Wednesday, October 29, 2008

12 Drop The Needle TENSION

GENRE: Young Adult
This is the start of the novel. No lead-in required.

I used a stiff brush to scrub the blood and dirt from beneath my fingernails. Through the kitchen window I glanced at the fresh mound in the garden along the fence. I read somewhere that serial killers begin by killing small animals. There are already a few neighborhood pets and woodland critters buried in my back yard.

I took the dented teapot from the stove and pushed the screen door open. Pouring hot water over the sticky blood stains on the porch, I scraped at the stubborn ones with my shoe. Filthy water and gore trickled down the steps into the dirt.

Inside, the phone rang. I wiped my feet on the mat and ran to get it.

“Hello.” I answered.

“This call is coming from Carlisle Prison,” said a recording.

“Talon, buddy, is that you?” came a familiar voice.

“It’s me, Dad.” I answered.

“Hey, man, what’s going down?” he asked, trying to sound cool.

“Not much. How ‘bout you?”

“Well, it sure ain’t resort living. Mom around?”

“No,” I lied.

“Good, cause I called to talk to you.”

“-This call is coming from Carlisle Prison,” said the recording again.

Dad swore on the other end.

“Listen,” he said, “I need a little cash. Can you throw any my way?”

Some things never change.

“No, Dad,” I said. “We’re really strapped.”

“Look, Talon, I need four hundred bucks quick, or they’re gonna slit my throat.”


  1. This really works. The line "There are already a few neighborhood pets..." sent a chill up my spine. I'd definitely read on.

  2. I don't think I would read this because it's just too scary!

    Great tension - I'm dying to know what he's killing, or what someone else is killing, or whatever's going on here.

    Really creepy!

  3. I stopped reading halfway through the first paragraph. I don't like the protagonist and don't feel like I can; who would like someone who believes he's going to become a serial killer and is seemingly all right with that? Tension is there, but it doesn't make me want to keep reading.

  4. The dead animals in the back yard is totally creepy (love it). I liked that it's still a little ambiguous whether Talon is the one who killed something or whether he's just cleaning up the mess. And then the call from the dad in prison--really nice. It works.

  5. This is disturbing, but I'm not feeling the tension. The problem is complete lack of emotional feedback from Talon. Does he like killing animals, is he worried. is he happy to talk to his father, or not? Does he lie about his mother to protect her, or because he wants to talk with his dad. I have no clue.

  6. I love the tension in this. It's mysterious enough not to be confusing, just enticing, because foreshadowing happened in the first paragraph. That's what creating tension is all about: the anticipation of what's to come. Terrific opening to a book!

  7. This is twisted. I like it. So I must be twisted. Great tension.

  8. Well, the tension evaporated for me when the phone conversation began -- I was really more intrigued about whatever animal the protag had just killed!

    It seems you've done a good job of creating a creepy protagonist. :) Not sure it's my kind of story, but I do like the way you wrote about, habit....

  9. I really enjoyed this and felt the tension was subtle and powerful. I wanted to who had done the killing of the small animals and maybe the mother. I really liked this.

  10. My guess is that he killed Mom since he lies about her being around and the fresh mound in the back. I agree that I need more emotions from Talon to get a bead on what is going on, although if you are building an antisocial personality disordered serial killer protagonist, perhaps this lack of emotion is part of who he is.

  11. Really liked the last line, but the opening bit about being a serial murderer left me feeling cold towards Talon as a protagonist.

  12. I think you've done a good job creating this...disturbed MC, but I didn't really feel any tension for most of it, since he was by himself. When his dad asked for money or he'll get killed, I half expected Talon to just hang up. The lack of emotional response from Talon does put a bit of distance between me and whatever tension there is; it kept me from getting pulled into the scene.

  13. This was great. I couldn't find any fault with it. I enjoyed the whole piece.

  14. DIsturbing and creepy yes, tension not so much. I think the phone conversation is where the tesion fell away for me as well.

    Both the dad and the MC felt flat. Him being flat about killing animals is one thing, but I'd like to get a better sense of him when he's talking to his father.

    And I really didn't 'feel' his father's voice when he was talking.

  15. I'll let you know how I feel about this the very moment I have the nerve to stick my head back out from under the covers.

    Actually, I really enjoy twisted anti-heroes. Is your MC a Dexter-like character?

    The early part of this submission worked for me, aside from a few mechanical issues. However, the momentum slowed down markedly when Talon began talking with his father on the phone. I think you could tighten the conversation up a bit. Yes, most conversations are composed of quite a bit of small talk, but small talk usually doesn't translate well into fiction. (I'm not sure it even works in person. Ugh.)

    This is a good start, though. :-)