Coffee and Coke
Russell woke up, startled by the sudden commotion on the street outside Jermaine’s apartment. Not fully coherent, Russell wasn’t sure exactly where he was.Okay, the order of information here is important and here it contradicts. You state he's in Jermaine's apartment. Then you say he doesn't know where he was - place your readers in Russell's shoes here. Russell doesn't know where he is. Therefore, nor should the reader. End the first sentence after "on the street." or even: "...startled by the sudden commotion outside." When you're writing with a single protagonist (be it in a scene or entire story) think about perspective. Check the pinned guide I wrote on the WD forum, and the part about perspective. In short, assume the reader IS Russell. Tell the reader what Russell would know, and don't tell them what he wouldn't. In this instance, Russell doesn't know where he is, so neither should the reader. You could be more patient here, too; As he wakes, show the reader the room - if Russell isn't sure where he is, the first thing he'd do is look around - search for something familiar. Maybe he'd waddle to the window, to see what the noise is about. Maybe he'd freak out and reach for a gun - which as it's not his home, might not be where he'd normally put it. You're really only telling us he's waking up, not sure where he is. There's no acting or showing; just you saying so. He had gotten used to hearing the soft waves lap at the shoreline next to his beach house in Vice City. The unexpected ruckus made his head spin as he stirred on Jermaine’s flimsy sofa. Again, cut the reference to Russell. You could be quite effective in revealing the environment here:
Russell woke up, startled by a sudden commotion out side. A gruff voice barked indistinct words. Another, softer voice replied, raised and shaky. He rolled incoherently off the flimsy sofa, a cushion seat sliding to the hardwood floor. He had gotten used to the soft waves lapping at the shoreline next to his Vice City beach house; the angry voices outside contrasted that, sending unease flowing through the open window. Where the hell am I? he asked himself, his mind muddy with sleep - perhaps too little. Russell looked around, seeing the torn, mismatched furniture, the coffee table that was in dire need of a new coat of varnish, the empty beer cans and pizza boxes. He reached for his jacket, thrown haphazardly on the floor. Fishing through it, he pulled out his gun and crossed the floor, his bare feet slapping on the cold, hard floor. He reached the window and looked down. A large, burly man stood on the sidewalk, wildly waving his hands at a small, slender, feminine young man. The latter was trying to back up, to walk away, but the brute relentlessly followed. Beside them a pale blue Panda stood diagonally across the road, its front quarter dented, likely by the large Bobcat that stood next to it.
"Damn hipsters," Russell growled with a sleep-scarred voice. He shut the window and looked back at the apartment. He rubbed his eyes and face as recognition returned to him: he was in Jermaine's home. He missed Vice City.
Now that's not perfect - just a quick write, but see how much more information is there? And yet I'm not really just telling everything. You can get a sense of the apartment, of Russell's discomfort of being away from his familiar environment.
Russell rubbed at the back at his neck trying to work the kink away. He eased out of bed, careful not to make the stiffness worse.
Jermaine snored loudly through his bedroom door so Russell quietly slid into the bathroom to shower. This detail could be given to us a little earlier. As he hears the commotion outside, would he not also hear the grinding sound of Jermaine's snoring? This again could be used to good effect - as he hears the sound it might help remind him where he was. He dressed in black jeans, a simple white button-up shirt, and tan Hinterland boots. Jermaine was still sleeping hard when Russell grabbed his bag and headed for the door. Seeing the line of locks, he thought that he should let his friend know that he was leaving. Personally I'd rather see a little more action here - as in physical movements, not explosions Have Russell reach for the locks and, as his hand touched to brass-coating of the first deadbolt, he decides it would be polite to let Jermaine know he was leaving.
Russell knocked on the bedroom door then pushed into the room. Jermaine was lying there wearing only his boxers. “Jermaine.” In terms of pacing, I'd put the speech on a new line. Break it up a bit and have things flow smoother.
A snort and slight stir was all Russell could coax from him. He called again comma this time shaking Jermaine on his shoulder. “Jermaine!” I'd consider using italics here to emphasize Russell's speech along with the exclamation mark.
Jermaine shot straight up in bed, hands and arms flailing like a dying fish.
“D*mn man you sleep like a rock. Come on lock your door, I’m headin’ out.” I'd also consider trimming this down: cut "damn" or "man" but if you're keeping both, I'd be inclined to put in some punctuation:
"Damn, man. You sleep like a rock."
Jermaine scooted out of bed with droopy eyes and followed Russell to the door Comma staggering along the way. He banged his knee hard on the pointed edge of the coffee table. A quiet groan escaped his friend’s mouth as Russell proceeded on to the door. Too much telling here. It feels like I'm reading a report. I want to see it. I'd also consider who's passive in here:
Jermaine scooted out of bed and Russell led his droopy-eyed friend to the door. As he passed the sofa, he heard a loud thud, followed by his friend swearing. He turned to see Jermaine holding his knee beside the now-crooked coffee table.
"Stop moving my sh*t around," Jermaine groaned.
"Man, I ain't moved sh*t. Wake your drunk-ass up and open your damned eyes."
Make the throwaway comment about banging his knee into something.
He unlocked the door pulling it slightly open. Either use a comma after "door" or throw in an "and": He unlocked the door and pulled it slightly open. “Remember what we talked about last night, Jermaine. Give me a call when you know something.” I added in a Jermaine, mainly because I added speech previously.
Jermaine, still not fully awake, nodded in agreement as he yawned and picked at the corners of his eyes. This is a nice detail. Russell left the apartment, closing the door behind him. He heard the locks click into place as he exited the building. It was almost 5am. Too early to call Packie. I think this would be better non-italic, perhaps with an em-dash or semi-colon after "5 AM" Russell cut down the alley where the hooker and her client had been arguing the night before. He climbed a flight of uneven steps at the other end of the alleyway. It'd be nice to have a few more details here. Just show us a dumpster, or a pile of rubbish, maybe the early signs of sunrise just sneaking through the gaps in the buildings, or the street lights glowing promisingly at the far end... Brunner Street, straight ahead, had nearly bumper-to-bumper traffic with early morning commuters. Russell heard the muffled sounds of morning talk shows and news broadcasts as the vehicles zipped past. Don't use "zipped" - it implies they're moving fast. This is LC/NYC so play up on the traffic part. Have them crawl past, maybe with the odd honk of horn or impatient yelling from cab drivers. A little more immersion, although i liked the detail about the muffled radios.
A temporary break in the procession of automobiles allowed Russell to hustle across to the other side of the street. He knew the city well. you could use a semi-colon here. Dukes was home until he graduated from High School. He immediately moved into a small apartment over in Outlook, a neighborhood of Broker. Six months later, his parents were tragically killed in a car accident as they crossed the Algonquin Bridge. It seems a little hollow referencing such a major event this way. Maybe expand it a little:
Six months later, his parents were crossing the Algonquin Bridge when the notoriously unruly Liberty City traffic prematurely ended their journey; an old Sabre lost control and veered through the rail, tragically killing them both instantly. The driver was drunk, and uninsured. He'd probbably served his time and was now unfairly continuing with his undeserved life. Russell shook his head at the memory. Memories of his childhood rushed back as Russell stared up at the majesty of that same bridge brilliantly illuminated against the dawning sky I'd like to see what colour the sky is. . Across the Humboldt River, Algonquin stood as the life of Liberty City. The trendy shops of Suffolk as well as the seedy corners of Chinatown made the allure of Algonquin so powerful. The whole of northern Algonquin remained caught in the death trap of gang related violence. You could be clever here and describe the lights, show how the built up part is lit by streetlights and illuminated windows of skyscrapers, while the northern "gang" areas were darker, more foreboding. The glimmering lights from some of the city’s tallest buildings began to dim as the breaking dawn turned the sky pale blue. Russell pulled his thoughts back to Broker, a quieter less chaotic part of Liberty.
A cab approached. He threw up a hand and the driver pulled over to pick up the fare. The latter part of this sentence isn't really necessary. Russell quickly scooted inside the back of the cab, the radio being far too loud for such an early morning ride.
“Firefly Islandcomma please.”
The driver looked in the rear-view mirror. “Please? I don’t get a lot of those. You must be from outta town.” I also wonder if you could play on accents here. "The driver looked in the rear-view mirror and spoke with the unmistakable Bohan slur, over pronouncing the vowels." (Just a thought)
“Kinda hyphen or forward slash here sorta,” said Russell. “I used to live here but been gone for a little while.”
“Well the city ain’t changed much,” said the driver as he punched in the destination. “Unless you want to count the increase in dirt and crime.”
“Oh, wow, that’s too bad,” said Russell.
“And to top it all off, our politicians are just as bad comma if not worse than the scum that’s really runnin’ this city.”
You're double spacing here - keep doing so. “Sounds like I’ve gotta get caught up on what’s been happening.”
“Yeah. Grab yourself a Liberty Tree paper Superfluous word or any paper for that matter. They even got it on-line and you’ll see what I’m talkin’ about.”
The driver continued to spit insults about the city leaders, whom he seemed to know personally, and gave his own critique about how corrupt the Police Department had gotten over the years. Russell tried to chime in, but was cut short by another rant from the driver. He was content with watching the city pass by, noticing the blatant Eastern European influence in Hove Beach. I enjoyed this bit - I like how you cut the dialogue and avoided making it mundane, but still got the details over.
“Okay, here we are, this is as close as I can getcha.” unless you're spelling more of his speech phonetically, just use "get ya"
“Thanks for the info and keep the change.” Russell paid the fare then exited the cab. We kind of know Russell's paying here with his speech but why not show it:
"Thanks for the info," Russell said, leaning forward, slapping the twelve dollars* into the driver's outstretched hand. "Keep the change," he said, pulling on the door's release.
*I guess the amount - you might want to do this journey in game and see how much it costs.
The cab pulled away comma leaving Russell standing in front of a Hardware store on Crockett Avenue near a paper box. state it's a "newspaper dispenser - I literally pictured a cardboard box here. He dropped some change in the coin slot and retrieved a fresh Liberty Tree newspaper. Across the street, the beach was deserted but a scattering of early risers meandered along the boardwalk. Even though the glory days of the amusement park at Firefly Island are but a distant memory, the famous boardwalk still offered a few attractions. The savory aroma of the street vendors whiffed through the air, enticing Russell even more to quell his growling stomach. Russell quickly scanned the headlines of the paper before stuffing it deep inside an outer pocket of his bag. He froze when a distinctive voice from behind called his name.
“Russell Cobb, you are a dead man.”
Russell spun around only to catch a glimpse of a tall, broad-shouldered man with braided hair pulled back in a ponytail dashing towards an alleyway. He knew that voice. A voice he would never forget. Samuel Barkley was the one that set the deal that ended in tragedy. Russell bolted after the man. Did i miss the part where Barkley ran? Why would he threaten him then run? Is he scared of him? Would he not just run? Or is he delivering a message? Or did Russell catch him before he could kill him? A little clarification, or showing us how he said it might help. The alley quickly fell into shadows. Samuel had a good head start but Russell had conditioned himself well. His Hinterland boots pounded heavily against the concrete. The man Stick to names here - keep it simple. looked behind to see how close Russell had gotten, causing him to stumble over garbage bags hidden in the shadows. Samuel managed to regain his balance but that mishap was enough to allow Russell to close the gap. He was close enough to hear the Samuel gasping for breath.
Traffic on Bart Street had stopped for a red light. Samuel burst from the alleyway with Russell right on his heels. He sprinted between cars and headed towards a narrow alley on the other side of the street. Russell vaulted over the hood of a cab, landing sure-footed on the other side. It'd be nice to hear the honking of horns or the yelling of a cab driver here. Just a quick mention. The two men almost entered the skinny passage simultaneously. Russell was almost within an arm’s reach of the man’s ponytail. Samuel struggled for air. Russell pushed harder, propelling himself forward. He seized the opportunity, reaching out and grabbing a fistful of Samuel’s braids. He pulled down hard, dragging the heavy man to the ground. Samuel lurched forward, struggling to get to the clearing at the end of the alley. Russell dove, landing squarely on top of his back, wrenching Samuel’s right arm at an odd angle so that it dislocated immediately. Your pacing's good here - short sentences. He the flow quick. But they do feel a little list-like at times. This. Then that. And this. Then. Next. It can feel a little methodical. you can expand a sentence, here and there, and use plenty of commas if you do so.
Russell pushed the man’s face hard in to the cracked concrete to muffle the agonizing hollers. Once the shrieks had subsided, Russell rolled the man onto his back so that they faced each other.
“Why did you set me up?” asked Russell through gritted teeth.
“It wasn’t you,” answered Samuel, still struggling for air. ”But it is you now.”
Shocked by the answer, Russell pulled away but kept a tight grip on Samuel’s left wrist.
“Why Jimmy?” growled Russell.
Samuel’s chest heaved up and down. “You’re gonna have to ask Olive”
“Where can I find him?”
“You don’t. He finds you. And you are a dead man.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.”
Russell snapped the tiny bones in the man’s wrist, sending lightning-sharp pain running up his arm. Russell reached inside his bag, retrieving the 9Mm pistol that Jermaine had given him last night. He stood up, towering over the injured man. The A train... Or expand slightly: The train tracks overhead rumbled, shaking the ground as a train rushed roared by on its way to Hove Beach Station.. train roared past on its way to the Hove Beach Station. Russell squeezed the trigger, placing a single bullet in Samuel’s head. Sound - you're not showing us any sound here. In an alley, the gunshot would be loud and echoing. Make us feel it. He tossed the newspaper over the man’s mangled face and left him lying there in the shadow of the Broker Bridge.
Russell emerged from the narrow alley disheveled and a bit disturbed by what Samuel had insinuated. The 69th Street Diner was just across the street but he didn’t feel like eating. Besides, he had to get himself in a better frame of mind to meet with Packie. Russell crossed the street and bought another Liberty Tree newspaper before entering the diner.
A petite blonde stood behind the counter. The smell of fresh coffee and sausage filled his nostrils but did little to bring back his appetite. is this because of what just happened or because the food's crap? Maybe say "the smell of fresh coffee and sausage, mixed with grease" if the latter. There were six booths that ran along the front wall of the diner. Russell chose a booth at the far end which was the perfect place to wait for Packie to arrive. He faced the side entrance and had a good view of the entire area. An older gentleman and two young women were already eating a delicious looking breakfast. Without dwelling on it, what were they eating? IF Russell's waiting, you can get that feeling over to the reader by having him observe things and showing us them. How's the waitress moving? Like a fed up worker or like a bubbly server? It was still early but Russell decided it was time to call Packie. The phone rang once, twice, three times and then a tired and hoarse sounding voice answered.
“It’s too early man. I just got in bed.”
“Well I got something that will make you jump out emphasize "out" with italics. of bed right now,” said Russell, sounding more enthusiastic than he had to.
“If you want to know, meet me at the 69th Street Diner in Broker.”
Russell disconnected the line before Packie could throw up a protest. He tucked the phone back inside his bag then went to the restroom to get cleaned up. Why's he doing this? Did he get blood on him? If so wouldn't he go and do this before sitting down? He quickly returned to the booth, pulled out the newspaper and began reading a story about a suspected serial killer. He had read through most of the paper by the time Packie finally arrived. He filed into the diner behind a Liberty City Police Officer. The Officer ordered at the counter while Packie made his way back to where Russell had been waiting.
“Hey man, I know you’re my friend and all but this better be good. I had to take the train. Damn car wouldn't start.”
“Yeah it is,” replied Russell. “But let’s wait awhile,” Have this in a new sentence --> nodding in the direction of the Officer.
Packie glanced back over his shoulder then sat down across from his friend.
Soon the Officer left the diner with a bagfulbagful of what? and two cups of coffee. Russell folded his paper and laid it aside.
“Go get us some coffee and you’ll see what I’m talkin’ about when you get back.”
“Do I look like I’m the freakin’ waitress?” asked Packie wrinkling his forehead.
“Yeah, you do,” said Russell with a silly smirk on his face. “Now go get the coffee.”
Packie reluctantly slid from the booth and stood in a short line at the counter. Russell pulled the small tube from his bag and took a quick look around the diner before pouring a single line of the cocaine onto a cleared spot near the salt and pepper shakers. He moved the newspaper closer to conceal the pure white powder. Packie returned to the booth with two fresh cups of coffee and wide curious eyes.
“So what am I supposed to see? asked Packie, as he placed the steaming cups on the table.
Russell slowly slid the newspaper aside to reveal the powdery substance.
“Holy sh*t. So you just gonna do that right here?”
“Lower your voice man. Of course not. I don’t do this sh*t. But I got a lot more where this came from. I just need to get it out there and I think you’re the man for the job.”
“I might know somebody who knows somebody.”
Packie discretely reached over and tapped the powder with his pinky. First he smelled it then he tasted it, smacking his mouth to get a better discernment.
“D*mn, this some good sh*t.” said Packie looking over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching.
“The best sh*t,” responded Russell as he sipped at his coffee.
“What do you think?”
“I think it can be cut some more.”
“Well you do your thing and get back to me,What's missing here? said Russell as he brushed the remaining powder onto the floor. I’m gonna look for somewhere to stay. I think I’ll be in town for a while.”
“Where’d you lay up last night because my ma sure wanted to see you again?”
“I got a room at The Hamilton over in Algonquin. Just couldn’t resist going across the bridge. But for right now I think I’ll look for a place here in Broker.” It's not strictly necessary but I'd probably clarify if this first sentence is a lie. Also while I'm here - i liked this dialogue. The only thing it could have used was action - showing them pick up their drinks, maybe look at the menu, fiddle with the condiments...
“Alright man sounds like a plan. I’ll do my thing and get back to you. Now this was worth getting outta bed for.”
“Say Pack, before you leave.” with the hesitation, maybe ellipses might work here. Russell hesitated slightly, lowering his head. “How’s Carlie?”
“She’s good Russ, really good. She still works with Katie at the Community Center. Want me to…” As packie's asking a trailed-off question here, use: "...?"
“No. It’s not the right time.”
“Okay. I’ll be in touch.”
Packie gulped down the black brew and left his friend at the diner. He crossed Mohawk Avenue heading towards the Hove Beach Subway Station with his iFruit phone to his ear. The morning was already hot and muggy. The perspective shifts here. we're following Packie. Unless this is a deliberate shift, I'd keep the "camera" with Russell - have russell watch packie leave and cross the street, with the phone to his ear. Then have Russell leave into the "already muggy" morning.