many hints with so little concrete detail, with no characters or setting for us to latch onto yet, that's not what happens. The reader can't keep track of all these hints; there's so many of them, and none of them connects to anything yet. Even when you do start clearing things up, this passage won't have helped, because the reader won't have understood enough to remember the details of this scene 50 pages later. And it certainly doesn't create suspense now.

Suspense Comes From Open Questions

I've always considered suspense to be built around specific, tantalizing questions. Try choosing one or two questions to intrigue your reader with, and rewrite so that the focus is on making only those subjects suspenseful. Everything else should either be clear, or clearly irrelevant at the moment, or cut out entirely.

Examples for suspenseful questions could be:

  • Why are Adam's friends suddenly receiving jobs? In this case, your focus is on Adam's surprise at this, and what the implications may be. The suspense of "why arethey being given jobs? what does this mean?" allows you to go into detail regarding who Adam's friends are, what the "jobs" are, and why they're significant. The suspense is tied into the "why now?" element, and the significance this development holds for Adama and the world.
  • What is the big event about to be announced? This is mysterious within the story-world; Adam might be wondering about this too. He might also have inside information, giving him a better direction than most people have. You can use the suspense of "what is NASA hiding?" to reveal Adam's character and background, and the current state of the world, and concrete potential threats to it.
  • What is the school behind the moon? As opposed to other name-dropping references your piece makes, this is one that gives concrete detail and raises interesting questions. You could take that further, make the scene about amping up the suspense regarding the school. Tell more about who goes there, why it's significant, what Adam's connection to the school is.

In any event, "What did the author mean in the line [XXX]" is not a good question to build suspense around. It's a question of understanding, with no immediate implications (as far as the reader knows); it doesn't set the reader looking forward to anything because they have no idea what to expect from that element.

So, try picking just one or two "suspenseful" questions, and building the scene only around those. Keep everything else clear and comprehensible. That'll keep the reader grounded enough to understand what's going on now - so they can wonder what'll happen next.

  • That's very thorough! I had some questions, objections, etc… But I really need to go now and I could only upload another version I hope is better… Please read and comment again here; if I didn't add a comment with my questions, etc… before then! Thanks a lot.
    – Mussri
    Dec 26, 2011 at 14:49
  • @M.Na'el: Please see the comment I just posted to your question. I'd be happy to talk further about both the piece and the site in the chat room; if you've got any questions about the site and the format, try the meta page.
    – Standback
    Dec 26, 2011 at 15:30
  • I'm not sure the chat room is yet open for me but I'll see what I can do.
    – Mussri
    Dec 26, 2011 at 16:04
  • The chat room is not available... Do you think you can reach me someway else? Maybe you start the chat?
    – Mussri
    Dec 28, 2011 at 14:39

It is a little too hard to tell what's going on.

While this adds to the suspense, it might make a reader wonder if reading is worth the effort.

How long can you read a book you don't understand?

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