Wednesday, February 25, 2009

15 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Dead Bikers' Society
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Madeleine Duffy, the main character, is killed on her daily bike-ride to work.

Desperately I rang my bell to try to alert the driver, but its
pathetic ringing was swallowed up by street noise. I watched in horror
as the space closed around me, the shouts of nearby pedestrians
echoing in my ears.

Then, as if it was a giant shark, its churning wheels swept me
under. Caught in its grasp, with the growl of the engine in my ears, I
thrashed about furiously in the darkness. But it wouldn't release me.

Suddenly, the roaring stopped and I fell hard to the ground,
straining to see. The bent and twisted frame of my bike beside me on
the greasy asphalt was the only thing my brain could assemble into a
coherent picture. Nothing hurt, but my body refused to respond to any
of the futile commands I was trying to send out. I couldn't even hear
what the person hovering over me was shouting.

The corners of my mouth lifted slightly as Corduroy Man's worried
face appeared in my blurred line of vision. He took command of the
situation, covering me with his jacket, checking my pulse and mouthing
words I couldn't hear over the shriek of the approaching ambulance
siren. When he shifted the jacket to wrap it more tightly around my
body, I noticed my blood had stained the green to a deep red. I'll
need to buy him a new one, I thought.

And then, I died.


  1. I can't exactly see where this is going, especially with the genre listed as women's fiction. I like the images, but think you need a few more of them, maybe a little more fear that she can't hear, fear at seeing the blood, fear that she can't feel her body. The ambulance seems to arrive very quickly and you don't identify corduroy man--I assume he's a guy in corduroy pants who's the first one on the scene. This seems to be a big scene, so I'd lengthen it out and bring in some more drama.

  2. I agree with the 1st comment. Unless her death really isn't that big a deal, her death should be a bigger deal. The writing is intense, vibrant and dramatic and really serves to suck the reader under the truck but I kind of wanted more: a deeper richer flavor to the death (though you don't want to be gratuitous). Just a little more color to the tapestry, I guess.

    LOVED the last line, very much a perfect page-turner...

  3. This has me really curious as to where it's all going.

    As previously stated, how important is your MC's death? Obviously, important enough to warrant the name of the mss. Although the last line of the chapter seems a bit anti-climactic, it definitely has me wanting to turn the page.

    But how does this fit into your genre? It seemed like it was a piece from a paranormal?

  4. I had a hard time connecting here. The writing is beautiful, but I’m just not feeling her. There’s nothing here that’s making me care about her. You’re getting me there in the first paragraph, but after that, it’s more descriptive action and little of her thoughts.

    You talk about her body didn’t hurt, but she couldn’t move. Then she notices a man shouting. Give us more here. Let us know what she’s thinking over the fact that she couldn’t move. Picture yourself laid out on the pavement and you can’t move. What are your thoughts? That’s the stuff I need to connect to her.

    I personally didn’t care much for the closing line. It’s too much of a, ‘oh well, stuff happens’, kind of line for me. But again, your writing is very beautiful.

  5. In the first sentence, why not use an onomatopoeic word such as chingling to avoid using two forms of ring in the same sentence? Gramatically, as if it WERE a giant shark, is correct.
    It’s always interesting to wonder what the mind would think in a situation like this, but I’d like to be deeper into her head. I imagine she would be more confused. Maybe the use of shorter, less complex sentences would convey that. Also, I would question that she would nickname the man trying to help her… unless you’re introducing us to an on-going character. And since she isn’t feeling any pain, would she immediately recognize it was her blood on his jacket? Maybe, in confusion, she would wonder why there was blood on it. I just don’t feel the enormity of what has just happened to her.
    You say she couldn’t hear the man shouting at her, as though it was because nothing on her body was working, but in the next paragraph you say she couldn’t hear because of the siren shrieking. So did she regain her hearing, or was she never deaf? I think you should make that clear.
    Technically well written, just needs more emotion. Intriguing last line. I’d read on.

  6. There's something intriguing here. I read it, moved on, came back and read it a second time, moved on, and then came back and read it a third time.

    I think what's bothering me is that this scene seems to be either backstory or a prologue. If it's a prologue, you have me hooked. If it's backstory, I don't think it stands alone very well. I would like to see the rest of the chapter in order to know if it fits.

    A few comments:

    Ringing the bell is good, but wouldn't she also have tried to veer out of the path of the vehicle?

    Also, is this a car or truck that hit her?

    I love the analogy of a shark. The word giant could be replaced by a stronger word like "Great White Shark" - and make the vehicle a white sedan/k-van, etc.

    The sentence "Suddenly, the roaring stopped and I fell hard to the ground, straining to see" feels awkward to me. I'd drop the last phrase from that sentence and then in a new sentence say something like, I opened my eyes, straining to see. Makes more sense.

    You paint a great picture of being run over, and it is believable that she might not feel pain or even hear what folks were saying -- but if she can't hear -- how did she know they were shouting?

    I like her thinking of the man as Corduroy Man -- LOVE IT -- but you then have her vision blurred, so how could she see the corduroy? If the man wore a green corduroy jacket, tell me that so I clearly get the line that says "I noticed my blood had stained the green to a deep red."

    I'd drop the phrase "He took command of the situation" it's redundant because you clearly show me he was in command. And, if she couldn't hear she would also not hear the ambulance (which arrived rather abruptly in the scene and very quickly for a busy street).

    Bottom line -- I'd read more. Tighten up a few little inconsistencies and if this is backstory about how she got in the society, then make sure it is strategically placed so you get as much distance and power as you can out of this big scene.

    Good luck!

  7. I like this. I would definately read on--the writing is lovely.

    The Corduroy Man confused me. Was he mentioned earlier? the way you approach him seems to tell me he was. Also, the word "giant" before the shark simile felt too vague.

  8. This was a bit confusing, but interesting by the end. how can someone dying know all this is happening? I'd be interested to know what happens after this scene. Your blurb actually told us what was going to happen. It would've had more impact if we wouldn't have known she was going to be killed.

  9. Having read the title...I'm intrigued! I am assuming the rest of the story takes place when she is dead? Spooky! :-)

  10. I think we're all disconnected from the scene because the MC is too. If that's what you want, then mission accomplished.

    But I had trouble with the scene because being pulled under a truck would hurt like hell. It would seriously, seriously hurt. Eventually the hurt would stop, but that is a horrific way to die, and you kind of make it sound like nothing.

    Still, I agree that the writing is great, and I'd read more.

  11. The ringing the bell part kept me in my head through the whole thing. Am I missing something? What is ringing a bell about?

    Then there is an "it" that doesn't have a noun to refer to, so I was wondering about that.

    And then -- women's fiction? I'm so confused!

    BUT -- this definitely didn't suck. I would like to read more, if I wasn't so confused.

  12. I found the story compelling, but I will have to agree that she doesn't seem to worried that she can't feel her body or the blood. Maybe she is just stunned and doesn't really understand what is going on.
    I would read on.

  13. I enjoyed your writing. I was confused a little with the first sentence in the first paragraph, but I think that is only because this is the end of the chapter and starts in the middle of the action.

    I like the nickname for the stranger helping her, but it's strange that it's capped. I think it draws way too much attention to it - unless, as another poster mention, this character is important somehow to the rest of the story.

    I also agree that if this is the prologue or first chapter, excellent placement.

    I think you can cut the word futile in the third paragraph. "Refused to respond" already implies that her commands are futile - and “futile commands” rings a little cliché to me. Also, you use the phrase "couldn't hear" two paragraphs in a row.

    "And then, I died." Well, the hook is good, but based on the rest of the writing here I think you can come up with something better. What about taking the MC's final thought and making it its own paragraph:

    "I'll need to buy him a new one, I thought -- just before I died."

    Small tweaks, really. This is good stuff.

  14. I would turn the page for sure. I want to know If she'd brought back to life or is she a ghost.

    Maybe add a little more terror to her thoughts and fear of death.

    It's good though. I enjoyed reading it.

  15. I'd definitely turn the page just to see how you planned for her to continue being the protagonist. I'd omitt futile--redundant. Maybe a swerve or two would seem more realistic before she goes under the vehicle. Good read!

  16. I'd turn the page.

    I am assuming by the title, and the fact the the MC just snuffed it that the book is set in the afterlife.

    I do think there could be more urgency in the impending accident and aftermath. Shorter and clippier.

    I spotted one minor Point of View problem. I bet we'd get a 50/50 vote on whether it is or not:

    When he shifted the coat "to wrap it more tightly around my body"

    That sort of jumps into the man's head showing his intent.

    Perhaps "He shifted the coat and wrapped it more tightly around me..." that way observation maintains control.

    Dead Biker's Society... makes me think of all the Motorcycle gang members that have been killed. :)

  17. I agree with some of the others that this needs to be flushed out a little bit more. The MC's death seems like it ought to be more important to span just 250 words.

    Also, some of your "its" should be changed to "it's" to show possession over the actions.

    I would probably read on. Ending a chapter with "I died." tends to cause enough interest to continue.

  18. I'm not sure if I get the mental images here.... like, if she were hit by a bus, I don't know if she would be thrashing around to free herself or thinking all that much.

  19. I love the title, I'd probably read on just for that. Heh.

    Good luck,


  20. This is a really intriguing premise! Absolutely I want to turn the page and see what happens next.

    The writing is graphic and vivid, which is excellent for the situation you’re describing. In a couple of places I think you could productively lose a few words (e.g., you don’t need to say the commands are futile if you’ve already said her body won’t obey them), but mostly it’s great. Her focus on the twisted bike frame is really effective – the tunnel vision you get when something really really terrible is happening and your brain just can’t cope with all the sensory input.

    I wondered why, if she has time to ring the bell in an attempt to alert the approaching driver to her presence, she doesn’t also have time to try to get out of the way. But maybe that’s just lack of context (I can certainly imagine situations in which there just wouldn’t be anywhere to go).

    I also wondered why she can hear the distant ambulance sirens but not the words of a person who’s within a few feet of her.

    Is “Corduroy Man” in the last paragraph the same as “the person hovering over me” in the second-last paragraph, or is he a different guy?

    Finally, given the depth and vividness of the description everywhere else, the last line seems ... cold and dry, I guess. How does dying feel, what does it look like, what does it sound like, what is she thinking and feeling?

  21. Ditto that this sounds like a good premise (a la "She's Come Undone" or "The Lovely Bones"), but I think the long sentences and paragraphs take away from the tension of the scene. It just felt like too much to digest all at once, so rather than pull me in, it kinda held me at a distance.

  22. I love your writing, you set the scene exceptionally well.

    In the following sentence I would drop the word "even." It would read. I couldn't hear what the person hovering over me was shouting.

    I couldn't even hear
    what the person hovering over me was shouting.

    Did she really die?? I would keep reading.