Back with my thoughts on the page posted earlier, and I have to say:
This page is in quite good shape! And that’s because it is effective at one of the best ways of building suspense: provoking questions.
Suspense is all about withholding information. Mystery at its core is about not knowing something you want to know. But too often when people try and build suspense, they do it by holding out on the reader. The characters may know the history of a situation, but the conveniently don’t fill in the reader. The characters have a good sense of what could be happening in a given situation, but they conveniently don’t think about those things.
Especially in first person and third person limited, unless you’re dealing with an unreliable narrator, the reader should really know what the character knows.
In this case: we do know everything the (third person limited) protagonist knows! And it’s suspenseful because she doesn’t know exactly what’s happening.
The suspense is built through images that beg questions: why does this young man look old? Why is he wearing a heavy coat in July? Why is one hand jittering while the other is still? Then there are some obstacles in the way that build further tension: a distracting patron and a bad layout to the library. It all builds steadily, one thing leading to the next, and I think it’s quite effective.
Just about the only main thing I would suggest actually has to do with the first line. While I really like the details throughout this page, the first line feels a bit detached to me. It’s a bit too much telling (caught her attention) rather than showing her attention being caught through action (Judith looked up/stopped what she was doing/dropped something), and it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity to show Judith’s personality.
But still, a very solid start, and I think this page has promise. Nice work!
Title: The Pigeon Drop
The young man caught Judith’s attention the moment he entered the library. show this
It wasn’t just the way his gaze skittered away from hers, never landing on anything for more than a split second, or the way he huddled inside his long black duster, which was far too heavy for July. That described most of the high school students who schlepped in every afternoon to hang around the manga. Nice kids, most of them.
But this young man was older, with dry, mumbling lips in a jaundiced face. And while his left hand clenched and jittered not sure about using both “skittered” and “jittered” so close to one another at his side, his right stayed in his coat pocket, steady as a rock.
It could be his favorite crack pipe. But Judith didn’t think so.
Unfortunately, she was trapped by a patron who wasn’t going to stop asking the same question until she received the exact answer she wanted. Judith watched the young man with peripheral vision until he disappeared into the mysteries.
Judith frowned. The original layout of this floor–perfectly acceptable a century ago, when most behavior problems could be controlled with a glare and a finger to one’s lips like this detail—was a security nightmare unrelieved by the single camera aimed at the cash register at the circulation desk. But adding more cameras cost money, and any reorganization of the massive mahogany bookcases would have to wait until the carpet was finally replaced. The Board was reluctant to authorize either “without real reason.”
Judith hoped the young man wouldn’t provide one.