Wednesday, October 29, 2008

31 Drop The Needle TENSION

TITLE: "Drysdale"

GENRE: Thriller

SETTING: This is the start of Chapter 12...

He wakes up because someone is saying his name. No one calls him Robert James any more, they call him R.J.

“Robert James Lewdell.”

R.J. opens his eyes and his whole body jerks in surprise and shock. There’s a man sitting next to the bed on a chair, backlit by moonlight coming through the trailer’s small bedroom window.

“Don’t move,” the man says.

“Who are you?” R.J. says, his voice shrill.

R.J. starts to get out of bed and the man points a large revolver at him. Cocks the hammer.

“Don’t move.”

“What are—Who are you?”


R.J.’s voice shakes.. “I don’t know you, mister.”

“Where’s Byron.”

“Byron? Aw shit, did he piss you off?”

“Where is he.”

“I don’t know. Aw shit, are you the guy who’s been followin’ me?”


“The blue car? Was you in a blue car?”


“I knew that was trouble.”

“Where’s Bryon.”

“I don’t get along none with my brother. Don’t see him much.”

Drysdale doesn’t say anything and the silence is deeply unsettling to R.J. He realizes why. With all the ruckus his wife hasn’t woken up. He looks over at her, a still figure under the covers next to him. She’s turned away.

“Lorna?” he says.

Usually she snores but she isn’t snoring now. She’s stone still.


No reply. He goes to take her shoulder.

“Don’t touch her,” Drysdale says.

R.J. freezes with his hand suspended a few inches over her.


“Just don’t.”

“Did you do somethin’ to her?”



  1. I felt I was keeping my cool pretty well -- as MC's often do when people are pointing guns at them -- until that last "Yes." That ratcheted the tension up about a million degrees.


  2. oh no! that was my first thought after the last word. It really got going toward the end there. I think I have goosebumps.

  3. Why don't you use question marks when Drysdale is speaking? At first I thought this was typo but then I realized you were doing it on purpose.

  4. Anon -
    Because Drysdale's voice doesn't rise in a question at the end of his lines. He says things flatly, the same way one would state "two plus two equals four."

  5. The mental image of Drysdale... he comes across a bit drama-ghoul. :)

    That said... he probably didn't even need to have a gun in his hand to freak me out. Just waking up and finding a total stranger sitting next to the bed LOOMING would be enough to send the tension levels all the way up.

    Nice job here<:

  6. Ooh! Love this one. Tension-laden! Great job.

  7. Very tense - especially toward the end with the wife part. Good job.

  8. Awesome- tense, quick-flowing, cool. Except a little repetition with "aw, shit"- you used in two consecutive lines of dialogue from the same character.


  9. Awesome- tense, quick-flowing, cool. Except a little repetition with "aw, shit"- you used in two consecutive lines of dialogue from the same character.


    I could hear R.J. saying that twice. He doesn't have the greatest vocabulary.
    And I felt the tension. Great job.

  10. I thought this was great. I don't get the no question marks though.

    Great tension, especially at the end.

  11. Wonderful tension at the end. Up until the wife, I wasn't really feeling the tension.

  12. Present tense always sets my teeth on edge, but otherwise I like this. Drysdale is just plain spooky. Please keep him on your side of the blog, Mr. Tripp.

    I really like the choppy, incomplete sentences. Nice touch, especially for this genre.

    Poor Lorna.

  13. I guess I read too much of this type, because after the first comment about his wife being too quiet, I knew Drysdale had offed her or something.

    But the tension was awesome! What a creepy weirdo you've created for a villain here. Hope he gets his soon.

  14. Good tension here. I liked the last few lines about his wife best. Lots more tension there even though Drysdale is quite creepy tense all on his own. I also would have liked question marks on his questions, even if his inflection is flat, it's still a question.

  15. Eek! Poor wife!

    Good job on getting the tension in.

    If this is where you started, I'd want the wife on scene earlier, just so I know who is in the room. But, since this is chapter 12, I'm guessing most readers will know she's there without you saying anything.

  16. Good job overall. Nice showing us RJ's distinctive speech patterns. Makes him unique.

    One nit:

    "Drysdale doesn’t say anything and the silence is deeply unsettling to R.J."

    Drysdale didn't say nothing -- to stay with the way RJ talks

    Try to avoid "to be" verbs if possible. They tend to be passive, and you want to keep the tension high in this.

  17. You might want to look at your grammar and punctuation—apart from Drysdale’s dialect, there are some punctuation errors (missing question marks mostly) and some odd sentence constructions.
    Secondly, I think getting some of the character’s visceral reaction would really heighten the tension in this scene. How does R.J. feel when he realizes Drysdale did something to his wife? Break up the chain of dialogue with some gestures and internal POV moments.

  18. If your readers don't know the wife is there, you should let them know. I was confused when you first mentioned her - but this is just a snippet.

    I need to feel more tension in the beginning. The MC doesn't seem panicked enough. He doesn't back away or catch his breath or anything. But maybe that's just the character?

    Good job, though. I'd be really interested in reading more of this.

  19. Great work! The only nitpicky comment I can make is that RJ seemed too young to have a wife. His grammar seemed very teenage boy.