Thursday, February 26, 2009

82 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Ghost Machine
GENRE: Supernatural thriller

Linda has recently moved out of the house, leaving her husband, Greg. She now lives with her sister, Denise. Denise has taken Linda to a bar to "cheer her up." Two guys at the bar were trying to pick them up, and as they are about to leave, Linda is contemplating adultery for the first time in her married life.

Maybe Linda wanted someone who would treat her like a princess, at least for one night.

She made up her mind. Why not? What was one little infidelity against Greg’s stacks of lies and broken promises? Who could it hurt?

Tom was watching her expectantly. She was about to open her mouth to say yes when she glanced down at his left hand.

No ring.


“Tom,” she asked, “what are the names of your little girls?”

“Oh. Jeri,” he said, “and, um, Ryan.”

“Really. How old are they?”

“Seven and nine.” He looked away and gulped the rest of his drink.

“I see.” Jeri Ryan, Seven of Nine. He was a Voyager fan, all right. Her intuition and sensibility had kicked in just in time. What was she thinking? “No, I think I’ll be fine,” she said, casually ignoring the hurt expression on his face. “Thanks anyway. Come on Denise.”

Denise sighed as Linda pulled her to her feet. “Text me,” she told Anthony.
“Sure will,” he said with a salute. “Great meeting you.”

Linda pulled Denise out of the bar, waving goodbye to Dave on the way.

“What?” Denise demanded once they were on the sidewalk. “What is your problem?”

“Those guys were trying to pick us up.”

“So?” Denise cupped her hand around her lighter and lit a cigarette. “What’s the big deal?” She made a disgusted look and threw it on the ground.

“I’m married. I’m not cheating on Greg. Especially with an a****** like that.”


  1. The Voyager thing is very cute. You've done a good job of developing Linda's character in this brief excerpt.

    But as far as the chapter ending compelling me to read on, I don't think the last line is particularly hook-y. It feels like a good stopping place, actually. Which could work against you.

  2. I'm a sci-fi TV geek, so I thought the Seven of Nine stuff was funny!
    This didn't really make me want to read on. Maybe throw in some kind of lure or cliffhanger?

  3. Well written and the pace is good. The scene flowed nicely and I like that Linda made the right decision, though if she hadn't, the reversal would have been a cool twist leading to conflict. Anyway, the chapter ends on a rather ho-hum note. Linda took the moral high road, end of scene, and end of tension. It would be easy to close the book at this point and not go back.

  4. I liked the Seven of Nine bit as well, but it sounds almost like that's what really turned Linda off him. I'm assuming it was more that he said he was married with kids, and wasn't? The Voyager geek bit distracts from that. (If it was the reason she didn't say yes to him, then her dislike of geeks needs to come through more.)

    I think you did a good job of developing Linda too. She definitely comes across as angry, hurt, and a little vengeful. I'd like to hear, see, or feel a little more of her emotions when she's asking Tom about his daughters, though. At the moment, those lines could be misread as being calm and interested.

  5. Why did the 'no ring' set off her intuition? Had he told her he was married, or did she see a tan line?

    What did Denise throw on the ground, and why the disgusted face?

    I thought 'made a disgusted look' sounded awkward. Maybe something like 'gave (Linda/the cigarette, the lighter/whatever) a disgusted look' would work better.

    I didn't feel real connected to Linda. Maybe you could show more of her inner angst, or her excitement about doing something naughty, or whatever she's feeling, then the abrupt crash when she realizes something is 'off'.

    Loved the DS9 reference!

  6. Oops - I meant Voyager. Geek fail!

  7. Very well written. Fast pace and great dialogue. But did she toss the lighter or the cigarette? Or both? Small thing to repair. And I, too, thought Jeri Ryan/Voyager great. All guys loved her. I'd turn the page to see what they do next.

  8. I'm not sure if the author is supposed to step in or not, but she throws the cigarette on the ground. You all are right, that needs to be fixed. Never noticed it before. Ever since something that happened to her earlier in the story, she hasn't liked the taste of cigarettes, but also hasn't stopped lighting them up. It's supposed to be a subtle clue to the reader that something is wrong.

    There was a lot more setup that occured before this 250 word exchange. Tom was going through a divorce, and Linda thought he should still be wearing a ring. She noticed he wasn't wearing one, and the warning bells went off.

    I should have also pointed out that this scene occurs about 2/3 of the way through the book.

  9. The dialogue here is very well done, but I didn't find anything particularly compelling about the scene. Perhaps it's just the chapter ending you chose, but this one didn't really allow for me to connect with Linda or her story. And it wasn't enough of a cliff-hanger to surprise me into reading more.

    It's well-done, though.

    Good luck!

  10. Not a very cliff hanger-esque chapter ending, but you get bonus points for being a Voyager fan! I guess I’d need to see a bit more tension in the scene before I could say I’m hooked and would read on.

  11. It's funny to read all the comments about "Voyager." I'm not a fan myself; I think I've only seen one episode. Linda watches it, though, which was why she was so familiar with Jeri Ryan/Seven of Nine. Earlier in the scene, Tom told her he liked Voyager, but she said she never watched it because she didn't want to "sound like a dork."

    When I wrote the scene, I thought it would be amusing if Tom were to say his fictional daughters were "seven and nine."

  12. I'm gonna dissent. If she just left her husband and is contemplating committing adultery (and I'm sorry "compared to his lies. Who would it hurt?" please tell me you're kidding?) then it's really hypocritical for her to judge Tom, who is already supposedly in the midst of a divorce? You "redeem" her by having her not go through with it, but... it didn't work for me.

    (Although here's a lightbulb: for some reason I thought these were the endings of FIRST chapters. Thanks for the clarification, it could make me look differently.)

  13. Oh! I got distracted with my lightbulb. I love the title, but I'm curious: where's the supernatural? where's the thrill? A woman leaving her husband does not fit that genre, and there's no indication of supernatural anything, especially if this is later in the book. Perhaps you just didn't include it in the blurb but I was really curious!

  14. Linda's scene here is part of the fabric of the subplot. It's because of things that happened with her husband's invention that she left him.

    No thrills, here. Just a scene I thought would fit this blog.

  15. Oog. See here the kind of guys you pick up at bars don't exactly treat you like a princess. That was my first thought after reading the premise and then seeing the first line.

    I do like the rest of this - especially the Jeri Ryan thing. What a dope trying something like that.

  16. I have no idea what Jeri Ryan, Seven of Nine means. I had to read it several times, trying to figure out if it was a typo. Also, now I'm wondering if Tom was a liar. Does he really have two little girls that are seven and nine? I don't know (but maybe I would if I'd read more?). Is that why her sensibility kicked in just in time--now she knows he's a liar? *confused*

    This line freaked me out: "She made a disgusted look and through it on the ground." I don't like the "She made a disgusted look" bit. How do you "make" a "look"? Maybe something a bit more like, "Her face twisted in disgust" or something like that would work better. And I don't know what "it" is, so...yeah.

  17. Not really a hook for me, I’m afraid, since she decided not to do anything with him… and I don’t see the consequences yet or how it would go wrong (which is what would hook me more—I think). It’s probably part of having only a short excerpt, because I don’t know the larger picture and what’s at stake, but because things seem calm and so to me there’s no hook. (I suppose, also, for something listed as suspense, I expect more hooky endings.)

    The Voyager thing cracked me up, though. ;)

    Good luck,