With my second rejection now firmly planted under the proverbial belt I am seriously considering changing the name of my main character.
I know this probably sounds a bit pointless in the greater scheme of things. Like thinking about changing the colour of the curtains as a category 5 cyclone swallows your roof.
But, as I chased small foam beans around the house the other day, trying to fill a bean bag! I did wonder why I hadn’t taken out first prize in an international crime writing competition and I did wonder if it was a simple thing like the name not matching my main character. Have I aged her? Does the reader see a different person from the one I see? Would the simple act of changing her name from Sylvia to Sophie make all the difference? Or is it the title? Could it be something that simple?
So, I’ve been playing with the name and I thought I’d share the result. Here is the new first chapter of Undercurrents.
Sophie walked through the mall. Only a handful of shops, banks and cafes were open. The rest of the mall was quiet, most of the shops still swamped in darkness.
She walked into the Food Court, the room, flooded by fluorescent lighting, was too bright for the morning. Most of the counters were closed but McDonalds and Zarbinis were busy with customers already lining up.
She looked at her watch. 8.20am.
The large green board above Zarbini’s leered back at her, taunting her to choose from a long list of coffee. She watched the line at the counter growing slowly but steadily and weighed up whether she wanted to join it.
‘What do I want?’
She turned back to the open void she had just walked through.
‘I’m here now, may as well get something.’
A 360 degree turn took her back to the line at the coffee counter.
The man could be heard, his foot fall was loud and heavy, a workboot. He breathed out, it was a loud smokers rasp. But the realisation someone was standing behind her didn’t sink in until she heard the zip slowly open. A bag, it was too hot to be a coat.
A tall black form loomed above her blocking her exit, he was dressed in black, balaclava, long sleeved top, pants, boots all black. He was real though, his watch was silver. He smelt of smoke and sweat. The smell curled around her nose, she held her breath trying to block the odour.
But it wasn’t until she turned back to the line that the image of the man fell into place in her head.
‘What the hell?’
She wanted to turn back and run away at the same time.
A breath out.
Another moment before she realised it was a gun.
Sophie fell to her knees as the room exploded around her. She put her hands to her ears trying to block the sound wave reverberating around her skull. The pressure of sound from gun fire, screaming and glass, large panes of glass, the roof was falling in on them. Sophie could see her keys lying on the ground, the small silver disk with her name on it was slowly getting covered in white dust.
‘What the hell is that?’
She looked up to see a veil of plaster drifting around her. The gunman was firing at the ceiling not at people. This wasn’t about hostages either. She looked around for other people still standing, everyone was on the ground, injured or sheltering from the chaos. But those who wanted could walk out. She wanted to get out.
A man, wearing a blue shirt and dark suit trousers caught her attention. He was the only man standing. His shirt was stretched across his shoulders like it was too small. He was walking quickly through the chaos. He ducked behind a sushi counter. Sophie wondered if he had seen another exit. She stepped over clumps of plaster and tubing from a fluorescent light. She waved her hands above her head, trying to yell above the noise. He stopped but didn’t turn.
She stopped when she saw the knife.
She breathed in when she saw his watch.
She saw the knife landing hard in the torso of its victim. A scream lifted from her stomach, she could feel it climbing towards her throat. She choked it back, gulping hard, before it could escape and betray her position.
She watched the body of the man being dragged away from her view, the heels of his sneakers created two thick smears of blood across the linoleum. She saw it but the image made no sense.
Sophie stepped backwards bumping into someone behind her. A man grabbed her shoulder as they collided, his weight pushing her off balance. The man, old, fell hard landing on his knees and hands. He turned his hands over, his palms shredded under the impact of the fall. He looked at Sophie, he was shaking, tears pooling in his eyes. Together, they sat on the floor staring at the blood bubbling into his cupped hands.