Thursday, 9 December 2010

Open Waters

What a beautiful summer night it is, on this luxurious cruise ship. The oceans breeze, the stars in the sky and the most important people I have to spend it with, my loving family and friends.
The cruise boat stopped for a short break.
‘How ‘bout we go for a swim?’ said Sam.
‘Let’s do it!’ I replied.
All four of us agreed to jump into the calm dark blue ocean. A huge splash jumped up from the water as all of us jumped in. All four of us were fooling around in the water just having a great time. Sam dared us to do a swimming race and I accepted. I love competition!
“On your mark. Set. GO!” Yelled Markus. In that instant I immediately dipped my head into the water and got my legs kicking! How quiet it was under water, such serenity and calmness… Enough about the water though, I gotta win this race! I made it to the finish line and as I got out of the water I noticed I won! Yes! After me came Jeremy, Liam then Markus. As they all arrived Markus tried convincing us that the only reason he lost was because he was the one who had to start us off. Suddenly we hear the siren of the boat beeping its chimney out. Oh no! It’s leaving! We all swim as fast as possible to the boat but its moving away too fast! We stop and scream on the top of our lungs
‘WAIT! WAIT! WAIT!’ but it makes no difference. The boat disappears into the darkness and everything turns silent. We’re alone in the middle of nowhere and there’s nothing but silence.


  1. Well, Venice, this is certainly a dramatic opening for a novel (although reminiscent of the film Open Water). I can see that you’ve taken the element of surprise and immediate drama as those you want to copy from Opening 7.

    The difference between Opening 7 and yours is that yours has a period of normality at the start before things go wrong – in Iain Banks’s opening (from his novel 'The Business'; I remember reading it) the thing that’s gone wrong has already done so.

    Setting up a normal beginning is a good idea, but if you had more space I hope you would extend this element – for example, rather than just saying the cruise ship is luxurious, have a description of it, or a scene of the friends (and family?) eating at the restaurant, or swimming in the on-deck pool or something. Then, when the drama happens, it’s more of a shock.

    There is some nice writing in your passage (“How quiet it was under water, such serenity and calmness…”) but other aspects seem rather rushed.

    For example, you have a character called Sam, who suggests the swim, but isn’t mentioned among the three others in the race (Jeremy, Liam, Markus).

    There is repetition (“A huge splash jumped up from the water as all of us jumped in” – a somewhat confusing line – it makes it sound as if the splash is coming up at them as they jump down) and some lack of consistency in the tenses – you start in the present tense (“What a beautiful summer night it is”) then move to the past tense, though shifting within in from simple past (“jumped in”) to past continuous (“All four of us were fooling around”) – why not just “The four of us fooled around in the water…”? Then it reverts to present tense towards the end. I’d say it’s best to stick to one tense.

    Having the swimming race is a good dramatic incident, but a reader might wonder, what exactly is the finishing line, seeing as they’re in the middle of the ocean? You say the narrator “got out of the water”, but how, and where? Is it a floating raft, or an island.

    Also, please be wary of using exclamation marks, which are a rather artificial way of raising the tension. Best to find another way of doing this. Some of them can easily be altered: “I’ve never been one to turn down a contest” instead of “I love competition!” and so on.

    The end is striking (“The boat disappears into the darkness and everything turns silent. We’re alone in the middle of nowhere and there’s nothing but silence.”) but try to avoid the repetition of silent/silence. Also, it might be interesting to give a sense of where the story is going from here – after all, if they are genuinely swimming in the dark in the middle of the ocean, then most readers would assume they’re 'goners' (ie they’re going to die). If they did get out on an island, however, then it’s the beginning of a desert island story – but then that goes against the title, ‘Open Waters’. Intriguing, but needs more work.

  2. Ahh! sorry that I'm late, I wasn't very well.

    Wow, this is great! It's very evocative, and you use description and colloquialism well together. I like the quick changes between a ponderous thought and a decisive one.

    I love the use of the word luxurious to describe the boat, however the first sentence feels a bit forced. Perhaps "It's a beautiful night. The cruise ship is luxurious and..." would make it flow more.

    Please be careful about facts in stories like this. Try to find out if a boat would stop for a break in the middle of the ocean. Perhaps they do, I don't know, but maybe it would be more likely that they stopped near an island, which would give you more story to continue with. Or maybe they had to stop for a reason, the engine overheating (does this happen?) or something similar.

    The sentences "I love competition" and "Enough about the water though I gotta win this race" bring character into the piece, and makes us aware of who is talking. Maybe add in more snippets of personality traits.

    The complication with the names is easily resolved. Although I have to admit when I first read it my mind immediately jumped to the thought of a schizophrenic character. Is Sam the internal person/voice in the protagonists mind? Or is it simply a mistake? Could you take the mistake and make something of it?

    Lastly, be careful of repetition. The last sentence, which is beautiful, would be much more powerful if the word silent hadn’t been used in the previous sentence.

    Look forward to the next piece!



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