Purpose. 

Using the prompt provided, learn to create a character-based fictional scene, balancing narrative description, dialogue, and internalization and burying exposition so it does not intrude into story delivery.   You’ll keep the plot moving with conflict and action and integrate it with character development.

How to prepare.

1. To create the scene, you may need to learn details about something you may need to know more about: flying terrorism.  Some research may be needed as you work.

2. You need to determine the desires, motivations, strength and flaws of each of the characters.  (Pilot, copilot, flight attendant, suspicious passenger.)

3. As in all good fiction, you’ll need to immerse conflict among characters, with the environment, internal (should I or shouldn’t I, what will happen if I do?), and in the plot.   Learn to have conflict working on every level.  Example.  He tuned the radio to Poughkeepsie ground  control.  Flat.  Not useful.  To make it interesting (if it’s worth it for the story and  story?space is available).   The copilot reached up to lock the radio into 121.5 before he tried Poughkeepsie ground control.  His hand shook, he twisted the knob, which broke and fell off onto the floor.  They had to declare emergency, prepare ground control for the worst.  He twisted the knoblesss dial but fingers slipped with nervous sweat in the thin metal projection .  You’ll need to develop an always increasing sense of good judgment  This seems overwritten but will give an idea of how potential for conflict lies in every situation.   Look for conflict development in the tools available to a writer–dialogue, plot, characterization, narrative description, even direct exposition.

4. You’ll need to determine story purpose for this scene (as for every scene).  Does it advance plot, characterization, setting, theme and meaning?  A purpose will filter extraneous material not related to the story, an urge that plagues all amateur storytellers because it fills space and requires less thought.  For examples of purpose: In this scene I want o advance characterization of “X” by showing how his/her failure to learn regulations will threaten survival, or I want to deliver “Y”‘s attraction to Z.  [This is literary, character-based fiction, and the characters are driving the plot with their desires and motives (maybe the flight attendant’s love for the copilot interferes with the jealous pilot’s decisions for survival), not just reacting to the plot (look out for United 704, it’s coming toward us.”]

5. Finally, consider the best narration for the scene.  Who is telling the story?  Do you want it to be an unidentified narrator at a distance looking back, a narrator in scene, a narrator that enters single or multiple character(s) heads through specific points of view, or combinations of these.  If you chose 1st person, be sure you are fully aware of the limitations and strengths of 1st person POV so you don’t work against your purpose for the scene.

Essays you may find useful

Dialogue

Improving dialogue

Desire and Motivation

Conflict

Narration

Overuse of 1st person POV

And you can search specific topics in THE FICTION WELL  

What to do.

Write a scene no more than 1000 words using this scenario:

A commercial airline flight.  The female flight attendant notices a swarthy passenger in 28B making excessive frequent trips to the rear rest room, always carrying a black satchel and wearing heavily tinted glasses.  The terror alert is red.  She is suspicious.

She calls the pilot and copilot and with her hand cupped over the microphone, raises the alarm.

The pilot and the copilot begin to plan behind the locked door, keeping in touch with updates with the flight attendant.  But they do not get along well together, and under the threat emotions flare.

Rewrite and take it from there.  Confrontation.  Examine passenger and bathroom.  Alert passengers or not.   Prepare for early landing.  And so forth.   All the time revealing character and keeping the plot moving (this should be easy because the plot is already in motion). Set the scene but use no undisguised exposition.  [And write through your narrator.  Don’t become the narrator.  Authorial intrusion diminishes the potential of a well-imagined narrator and character(s), even in first person.)

Thanks for participating.

Submit your work below if you would like William H. Coles to provide free online comment. 


   Work submissions for Assignment 6: Create a character-based fictional scene

Assignment # 6

Transway Air flight 92 cruised at 500 mph above a blanket of white, softly-mounded clouds floating in an azure-blue sky. The commercial plane’s departure from the busy cosmopolitan airport terminal was forty-five minutes behind schedule—delayed for repairs.The first officer discovered the faulty seatbelt during the required pre-flight cabin inspection.

The aircraft’s bathroom door opened. A tall man wearing a well-fitting dark suit exited. His burnished brown face was accented by the white turban wrapped around his head. Dark sunglasses shaded his eyes. He strode to seat 28-A carrying a black briefcase.

“Excuse me, Miss, what do you make of that guy?” the inebriated business class passenger seated in 20-A asked the female flight attendant wheeling the food cart down the aisle.

“Is there a problem, sir?” Paula’s foot shifted the cart’s wheel-brake lever, and she leaned close to the man.

“Third time he’s been to the bathroom to piss since we took off,” the man said. His breath smelled of alcohol.

“Kind of suspicious, you know,” said his neighbor in seat 20-B. “There’s been talk in the news about possible terrorist attacks.”

Paula dug her fingernails into the palm of her hand. The latest bulletin from NTAS warned of an imminent terrorist attack. Her main concern was allying fears, avoiding pandemonium among the passengers at forty-two thousand feet.

“He’s one of them.” The passenger wiped a trickle of sweat from his forehead.

“Relax, sir.” Paula pressed a bag of peanuts into his beefy hand.

“God knows what’s in his black bag,” the woman seated across the aisle chimed in. “And why the sunglasses?” 

Paula looked at the wary, worried faces of the passengers staring at her. Her trembling fingers fidgeted with the blue scarf around her neck. Caution was required when informing Captain Jackson of a possible terrorist on board.

“Sir, nothing to worry about,” Paula announced loudly with false heartiness. “We should reach Denver in time for your conference. I’ll express your concerns to the pilot.”

Walking down the aisle to the tail of the plane, Paula peered at the passenger seated in 28-B. The black bag was on his lap.

“Hand me the in-flight digital tablet,” she said tersely to the male flight attendant.

“Checking on the passenger registration list, Paula?” he asked.

Seat 21-B was assigned to a Dr. Anish Amur. Could be just an average, law-abiding citizen. She cupped her hand over the microphone and whispered, “Captain, we have a possible situation. Passengers fidgety. Suspected terrorist on board.”

#

“Oh, shit, Paula.”  In the cockpit, Captain Jackson’s eyes swept the instrument panel.  The closest airport wasn’t equipped to accommodate large aircraft. His hands remained steady on the control yoke. No time for panic.

First Officer Nancy Lew heard Paula’s message on the paired headsets she and the Captain were wearing. “Credible threat, Captain?” she asked.

“We’ll have to find out, now won’t we?” He spoke into his headset. “Paula, give me the particulars.”

Captain Jackson listened, asked a few questions, nodded, then said, “Okay, next time the guy leaves the bathroom, Paula, check it out. Keep the mic open. And speak up. The area microphone in here might catch the action.”

“What if she finds explosives? In the bathroom?” The First Officer asked. “Paula might not be able to handle it. Her age and all?”

“She’ll handle it.  I’m not so sure about you.”

First Officer Nancy Lew muttered under her breath. She handled Jackson’s sexual peccadillos. Now this bastard’s unsure of her competency in the cockpit? She scanned the instrument panel bending her head to shield her burning cheeks.  Her new lover, an airport mechanic, thought her competent; his wink while repairing the damaged seatbelt before take-off affirmed his belief in her: she had followed directions explicitly. 

Captain Jackson saw a blip on his radar. The jet was approaching the nearest airport. His forehead puckered; too short a runway for landing a Boeing 747.  He radioed the control tower. “Transway Air flight 92. Possible terrorist on board.”

“Captain Jackson?” Paula’s voice crackled over the headphones. “He’s leaving the bathroom now. I’ll check it out. In a few minutes.”

“Good luck, Paula.”

Nancy Lew sniffed. “Trusting our fate to—”

“God damn it! And you would suggest?” Captain Jackson’s eyes blazed.

“Your gun, Captain.”

 Captain Jackson, a trained Federal Flight Deck Officer, was permitted to possess  a firearm in the cockpit.

#

After the suspected terrorist exited the restroom, Paula waited three minutes before entering.

  She pulled on vinyl gloves and conducted a methodical search: the commode, the urinal, the stainless-steel sink, cabinets and overhead bins. Rummaged in the wastebasket, checked the paper towel dispenser, pulled the toilet paper roll and inspected the holder.

“Nothing,” she said. But why did the man carry the black bag with him into the bathroom? What was in it? Paula decided she’d force Dr. Anish Amur’s hand.

Stepping out of the restroom, Paula fell heavily, twisting her leg under her. Her screams were heard over the area microphone in the cockpit.

Passengers gasped, stood up and began rushing down the aisle.

“Return to your seats,” instructed the male flight attendant speaking over the intercom. And buckle your seatbelts.”

“Make way. Please, make way. I am a doctor.” Dr. Anish Amur, carrying his case, rushed to Paula’s side, knelt beside her, and opened his black case.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” shouted the passenger in seat 20-A. “He’s got a bomb.”

The cockpit door opened. Captain Jackson aimed the gun he was holding at the Doctor’s head.

“No!” Paula screamed. She sat up and threw herself against Dr. Amur’s chest. “The bag. Hold only medical equipment.”

“Let me out of here.” The passenger in the seat with the repaired seatbelt tugged repeatedly at the latch. “Let-me-out-of- here!” She heard the loud click. The bomb placed beneath her seat detonated.

 

Instructor Response

Hi Cathryn,

(As a favor–I admit it’s for brand recognition primarily–when referring to me please spell the last name as COLES, not Cole.)

You’ve a nice scene going here. However, the scene has a stilted quality and there is a pervasive question as to whether this could really happen. And the scene effectiveness (quality to engage and entertain) could be improved. You want to be able to immerse the reader in the scene and avoid giving the reader the sense the author is telling the scene, a scene that is far away. Instead the author grips the reader’s attention in writing and presentation so the reader forgets reading descriptions of a story but experiences an immediacy of the story and feels emotions, conflicts, suspense occurring in the story (reader becomes a part of the story). The reader engages in the imagery, accepts what the characters are saying and thinking, and feels the momentum of the story. (You might think of John Gardner’s concept of continuous involvement in the “fictional dream” that requires avoidance of anything in the storytelling that breaks that dream and forces attention to concentrate outside the bubble of the story as it unfolds.)  All this has to do with how a story is constructed and learning what causes breaks in the fictional dream: lack of credibility, inappropriate syntax, misspellings, inaccurate word choice and metaphor, lack of coherence among ideas, authorial intrusions, offensive thoughts, improbable action, poor vocabulary sources, verbosity, grammar errors, unimportant ideas, excessive description, etc.

Reader involvement is not easy to teach because much of it is subjective and individual to every author. Yet, there are things, ways of thinking and expression, that can help attainment of consistent reader engagement and emotional connection. I’ll give ideas that might relate to your scene but there are many things to learn that are discovered by studying great stories that you love.

 

1. Consider, for a moment, that stories are simply information organized to get an idea across in a believable way with involvement in story. What might we consider as crucial information in your story-scene?

Airplane in flight.

Flight attendant. Pilot. First Officer.

Passenger who suspects doctor

Suspicious-looking doctor who is not guilty

Seatbelt “repaired” before takeoff causing delay.

Bomb implanted at seatbelt installation when “repaired”

Bomb explodes at “seatbelt” seat.

Nervous passenger.

 

Based on this list, I’ve highlighted unnecessary and unrelevant ideas, descriptions, characters, excess words,

  Examples of extraneous ideas unrelated to story (RED) of material unrelated to story momentum (GREY). Verbosity is underlined.

 

Coles Assignment # 6

Transway Air flight 92 cruised at 500 mph above a blanket of white, softly-mounded clouds floating in an azure-blue sky. The commercial plane’s departure from the busy cosmopolitan airport terminal was forty-five minutes behind schedule—delayed for repairs.  The first officer discovered of a faulty seatbelt during the required pre-flight cabin inspection.  

The aircraft’s bathroom door opened. A tall man wearing a well-fitting dark suit exited. His burnished brown face was accented by the white turban wrapped around his head. Dark sunglasses shaded his eyes. He strode to seat 28-A carrying a black briefcase.

“Excuse me, Miss, what do you make of that guy?” the inebriated business class passenger seated in 20-A asked the female flight attendant wheeling the food cart down the aisle.

“Is there a problem, sir?”  Paula’s foot shifted the cart’s wheel-brake lever, and she leaned close to the man.

Third time he’s been to the bathroom to piss since we took off,” the man said. His breath smelled of alcohol.

“Kind of suspicious, you know,” said his neighbor in seat 20-B. “There’s been talk in the news about possible terrorist attacks.”

Paula dug her fingernails into the palm of her hand. The latest bulletin from NTAS warned of an imminent terrorist attack. Her main concern was allying fears, avoiding pandemonium among the passengers at forty-two thousand feet.

“He’s one of them.” The passenger wiped a trickle of sweat from his forehead.

“Relax, sir.” Paula pressed a bag of peanuts into his beefy hand.

“God knows what’s in his black bag,” the woman seated across the aisle chimed in. “And why the sunglasses?” 

Paula looked at the wary, worried faces of the passengers staring at her. Her trembling fingers fidgeted with the blue scarf around her neck. Caution was required when informing Captain Jackson of a possible terrorist on board.

“Sir, nothing to worry about,” Paula announced loudly with false heartiness. “We should reach Denver in time for your conference. I’ll express your concerns to the pilot.”

Walking down the aisle to the tail of the plane, Paula peered at the passenger seated in 28-B. The black bag was on his lap.

“Hand me the in-flight digital tablet,” she said tersely to the male flight attendant.

“Checking on the passenger registration list, Paula?” he asked.

Seat 21-B was assigned to a Dr. Anish Amur. Could be just an average, law-abiding citizen.  She cupped her hand over the microphone and whispered, “Captain, we have a possible situation. Passengers fidgety. Suspected terrorist on board.”

#

Oh, shit, Paula.”  In the cockpit, Captain Jackson’s eyes swept the instrument panel.  T [for] the closest airport.  It wasn’t equipped to accommodate large aircraft.  His hands remained steady on the control yoke. No time for panic.

First Officer Nancy Lew heard Paula’s message on the paired headsets she and the Captain were wearing.  “Credible threat, Captain?” she asked.

We’ll have to find out, now won’t we?” He spoke into his headset.  “Paula, give me the particulars.”

Captain Jackson listened, asked a few questions, nodded, then said, “Okay, next time the guy leaves the bathroom, Paula, check it out. Keep the mic open. And speak up. The area microphone in here might catch the action.”

“What if she finds explosives?  In the bathroom?” The First Officer asked. “Paula might not be able to handle it. Her age and all?”

“She’ll handle it.  I’m not so sure about you.”

First Officer Nancy Lew muttered under her breath. She handled Jackson’s sexual peccadillos. Now this bastard’s unsure of her competency in the cockpit? She scanned the instrument panel bending her head to shield her burning cheeks.  Her new lover, an airport mechanic, thought her competent; his wink while repairing the damaged seatbelt before take-off affirmed his belief in her: she had followed directions explicitly. 

Captain Jackson saw a blip on his radar. The jet was approaching the nearest airport. His forehead puckered; too short a runway for landing a Boeing 747.  He radioed the control tower. “Transway Air flight 92. Possible terrorist on board.” [The runway was too short.]

“Captain Jackson?” Paula’s voice crackled over the headphones. “He’s leaving the bathroom now. I’ll check it out. In a few minutes.”

“Good luck, Paula.”

Nancy Lew sniffed. “Trusting our fate to—”

“God damn it! And you would suggest?” Captain Jackson’s eyes blazed.

“Your gun, Captain.”

Captain Jackson, a trained Federal Flight Deck Officer, was permitted to possess  a firearm in the cockpit.

#

After the suspected terrorist exited the restroom, Paula waited three minutes before entering.

She pulled on vinyl gloves and conducted a methodical searched: the commode, the urinal, the stainless-steel sink, cabinets and overhead bins. Rummaged in the wastebasket, checked the paper towel dispenser, pulled the toilet paper roll and inspected the holder.

“Nothing,” she said. But why did the man carry the black bag with him into the bathroom? What was in it? Paula decided she’d force Dr. Anish Amur’s hand.

Stepping out of the restroom, Paula fell heavily, twisting her leg under her. Her screams were heard; over the area microphone in the cockpit.

Passengers gasped, stood up and began [a few] rushed down the aisle.

“Return to your seats,” instructed the male flight attendant announced. speaking over the intercom. And buckle your seatbelts.”

“Make way. Please, make way. I am a doctor.”  Dr. Anish Amur, carrying his case, rushed to Paula’s side, knelt beside her, and opened his black case.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” shouted the passenger in seat 20-A. “He’s got a bomb.”

The cockpit door opened. Captain Jackson aimed the gun he was holding at the Doctor’s head.

“No!” Paula screamed. She sat up and threw herself against Dr. Amur’s chest. “The bag. Hold only medical equipment,” the doctor said.

placed beneath her seat detonated.

 

These changes are only to give you an idea about how an author might bring the reader into the scene. And note that once you change something, inevitably something else will need to be changed. Like painting a portrait, one change usually demands another.

 

2.

It’s helpful to get things in order and to prioritize and place what you need in a scene by imagining the scene in detail. Some authors, like film producers, use a story board where each scene is sketched out in it’s frame. This helps avoid the unnecessary and redundant, and helps find the right detail to stimulate the reader’s imagination to complete the scene images and describe accurately positioning and prioritiztion in the mind.

 

Keep up the good work.

 

Thanks for the submission.

All the best,

Bill Coles

1/14/19

  1. Dear Dr. Coles,
    Apologize for the misspelling of your last name; how I kept missing the lettere “s” is beyond me! Visual-perceptual problem, perhaps? Very sorry, indeed.
    Thank you for taking the time for your very detailed analysis of my story.
    I almost skipped this lesson(and perhaps I should have). Exceedingly challenging assignment. I wil read and reread your suggestions, practice writing “in-scene” as you emphasize,and keep plugging away if only for my self-improvement, enlightenment, and personal gratifcation as a writer.
    Again, many thanks,
    Cathryn

    • Cathryn,
      Thanks for your comment. I felt a tone of discouragement that I don’t want to foster. First, in-scene writing is a choice one makes for acomplishing what one wants to accomplish. Most effective stories have from 70/30 to 50/50 in-scene to narrative ratio for literary works. But your skills in narative should never be abandoned and there are no rules that garauntee satisfaction. In the exercise, suggestions (probably too extensive) were not critical–just to show how a story grabs and holds concentration is another way of saying it–but demonstrative of how an effective story is void of anything that doesn’t promote plot progression, characterization, or image generation. Stories generate momentum in an imagined story world. It’s a rocket traveling to the moon and there is no possibility of a side trip to Mars or pausing to gaze at the Milky Way. And that was the purpose of the last exercise–to recognize when backstory or unnecessary action or feelings that are detrimental to story are changed or removed and that in the writing an author doesn’t let excess or inaccurate word choice,fuzzy syntax,excessive veerbage–for examples–prevent the “rocket’s” unimpaied trip to the moom. You’re doing great. Enjoy your improvement when it occurs! You’ve already come a long way as writer and storyteller and your desire to be better will make the process of learning increasingly rewarding and enjoyable.
      All the best,
      Bill Coles

  2. Dear Dr. Coles,

    Thanks for the wonderful words of encouragment; indeed I was wallowing in a morass of self-doubt, but thanks to your empathy and caring, I am “refuled”; going to “jet off” and begin the next lesson.

    I looked critically at a piece I am writing for an on-line writing group, and after reading what you had suggested, jettisoned the excess garbage out the cargo-bay door! On to the moon!

    Oh, thanks so much for caring.
    Best,
    Cathryn

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Elizabeth breathed deeply and cupped her hand over the microphone. “Captain, we have a suspicious passenger in seat 28B.” Sliding her finger down the passenger manifest, she added, “His name is Henry Bradey.”

“What do you mean, suspicious?” Howard asked.

She imagined a sneer on his face. She would have notified him earlier, as soon as Bradey’s first trip to the rest room, but she didn’t want to suffer his attitude. “He’s been to the rest room three times, and he takes a black satchel with him. He looks Arabic. I think Bradey must be a false name.”

“You’re profiling him because he looks foreign. TSA checks these things.”

“But the terror alert is red. I’m scared.”

“I’ll send Tim back.”

“We shouldn’t alarm the passenger. Who knows what he might do.”

“Well, you know Tim. He’s discreet.”

Tim, the first officer, was the least discreet person she knew, but at least he was reasonable. Howard, a smallish man, proper and trim, looked as if he were born in a uniform. Tim, at least six-two, ballooned out of his uniform as if it couldn’t contain him.

“Where is he?” Tim asked. They stood at the edge of first class. Elizabeth nodded her head, ever so slightly.

“He looks kind of crazed, but not all that Arabic, more like a drugged out has been rock star.” Tim said.

“He looks like an Arab to me. Don’t stare at him,” she whispered.

Tim nodded, “Keep us updated. I’ll tell Howard this guy could be for real.”

When Tim told Howard, Howard gave him a disgusted look and said, “Take the controls, I’ll call for an emergency landing. We’re only twenty minutes out of Pittsburgh.”

“Why don’t I go back there and clock the guy?”

“That’s against protocol.”

“Not if we are in imminent danger. If he has a bomb, he could trigger it at any time. I’ll take him by surprise. He won’t know what hit him.”

“It’s my call. I say we sit tight.”

“Son of a bitch, you’ll get us killed.” Tim loosened his tie, but took the controls.

Howard’s felt Tim’s eyes on him and he cursed himself for being unable to keep a steady hand as he took the radio. His voice wavered. He hated Tim for what he must think of him, but he managed to arrange the landing. “They’ll have a S.W.A.T. team and Hazmat there. We have to circle until they are ready.”

Tim wouldn’t look at him.

Howard contacted Elizabeth. “Anything happening back there?”

“He’s still in his seat, but he’s fidgeting like a nervous bird.”

“Don’t worry. We’re making an emergency landing in Pittsburgh. When we start the final descent, tell the passengers it’s a mechanical problem, but that there is no danger.”

“But won’t he guess we know about him and trigger the bomb?”

“It’s regulation.”

 

Henry Bradey wanted to pray, something he hadn’t done since he was a boy. He was surprised, but unafraid, that his moment of death was near. He never expected to get this far. At last, his fate was in his hands alone. He was in control. His device was small, but powerful, and ready. He’d checked it three times.

Once he’d calmed his soul and savored his accomplishment, he would set off the bomb.

 

Howard was nervous. He knew it would take time for ground control to get ready, but Tim had been circling for forty minutes and they hadn’t heard a word. “I’m going back to take a look,” he told his first officer. Tim glanced at him, but said nothing.

“Elizabeth, what’s he doing?” Howard whispered in her ear.

She nearly jumped out of her skin, not having heard him approach. “He’s settled down, but I don’t think he’s sleeping. He keeps a firm grasp on his bag.”

Howard looked at the suspect, just as Bradey opened his eyes. Howard quickly looked away, but Bradey’s eyes had the look of madness. Elizabeth was right, he thought; this man was dangerous.

“I’m going to the rear rest room to look around,” Howard said.

Howard sensed the suspect tighten the grip on the satchel as he passed. Howard willed himself not to look back.

Inside the rest room, he found nowhere to hide an explosive device. But then, he didn’t know much about these things. He should have let Tim subdue him. Now it may be too late.

 

It wasn’t prayer, but Bradey reached a trance-like state. When he opened his eyes, he saw the captain staring at him. It was no incidental glance. Bradey, though, was calm. He readied his trigger when the captain approached, but relaxed as he passed by him, back to the restroom.

Certain the prissy captain would not discover where he placed the bomb; Bradey decided to wait until the captain came forward in the cabin. Then he would call out, “Oh, captain,” as he passed. When their eyes locked, he would press the button and wait for the recognition of what he had done to appear on the captain’s face.

 

Tim couldn’t sit any longer. He took the plane to a safe height, and set it to auto-pilot. Then he hurried to the passenger cabin. Bursting through the first class curtain, and past Elizabeth, he saw Howard rushing Bradey. Bradey reached into his satchel just as the captain struck him from behind. Tim, there in a flash, tore at the man’s arm with determined force. Elizabeth dislodged the bag from his weakened grasp.

 

Later, after the tension had eased within them, the flight crew reunited on the ground. Howard, tidy as ever despite the struggle, said, “You were right, Tim.” I should have listened to you from the beginning.”

Elizabeth, flustered, looked at Howard in surprise. In all the time they worked together, she had never heard Howard admit a mistake.

Tim looked at Howard with mock disgust, “You just wanted the glory for yourself.”

Instructor Response

Comments

 

Elizabeth breathed deeply and cupped her hand over the microphone. “Captain, we have a suspicious passenger in seat 28B.” Sliding her finger down the passenger manifest, she added, “His name is Henry Bradey.”

“What do you mean, suspicious?” Howard asked.

She imagined a sneer on his face. She would have notified him earlier, as soon as Bradey’s first trip to the rest room, but she didn’t want to suffer his attitude. “He’s been to the rest room three times, and he takes a black satchel with him. He looks Arabic. I think Bradey must be a false name.”

“You’re profiling him because he looks foreign. TSA checks these things.”

But the terror alert is red. I’m scared.” I’d delete this because to include makes it sound like misplace or unnecessary exposition, and therefore ineffective dialogue.  “I’m scared.” is better standing alone here.

“I’ll send Tim back.”

We shouldn’t Don’t alarm the passenger. Who knows what he might do.”  This is a tense situation.  Keep dialogue tight, sparce.

Well, you know Tim. He’s discreet. Tim is descreet.”

Tim, the first officer, was the least discreet person she knew, but at least he was reasonable. Howard, a smallish man, proper and trim, looked as if he were born in a uniform. Tim, at least six-two, ballooned out of his uniform as if it couldn’t contain him.  Good.   

“Where is he?” Tim asked. They stood at the edge of first class. Elizabeth nodded her head, ever so slightly.

“He looks kind of crazed, but not all that Arabic, more like a drugged-out has-been rock star.” Tim said.

“He looks like an Arab to me. Don’t stare at him,” she whispered.

Tim nodded, “Keep us updated. I’ll tell Howard this guy could be for real.”

When Tim told Howard, Back in the cockpit, Howard gave Tim a disgusted look and said, “Take the controls, I’ll call for an emergency landing. We’re only twenty minutes out of Pittsburgh.”  “We’re twenty minutes out.  Take the controls.  I’ll call for direct access.  Emergency.”   I think this has more of a spoken feel to it.

Why don’t I Go back there and clock the guy!”

“Against protocol.”

Not if we are in imminent danger. If he has a bomb, He could trigger a bomb at any time. I’ll take him by surprise. He won’t know what hit him.  I could surprise him.”

“It’s my call. I say we Sit tight.”

“Son of a bitch, you’ll get us killed.” Tim loosened his tie, but took the controls.

 Howard’s hand shook felt Tim’s eyes on him and he cursed himself for being unable to keep a steady hand as he took the radio. and his voice wavered when he talked to the tower.  [Note here there were too many words and the balance of of rhythmic progression got out of whack.]  He hated Tim for what he must think of him, but he managed to arrange the landing. “They’ll have a S.W.A.T. team and Hazmat there. We’ll have to circle divert until S.W.A.T. and Hazmat are there.”  until they are ready.” [This is getting the dialogue as succinct as possible without loosing meaning and without using dialogue that sounds like exposition.]

Tim wouldn’t look at him. looked away.  [Avoid negative construction here. It stops momentum.]

Howard contacted called Elizabeth. “Anything happening back there?”

“He’s still in his seat, but he’s nervous.”  [The deleted metaphor was not exactly on target and the use of any metaphor in this dialogue in this place will be difficult to pull off for effectiveness.]

Don’t worry. We’re making an emergency landing in Pittsburgh. When we start the final descent, On final, tell the passengers it’s a mechanical problem. , but that there is No danger.”

But won’t he guess we know about him and He’ll trigger the bomb!”

“Just do it. It’s regulation.”

 

Henry Bradey wanted to pray, something he hadn’t done since he was a boy. He was surprised, but unafraid, that his moment of death was near. He never expected to get this far. At last, and his fate was in his hands alone. He was in control. His device was small, but powerful, and ready. His small powerful device was ready; he’d checked it three times.

Once he’d calmed his soul and savored his accomplishment, he would set off the bomb.

 

Howard was nervous. He knew it would take time for ground control to get ready, but Tim had been circling They’d circled for forty minutes and they hadn’t heard a word. “I’m going back to take a look,” he told his first officer. Tim who glanced at him  but said nothing.

Elizabeth, What’s he doing?” Howard whispered in her ear.

She nearly jumped out of her skin, not having heard him approach. “He’s settled down, but I don’t think he’s sleeping. He keeps a firm grasp on his bag.”

Howard looked at the suspect, just as Bradey opened his crazed eyes. Howard quickly looked away, but Bradey’s eyes had the look of madness. Elizabeth was right, he thought; this man was dangerous.

“I’m going to the rear ll check out the rest room to look around,” Howard said.

Howard sensed the suspect tightened his the grip on the satchel as he passed. Howard willed himself not to look back.

Inside the rest room, Howard found nowhere to hide a no explosive device. But then, he didn’t know much about these things. He should have let Tim subdue him. Now it may be too late.

 

It wasn’t prayer, but Bradey reached a trance-like state. When he opened his eyes, he saw the captain staring at him. It was no incidental glance.  Bradey, though, was calm. He readied his trigger when the captain approached, but relaxed as he passed by him, back to the restroom.

Certain the prissy captain would not discover where he placed the bomb; Bradey decided to wait until the captain came forward in the cabin. Then he would call out, “Oh, captain,” as he passed. When their eyes locked, he would press the button and wait for the recognition of what he had done to appear on the captain’s face.

 

Tim couldn’t sit wait any longer. He took the plane to a safe height, and set it to auto-pilot. Then he hurried to the passenger cabin. Bursting through the first class curtain, and past Elizabeth, he saw Howard rushing Bradey. Bradey reached into his satchel just as the captain struck him from behind. Tim, there in a flash, tore at the man’s arm with determined force. Elizabeth dislodged the bag from his weakened grasp.

 

Later, After the tension had eased within them, the flight crew reunited on the ground. Howard, tidy as ever despite the struggle, said, “You were right, Tim. I should have listened to you from the beginning.”

Elizabeth, flustered, looked at Howard in surprise. In all the time they worked together, she had never heard Howard admit a mistake.

Tim looked at Howard with mock disgust, “You just wanted the glory for yourself.”

 

Nicely done.  I’ve mainly worked on prose, dialogue in particular.  In this piece, often too many words are used that express thoughts that are not needed.  It’s about pacing, especially in a tense situation.  And learn to identify exposition in dialogue in your revision process.  Exposition in dialogue kills the effect of being in scene for the reader.  [You can get exposition in dialogue effectively at times, but it has to be skillful and not call attention to itself.]  Check essay, Dialogue.

Thanks for the submission!

WHC

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