Wednesday, February 25, 2009

39 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

GENRE: Urban fantasy

Celeste, born with a powerful healing touch, has awakened to find her power is gone. Unfortunately, she was scheduled to assist in the risky heart transplant procedure for a 20-month-old baby that same day.

It was Brogan Levine, little Acacia's father, with his wife in tow
like a drifting ghost in white. Brogan's nostrils flared as he
marched towards me. Sariah dangled from his swinging arm, resembling
a toddler trying to hold back a Mastiff.

"Honey," Sariah whispered, "Please, calm down. You can't change here,
please. Not in the hospital. We have to be able to stay with Acacia.

Brogan stopped two feet from me. His chest heaved, and I could almost
see his heart beat through his shirt. "Brogan, Sariah," I said,
lamely greeting them.

"If my little girl dies because you decided to call out sick, I'm
going to kill you," Brogan started to hiss, and the words ended with
an inelegant snort. Brogan's eyes were bloodshot and rimmed purple,
and his arms were so rigid that I could see muscles bulging beneath
the carpet of black hair.

I couldn't hold back my tears. "You think I just called out sick for
fun?" I grabbed him by a furry arm. Sweat dribbled between my
fingers. Whether he was fighting his shapeshifting or willing it, I
didn't know. "What do you feel?" I asked him.

He stared in bewilderment at his own arm. "Nothing." He knew what my
bare touch was supposed to be like.

I dropped his arm, and it flopped limply to his side. "Nothing," I
said. "That's what I have. Nothing."


  1. God, I love the images of the wife in tow. You instantly tell me all about her and their relationship. It's just brilliant.

    Just for the record, I would so, completely, keep reading. The tension and emotion are palpable. Great job!

    Just one small thing... I would check your quote style:

    "Honey," Sarah whispered, "please calm down."

    or "Honey," Sarah whispered. "Please calm down."

    You don't need a comma between please and calm.

    And again... I would put a period instead of a comma between "I'm going to kill you" and "Brogan started to hiss."

    But I'm not sure that is a hard and fast interpretation.

  2. This made me gasp. I would definitely read on. Your dialogue is very believable. Just in this short excerpt, there is tremendous insight into your characters...especially Brogan Levine.

    I was a little thrown off by the line "lamely greeting them." It seems to somewhat damage the narrator's credibility or integrity. She seems to be the type that would take things very seriously, and who would never greet someone "lamely"...
    especially in that situation. So, maybe a different word choice?

    Just my two cents for whatever it's worth. :-)

  3. Good images and detail here. The dangling like a toddler line was my favorite. Sweat dribbling seemed odd and took me out of the story for a moment. With all this tension, I would certainly keep reading. :)

  4. I liked this one. Lots of tension and a reason to keep reading.

    Watch your adverb use ("flopped limply" is redundant). The "grabbed him by a furry arm" took me out momentarily because it seemed he changed instantaneously, then I realized it might just be because he's hairy. That might be a better adjective in that case, unless you do want to imply a quick change, but I'd still find it a little hard to accept (though what's normal about shapechanging, eh?)

    Good job.

  5. (Warning: This isn't a genre I would normally read, so my comments should be weighed accordingly.)

    The writing is very good. There is the right amount of descrptive narrative mixed with imagery, and good dialog. Paragraphs are well-constructed, and the writing is obviously well-edited.

    I think you chose a bad place to end the chapter. It didn't leave me on the edge of my seat, it left me empty. There isn't anything to promise me something in the next chapter, which I think is the most important aspect in the ending of a chapter.

    Not knowing where the story is going to go next, I don't have any sound advice, except that I recommend you find a place to end this chapter where it gives the reader a notion of what they have to look forward to, a glimpse of what might happen next.

  6. I would read more. What's the deal with "stared in bewilderment?" I sense the relationship between the two beings is strained by problems...thus "bewilderment" due to a deformity, injury (?). Try a different word for "flooped" (rhymes with "dropped)." Throw out limply. Sheesh...pretty soon Elmore will come out of the woodwork. Keep at this, it sounds like a good read.

  7. I agree with Gringo. This ending doesn't tell me much more than the setup did, except for Brogan being a shapeshifter. He does threaten Celeste, but that doesn't increase the tension for me--I think he'd say that anyway even if her powers were intact.

    It was Brogan Levine, little Acacia's father, with his wife in tow
    like a drifting ghost in white. -- Consider rewording to remove the "it was" so you can use a more active verb.

    Sariah dangled from his swinging arm, resembling
    a toddler trying to hold back a Mastiff.-- I like this image.

    "Brogan, Sariah," I said,
    lamely greeting them.--I think you could drop everything after "said." The "lamely greeting" is explaining the dialogue; you could either make the dialogue stronger or use body language to show Celeste's emotions.

    Brogan started to hiss, and the words ended with
    an inelegant snort.--What does he shift into, a snake? You may tell us this in the full story, but from this excerpt, it's hard to tell.

    He knew what my
    bare touch was supposed to be like.--This could be a POV slip. Have they touched before?

    Overall, the writing is clear, and I get a good sense of the characters. I like the way you use different senses in your description. Unfortunately, this doesn't feel like a cliffhanger to me. I would probably read on, but it's not compelling to me. The surgery itself might be.

    Hope this is helpful.

  8. I love the imagery - especially "like a drifting ghost in white". Good building of tension. I do think you need to be careful not to overwrite in places - eliminating some unnecessary description might move it forward even quicker.

  9. I agree with gringo.

    I think this is well-written. You have compelling characters and an interesting premise.

    I would probably continue reading because the writing is good, not because of the chapter ending per se.

  10. Great writing! You have artfully created a lot of tension here. I would keep reading, but the writing not the chapter ending would be the reason why. Ending with that dialogue is very powerful only if it's a reveal. If the audience already knows before this point that Celeste has lost her powers, then it's not particularly compelling as an ending.

    However, if you added Brogan's response to her confession...that could be surprising and compelling. Does he strike her? Start crying? Run away? Does Sariah freak out and burn down the hospital?

    The reaction could be a good way to get readers to turn the page and find out what happens next.

    Good luck!

  11. I would tighten this first sentence:

    It was Brogan Levine, little Acacia's father, with his wife in tow
    like a drifting ghost in white. Brogan's nostrils flared as he
    marched towards me.

    to something like:

    Brogan Levine, little Acacia's father, marched toward me, nostrils flaring. He had his wife in tow, like a drifting ghost in white.

    But I liked this, and would like to read more.

  12. I really liked this, but felt cheated by the last line. There was so much tension...and then. Maybe just cut it at the first "Nothing."

    Of course, I'd turn the page...

  13. I like the emotion in this, and I like your descriptions and comparisons. They really make the characters stand out for me.

    The first sentence here seems a little awkward, but I'm going to guess the preceding sentence was something along the lines of "I heard footsteps behind me", which would make the "it was" make more sense.

    "Brogan stated to hiss, and the words ended in an inelegant snort." That snort drew me out of the story for a sec, because it seems to come from nowhere and have no purpose. I have a hard time hearing it. Is it a shapeshifter problem, that when they're on the verge of changing they don't have as much control over their speech? You might want to say that somewhere, if you haven't already.

    I think "furry" and "dribbled" are the wrong word choices. I'd prefer "hairy" for the former (unless he's already shifting?), and maybe "dripped", "trickled", or "ran" for the latter? "Dribbled" makes me think of someone pouring sweat onto the MC's arm.

    I'd definitely keep reading. That last paragraph left me wondering what was going to happen next. I can see Brogan getting angry, and I can also see him trying to help, and I want to know which is going to happen!

  14. Nice. You've created some lovely images and a real, crackling tension. Like several others have said, it's hard to know how effective this is as an ending because of the lack of context, which obviously is no reproach to you.

    I would read on because of that and because the overall tone of the writing is so good.

  15. Very tense, but a very good hook for the end of the chapter. I'm rooting for the baby.

  16. Very nice. Loved it.
    Sorry can only post Anon here, but I had to leave a comment it was so good. Can't wait to read the whole book.

  17. While I appreciate the imagery you are trying to evoke in the opening paragraph, I'd suggest taking out one set and leaving in the other. Either she's a drifting ghost or a swinging toddler, but both just seems like overkill.

    I disagree with Litgirl01 about the "lamely" -- I don't think it damages her credibility, I think it shows that the narrator is flustered by her situation and off her game.

    If the next chapter is a completely different set of characters in a different location, then I think this is a good place to end the chapter. But if it's the same characters and place then I'd have to agree with gringo that it may not be a very good place to end a chapter.

  18. A few lines (like the DL tags, especially Borgan) felt a bit over-written and melodramatic, but on the whole I'm quite curious, so yes, I'd turn the page to see what happens.

    Good luck,


  19. Wow, to be without the healing touch on the day of an important surgery.

    was the sweat dribbling between the fingers from him? Was that because of the shapeshifting? If so maybe you could try the line instead like

    Grabbing him by his furry arm, my fingers were drenched in sweat.

    I like the idea of shapeshifters and someone who can heal by touch. I want to know more.

  20. Sounds like a really neat premise, and we already get a good sense of characterization in just this short snippet. Yup, I'd read on!

    Only comment--at first, it wasn't clear to me that the sweat the MC feels is from Brogan and not from the protagonist. Maybe make that a little clearer?

  21. I would definitely read on. It sounds like it would certainly keep me on the edge of my seat, wanting to turn the page. Good job!

  22. Wonderful story building and tension, I was thinking *werewolf* for Brogan Levine (great name) but was thrown off by "shapeshifting." I would definitely want to read more of this story.

  23. I'm not so sure this chapter end leaves me wanting to read on. It does make me curious about the story. But I don't know if I'd be hungering for more, if I knew everything that led up to this point. I probably would, though...just because I'd want to know if the child made it through the surgery.

    However, I did love the writing at the end, there...the way she didn't argue and didn't try to defend herself. She merely used a simple touch to portray that she was just as broken and empty as he was. Great writing, there!


    Well... Instead of "I greeted them lamely," I think you might replace those with a thought. Something that shows how she wishes she had something more than a lame greeting to offer them.

    The line where he started to hiss and ended with an inelegant snort... I think there's probably a better way of portraying this, because I'm not really sure how words hissed would end in a snort. Usually a snort signifies derision, or disbelief...not the anger hiding fear that he's going through right now.

    Also...make sure you don't tell what you've already shown your readers. I'm thinking of this line: He knew what my
    bare touch was supposed to be like.
    Those of us who only have this blurb needed that... but surely someone who's read the whole book would know that by now, right? If so, cut that sentence out.

    I hope this was helpful, and God bless!

  24. The line where he started to hiss and ended with an inelegant snort... I think there's probably a better way of portraying this, because I'm not really sure how words hissed would end in a snort.