Wednesday, October 29, 2008

5 Drop The Needle TENSION

Genre: Young Adult

Sixteen-year-old synesthete DASH is unconvinced his older sister AGGIE is telling the truth about her black eye.

I grabbed her arm. “Aggie, I know you didn’t run into a door. Just tell me—“

“Let go of me! Dad’s coming!” Black lightning bolts shot through her voice.

She twisted out of my grasp and fled toward the stairs. As she passed Dad, he raised a hand to high five her but she flinched and clutched her jacket tighter.

Dad noticed me and offered me the same high five Aggie had refused. “Guess who landed a big new customer today? That’s right. Big Al. Uh huh. Doesn’t make up for the twenty customers we lost last month, but it’s a start, eh?”

I slapped his hand and he continued into Mom’s office where I heard her say, “Al! You’re home already? Gosh, look at the time ... dinner’s not even close to being ready! How was your day?”

“Better than Aggie’s, I take it.”

“She hurt herself again. Ran into a door. She’ll be fine,” Mom said to him.

“She should be more careful,” Al said.

“I know. I told her the same thing.”

Aggie slammed her bedroom door and my head swam. I returned to the kitchen and scooped the onion peels and celery bits out of the sink. I held my breath while I dumped them into the putrid compost can under the sink and wondered why Aggie’s voice added the black lightning bolts. It happened as soon as she heard Dad open the garage door.

Her voice only looked that way when she was scared.


  1. I'm not madly in love with the black lightening bolts. Can the MC see auras? Is this physical? Or is this just his description of her?

    I do love the motion you project, and I hate Big Al. Hope he burns. A kid shouldn't flinch from their parent.

  2. I don't really understand the black lightning bolts either. Maybe it makes more sense in the context of the story. But I love how Aggie is constantly moving in the scene.

    I thought the everyday conversation between the mom and dad take away from the forward motion a bit; everything else is so good, and then you have to stop and read through some mundane chitchat before you can get going again. Maybe there's a way to minimize it?

  3. I liked the effect of the juxtaposition between the MC's knowing that Aggie didn't run into a door and the effort to maintain the appearance of normal life. That rings very true. And I liked the last sentence a lot.

  4. Lots of good tension in this one! I'm wondering, though, if Dad is the abuser. Does anyone else realize this in the family? Or am I reading things into this that simply are not there?

  5. There is tension, but I think the dialogue needs to be trimmed down, tightened. (For example, Mom's lines when she sees that Dad is home already. They need to be crisper, shorter.)

    The black lightning bolts were hard to get my head around until I paid attention to the fact that the character is a synesthete. I imagine that, in the context of the novel, the reader gets used to the way he perceives things with color.

    The closing sentence is strong.

  6. Good tension, just not loving the lightening bolts. Revisiting the image at the end of the chapter doesn't add anything, rather it seems repetitive.

  7. The lead in really is necessary here. I'm not sure if the chitchat between the parents detracts from the tension, or actually underlines it by contrast.

    I wonder if her dad gave her the black eye.

  8. The black lightning bolts are kind of odd, mainly because lighting isn't black, so the combination is off-putting. If this is some magical thing she does, try to think of a different way to describe it.

    There may be too much pedestrian action here that dilutes the tension you attempt to build. The girl is angry, the POV character is confused, and the parents are oblivious. That's a lot of diverse emotion among 4 characters for one page of text. I'm not sure it works.

  9. I made sure to look up synesthete before reading the excerpt, so wasn't confused.

    Good tension here, and a unique MC. It leaves the question open whether Dad is the abuser or someone else. Great job showing the signs of abuse rather than telling. I could probably learn something from that.

  10. Good tension, esp. with the abuse and the questions about who did what and who is lying, and the suspiciousness. I also liked how her Dad, being in a good mood, suddenly acts like everything is fine again and seems oblivious to her fear.

    Minor nit: I don't think you should switch from "Dad" to "Al" in the dialog tag, it's almost a POV switch.

  11. Are these lightning bolts actually physical, or is it a metaphor for anger? If it's the latter, I don't think it's working very effectively just yet.

    I also felt some of the dialogue was overdone, i.e. too formal or forced. Try reading some of these lines aloud (or get others to do it for you) and see how they sound to you.

  12. Good tight, active writing.

    I like how you slip in Dash's condition (black lightning bolts): seeing sounds.

    While this is a tense moment, my impression is more of Dash's frustration and worry and maybe curiosity than tension.

    Of course, you're saying that Al had hit Dash's sister.

    I'd read this further.

  13. I thought that this one was great. Very tence, realistic and different. I actually loved the black lightnig bolts

  14. Lightning bolts threw me off but by the end sentence I suspect he actually can see voices. In that case why isn't this labelled YA Fantasy or something?

    Anyways, I could definitely feel the tension between Aggie and her dad, and Dash and the complicated situation.