Thursday, April 24, 2008

Drop The Needle #9

SCENE: A 12-year-old plantation heiress sneaks out of
the Big House seeking adventure. She convinces one of
the slave boys to teach her how to throw a knife.

His hand holding the knife arched swiftly back
and to the right of his head, instantly followed by a
lightening fast forward thrust and release. The knife
flew from his hand and the “thwack” of the deadly
blade finding its target was unmistakable.

Sam’s words jolted her back to reality.

“I shoulda not be doin’ this, Miss Annie,”
stammered Young Sam.

“Nanny Ro says I should stay abed cause of my
fever and all.”

“Don’t worry about Nanny Ro.” Anne pulled Sam
gently by his shirt urging him toward the swamp.
“Besides, she’ll never know.”

“Nanny Ro knows everything,” said Sam sheepishly
as he followed Anne toward a lily choked pond
surrounded by willow trees and moss-covered oaks.

Abruptly turning Anne asked, “Does she know about
my father’s secret?”

“S’pose so,” said Sam shuffling his bare feet
through the grass.

“Can you help me find out what it is?” she asked.
“I don’t know. She won’t tell me if I asks her,”
he said. “She’s very loyal to your Mama and she won’t
even tell Big Sam things about her.

“Well, who else would know?” she asked. “Missy
says there’s a secret about those silver spoons my mum
obsesses over.”

Young Sam stopped. Anne noticed his effort to
concentrate. Finally he answered,

“Maybe Old Sam know.”

“Can you get him to tell you?”

“I’ll try, but it ain’t gonna be easy,” sighed
Young Sam, hands deep in his pockets. He traveled this
path everyday, sometimes dragging along his small
brother, Little Sam, but mostly he came by himself.
Today, Miss Annie insisted he show her the way, and
now she was asking him to find a secret, too.

“Why aren’t you keeping up?”

“Cause I be walkin’ behind you, wheres I supposa

“Nonsense, Sam.” Anne took a giant step back and
grabbed his wrist pulling him even with her. “How are
you going to teach me how to throw a knife from way
back there? Besides, if you’re so worried about anyone
seein’ us, they won’t even know it’s me. “Do I always
wear an old faded gray house shift?”

“No, Miss Annie,” said Sam looking at the clean
but shabby dress Anne wore.

“Hey, that be Missy’s dress.”

“Exactly,” smiled Anne. “So you see there’s
nothing to worry about. I’ve thought
of everything. If someone should see us they’ll think
you are with Missy.”

“Yeah, but the overseer will skin me alive if he
finds me alone with you,” exclaimed Young Sam pulling

“He won’t,” said Anne, yanking him back. “I



  1. Not to be overly harsh, but I think you've got a lot of adverbs, a lot of gerunds (ing words) that make the writing less immediate, and a good bit of telling. You've also got some POV confusion. I feel like I am in side both Anne's and Sam's head which keeps me from getting the full thrust of their emotions.

  2. I'm not sure how strong the anticipation comes through, because I don't know what her big reason is for wanting to learn to throw the knife--but her self-centeredness definitely is there.

  3. Very enjoyable to read. I was wanting to read more, that's for sure.

  4. Thank you anonymous for pointing out those shortcomings. I seem to be concentrating on cutting word count in my revision and have fallen into the adverb/gerund trap. I hadn't realized there were so many.

    I'm also trying to resolve the back story through narration issue as it's perceived as switching POV.

    Thank you again. I've taken your comments to my manuscript.

  5. I think the dialogue is very strong, and that you've done a good job of showing us the slave boy's thoughts. However, the head hopping made it hard for me to connect as to whose story this was--Anne or Sam's. I also wasn't quite sure what the knife throwing had to do with all of this--it seemed almost like an excuse to ask about what secrets Sam might know. It could just be though that the reason for it is just outside of this part scene that you've selected.

    Sam breaks my heart--a very well drawn character.

  6. Whoops--forgot to mention the emotions part! I think the anxiety comes through the strongest, but not the anticipation and self centered-ness so much. I feel like Anne is driven to find answers more so than anticipating anything.

  7. Hmm, is see the self-centeredness of Annie, and Sam's anxiety does come out, but I agree--there's too much head-hopping and some distracting sentence structure kind of made it difficult to follow.

    I did like Sam's characterization, though. :)


  8. I also felt Sam's anxiety quite clearly, though I didn't sense anticipation from Annie. I was curious about the "secrets," especially the spoons!