Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Call For Critique Submissions: Drop The Needle

Here we go!

"Drop the needle" was an insidious technique used by music professors prior to the emergence of non-analogue technology (so I am told), in which he would "drop the needle" of a phonograph somewhere in the middle of a piece of music, and the students then would have to identify the piece during an exam. If you hadn't spent weeks listening to the assigned music, you were sunk.

I mean, anyone could identify Beethoven's Fifth by the telltale opening "Da da da DAAAAAAAAA." But would they still recognize it if the needle were dropped in the middle of the third movement?

And so the sheep and the goats were separated.

So. We can't identify a story we've never read by opening the manuscript in the middle. We can, however, identify the weakness or strength of emotion conveyed in a particular scene.

Here is what you will need to submit:

1. Choose a scene that is no longer than 400 words in length (I'm not going to be anal retentive about that, but do use 400 as a guideline, for the sake of time and space). The more dialogue-rich the scene, the better. Make sure the scene is wrought with a specific emotion (e.g., fear, tension, exuberance).

2. Preface the scene with a brief, one- to two-sentence lead-in so we know what we're being dropped into the middle of. (For example: Rosemary and Daffy have been stranded on Huckleberry Mountain for three days. The water is running low, Rosemary is out of Paxil, and Daffy has just professed his undying love for Rosemary's sister.)

3. At the end of the scene, type in all CAPS (so I see it) what the prevalent emotion was supposed to be.

4. Email the whole shebang (NOT as an attachment, please) to authoressmail (at) gmail.com by 9:00 am EDT (3:00 pm in London) on Thursday, April 24.

I will post each entry separately, and the comment boxes will be open for critique. Your goal should be to have your readers WALLOWING in the emotion you're trying to convey, before they get to the end and read what the emotion was supposed to be (hopefully without going...."Huh?").

Questions? Post them right here.


  1. Can it just be part of a scene, as long as it makes sense with a bit of context?

    (Great idea, by the way!)

  2. Absolutely. You can drop us into the story at any point. Just give us a sentence or two lead-in to give us a little bit of context.