Do you have a second to see if this works?

This is going to be a tad longer than a normal Sunday Snippet.  Sorry, but I need a few last-minute set of eyes.

Fire in the Woods is days from being done, and I decided I needed to add a little something, and I don’t want to send the work out to query without another few opinions on this.

I am adding a phone call/message from Dad.  A beta mentioned that if their daughter were missing that they would be ringing her cell phone off the hook.  I added a ringing phone, but I now decided to add a message, and I need to know if it’s believable.

Here’s the set-up:  You are a Dad, and a Major in the Army.  Your daughter just took off with Public Enemy Number One.  There is a huge manhunt going on. She’s not answering her phone. Does this sound like a believable message to leave on her cell phone? (From Jess’s point of view)

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My fingers tightened on my phone as I began to slip it into my pocket.  The thought of the message from unavailable tightened my chest.  What if it was Dad?

“David, hold on for a second.”

I leaned against the back of the building and turned on my phone. David propped himself beside me and grabbed a banana from the bag.  He perused each end, and I quickly opened it for him.

He smiled.  “Thanks.”

I moved past Maggie’s message, touched unavailable, and brought my phone to my ear.

My father’s sigh tore my soul in two.

“I guess I can’t blame you for not answering.” A slight hum vibrated the casing against my cheek. “I saw the surveillance footage, and it’s pretty obvious you’re not a hostage. I can only imagine what he told you to make you trust him.” I glanced at David as he chewed his banana.  Dad’s voice quavered. “Sweetheart, you need to understand that he is a soldier, wounded behind enemy lines. He is not above lying to a seventeen-year-old girl to get what he wants.” I could imagine Dad pacing the floor, rubbing his hand across his tightly cropped head.  “Jess, you’ve always been like your mother, and I know there’s no changing your mind once you’ve made it up, so I’m not going to bother asking you to turn him in.”

Really? You gotta be kidding me.

“But what I do want is for you to get away from him. Just wait for him to be distracted and run as fast as you can.” I could almost sense him gritting his teeth.  “We will find him, Jess. And you know that I’m not going to sleep until you’re safe.” Muffled voices spoke in the background behind my father’s steady breathing.  “Please come back.  I can’t lose you, too.”

The call ended, and I powered down my phone.  I stared at the blank screen as my father’s words bled into me.

I can’t lose you, too.

I’d never considered the possibility of anything bad actually happening to me. I was safe with David, wasn’t I?

David popped the last of the banana into his mouth and tossed the rest into the trash beside a loading dock. What would happen if the Army cornered us?  Would there be shooting? Would David protect me, or use me as a shield?

David slipped his hands into his pockets as he strolled back to me, his smile easing any uncertainty.

My conscience fought to call Dad— to let him know everything would be all right, but I knew he’d just try to convince me to come home. I slipped the phone into my pocket.

“Are you all right?” David asked.

I nodded, biting my lip as Dad’s voice haunted me. You know that I’m not going to sleep until you’re safe.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.  Sorry, Dad.

“We need to find a place to hide for the night.”

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15 responses to “Do you have a second to see if this works?

  1. This is way too long for what you want. I’ll play with it tonight and give it back to you, chopped to pieces. 🙂

  2. I think the phone message is essential but you have to consider that the father is military. In an emergency situation an he goes into combat mode. He probably wrote out the message and used every word to make a point. He knows he needs to talk to her as an adult. This scenario is serious. Let the reader know that in the intonation in his voice.
    She understands when her dad sounds this way with his kids things are very serious – for both of them…

    It sounds like a good story / good luck with the query

  3. I liked it however I had a problem with “Please come back.” I think he’d have said this sooner. I would have.

    The second line that bothered me is “Sweetheart, you need to understand that he is a soldier, wounded behind enemy lines.” I’m good with “he’s a soldier, but wounded behind enemy lines?” If he knows her well enough to know that she does what she wants’, is like her mother. Then he’d know this line wouldn’t sway her. I can’t imagine it swaying to many headstrong teenage girls.

    The father came off the way he was supposed to (mostly, see above). Love the father’s responses. (could see the quivering old man being steadied (or helped by) the people behind him.

    What I suggest is. What is bothering you about this scene? There must be something or you wouldn’t be putting it up here. Take a second, pinpoint that one line, or that one part and ax it. IS it better without it? or with it. That’s your answer.

  4. I love it!
    All the pauses while he searches for what to say feel real to me, and while some military people are gruff/ or would lie to get their children safe, not everyone would do that.
    He would do whatever he thought would work best–and an appeal to guilt and love (and doubt) would certainly be effective for many people. “I can’t lose you, too” is perfect!

    The only thing I stuck on was the two “he is” in these sentences:
    “…he is a soldier, wounded behind enemy lines. He is not above lying…”
    Paired together, they felt a little formal compared to the rest of his speech.

  5. Nope!

    Sorry Jenn, but I would never say that to my kid if she ran away. What I would say is something down the lines of bold face lies — if I had to — to get my child home. I would tell her I am willing to help, I am sorry they couldn’t come to me, that my job was just a job that I’d walk away from in a heartbeat for her and I would absolutely beg, on my knees, to have her call me so we could talk it out. I would do whatever it took to get her back safely especially if I believed he was a wounded solider using my daughter escape the enemy.

    Let my kid be mad after she gets home. I’ll gladly take all the guff and crap she would sling at me. She would be safe and I would have done my job as a parent.

    Hope this helps. 🙂

  6. I like this and am totally drawn in. This works for me. The daughter is a typical 17-year-old and daddy is using kit gloves. Awesome.
    The father’s background as a career soldier would make him tough, except when it comes to his lost wife and now his daughter. I wonder if a small addition of him clearing his throat, say, or something like that, wouldn’t add to his emotional situation..

  7. That’s pretty spot on, I think. I disagree with M Ziegler. I think it’s entirely believable that a military man would not speak gruffly to members of his own family, Certainly possible and even likely but not out of the question. I think he would realise that that approach would be counter-productive in this situation.
    Good luck!

  8. deeannfrye

    I liked it and found it very believable. Great job! Best of luck!

  9. Works for me. Just enough “pointers” of his being military – talk of surveillance, mentioning close cropped hair, fidgety mannerisms because he’s helpless, can’t act – neatly interspersed with ref’s to the tormented father/civvie beneath. Also, clever of him to ref. the mother, subtle leaning on the daughter. I see no problem here.

  10. deeannfrye

    Hi Jennifer, just wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for an award! You can get all the details here, 🙂

  11. It is believable coming from a father, but my initial thought was it lacked a little gruffness that I expect from most military men in a time of crisis. Not to say he can’t be hurting and concerned, but for some reason I expect a little more in command and then a pause for him to realize he is talking to his daughter and not one of his soldiers. That could be out of character for who you have established though and the military people I know aren’t affectionate.

    Outside of character I do question though, if he knows she won’t turn David in why does he bother stating that other then he wants her to get away that she should wait for him to be distracted? Those few words didn’t work for me. She doesn’t see the danger even if she is starting to question. Him requesting her to run still made sense though.

    Still a great read and if that is consistent with his character then sorry!

  12. Yep. Completely believable.

  13. Julie Catherine

    I like it, Jennifer, and the message sounds totally believable to me … what a concerned father might say, knowing that his headstrong daughter is going to do whatever she wants in spite of his plea … but he still has to make it. Well done, and all the best! ~ Julie 🙂 xox