I enjoyed this - what a pleasure to finally get to read some of your work.
I imagine your page count is higher than you want it to be, but nevertheless, the first act feels rushed. Does it help to know that the story never feels slow to me? At no time did I think "Christ, what a long read!" I do think you could trim the opening action sequence a bit (because once I learn that it was all pretend, I care about it a whole lot less, and I could learn what I need to know about Sean's skills in about half the time). You could take a little more time making sure this team is properly indoctrinated, de-sensitizing them to the idea of [foreign] civilian casualties, and pumping up their patriotism. I realize that the plan from the beginning is to kill them all when the op's over, but more indoctrination might be considered worthwhile, in order to make the op go as smoothly as possible. And it will teach us about Sean's demons (which are, basically, America's demons - see my note about pp.93-95).
The first time you mention the 2-zap thing, when the agents are after Sean, it feels a bit lke you're making up the rules as you go along, and you need it to be a multi-stage process to make your scene work. I think we need to know how the zapper works beforehand - or we need to see it in action - maybe as someone explains how it works, physiologically. Maybe demonstrated on a terrorist captive as part of the de-sensitization process?
73 - The flashback feels superfluous to me. I think it's clear enough what's tormenting Sean - and reality doesn't need to hit him here - it's been hitting pretty hard since this op started.
pp. 93-95 The Sean of "the last ride" seems like a different guy than the awkward, eager youth in the beginning of act one - and I don't think his ordeal quite accounts for the change. It doesn't feel like personal growth - it feels like they're literally different characters. As written in Act One, he's a naif, with mad skillz. But Brianna's long monologue makes it clear that there's a dark underbelly to Sean's patriotism - his service is all about revenge for 9/11. Of course, Sean has to be likable, but I think you need to darken him in the first act, and make it clear that it's his lust for revenge - not his naiveté - that leads him into this situation. I like saving the information about 9/11 until Brianna's speech - but in the meantime, we should see that Sean has some demons driving him. Don't need to know what they are, but they gotta be there.
97 - I think this info…
Please do. Oh, uhh, at the Mall,
you disarmed my bombs, didn’t you?
… would be better coming from Sean, after she says she has blood on her hands that she'll never get off. He's trying to relieve her guilt, and it works, a bit, but instead of thanking him, she goes into the bit about how she would never date him.
p. 100 Seems convenient that these agents can't seem to hit anything, despite their black ops training and overwhelming firepower.
Suggested action sequence tweak: As Kitty is shooting everyone in the feet and then taking them out, at some critical moment she runs out of ammo. It looks like the jig is up for her, but then the agent drawing a bead on her feels a sticky bomb land between his shoulder blades - and the resulting distraction allows Kitty to escape.
p.102 I'd cut the line "Those little bitches are mine." and p.103 I'd also cut the rest of Kitty's speech after "That's right, boys! I'm here!" Because the line on 104 "How many of you bitches are still alive?" will be much funnier if you haven't undercut it by calling them "bitches" twice in the moments before.
What do you do?
I... monitor things.
BLAM - she shoots him in the chest.
I think maybe - I'm not sure about this - that this line…
Oh, this really isn’t my day.
…would be funnier here, if the 2nd time you used it was NOT in an action sequence. Maybe if it was with Brianna, or his daughter, in a peaceful, domestic setting. I dunno. Now I'm having misgivings about this idea, but I'll leave the note here, in case it strikes a chord for you. My reservation about it is that the three times he says this seem kinda the same to me. He's in somewhat more physical danger each time, but the build isn't really satisfying - and there's no twist. Actually, maybe it would be better if you cut either the 2nd or the 3rd time he says it (in the current draft), and have him say it again in the denouement, because his daughter is being an adorable little stinker. That would be a nice twist for the 3rd.
p.110 I think you could cut this, and simply show that Sean is no longer in control of the plane - and maybe that a detonator onboard is re-armed.
We’ve planned for every possible
contingency and even now we’re still very much in control.
112 - LOL
SEAN I didn’t know how to land a plane
anyway... Rest in peace, Kitty.
But the RIP Kitty feels perfunctory. I don't think you need to be in such a hurry to play that beat. Save it for the denouement.
116 - "Donner cracks a smile." I don't know about this. Feels a little off-pitch to me. There's no one to pose for - I think he could show some frustration. People knowing their husbands is such a pain in the ass when you're trying to take over the world. If you mean to show that Donner wasn't in on the plot - maybe reconsider. It would be emotionally satisfying for Brianna to get a bad guy's goat here.
Powerful final image - and nice counterpoint to opening image.
If you'd like my thoughts on anything else, please feel free to get in touch anytime - I'd be happy to dig into it a little deeper!
all the best,
Review of: The False Flag
reviewed by Gary Wright on 12/11/2011
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