Wednesday, May 6, 2009

26 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Day 10,000
GENRE: Science fiction

Shushan is a fourteen year-old girl on a colonized world who's had a crush on Ensign Nakajima since he disembarked from a landing craft and spoke to her people as he came to aid them. But Shushan is getting suspicious of his headset. And there’s going to be an explosion.

“Wait!” Nakajima took a step forward. “That’s not what we agreed --”

Lieutenant Pearl’s voice was devoid of emotion. “Ensign Nakajima, grab that girl next to you and hide behind that large tree back and to the left of you.”

But Shushan had darted her eyes again when he had stopped in mid-word. “You’re getting instructions from that headset, aren’t you?” She spoke as if she had bit into some bitter fruit.

“Shushan, we need to hide behind that tree.” It was a maple with a fairly thick trunk. Somewhat distant, they could sprint to it in thirty seconds.

Her face had creased in juvenile anger and disappointment, her voice high. “All along, you’ve been repeating what someone on the ship has been telling you? Those weren’t your words?”

He grabbed her arm. “We need to run NOW. You heard your friend. We’ll talk about the headset later.”

Pearl’s voice came on again, and in the background the captain was saying something about a scattering field. “Ensign, get that twerp out of there!”

Shushan beat her fists on his chest, blonde hair flying as she struggled, backing away from the direction he wanted. “Did you mean any of it? What you said? Any of it? When you stepped out, and you said all those noble words? And I thought . . . .” Her voice became too high to follow.

Nakajima didn’t like using any sort of martial arts against her, but . . . .


  1. As far as extreme reaction or emotion, it wasn't very extreme. I wanted her to get really mad about the headset.
    The POV changes so many times in the story it's hard to keep up and understand what's going on with it, who is who etc.
    i'm actually wondering if he uses matial arts against her. good cliff hanger.

  2. The story intrigues me. I'm interested in Nakajima and what he's hiding.

    But, I'm also a little confused. I'm not exactly sure what "had darted her eyes again" means.

    And the Lieutenant is originally "devoid of emotion" so I imagined him as almost a droid type, but at the end say "get that twerp out of here!"

    Is he the voice in the heaset? I didn't understand that at first but now, i'm thinking that's why he says things like grab the girl next to you- the large tree back and to the left of you- because that's unusual way to talk.

  3. Crap. I had a whole response that doesn't seem to have taken.

    The short version:
    Removing 'had' and 'was' will make your writing stronger and more immediate (creased instead of had creased, etc.)

    Also, I'd lose 'juvenile' as a descriptor in anything YA, b/c there's no way for that to have a clear meaning and may even connote something negitive, and you wouldn't want to insult your target audience.

    And I find the "blond hair flying" line distracting. I have long hair and it takes some pretty crazy thrashing for something other than wind to send my "hair flying." But maybe that's the visual your working toward, in which case, you're there.

  4. Your POV is very very shallow which also robs your character convincing me of anything much.

    Also when you are emoting you aren't aware of your blonde hair flying.

    If it's any help I'll give you an example of over description.

    She pursed her ruby red lips and pouted.
    She doesn't think of her lipstick unless she's worried it's disappeared at lunch.
    Are you aware of what your hair color is? Of course not and neither would she.

    And talking down to a YA or MC or child is like your mother telling you to remember to shut your front door - like really annoying and kids - whether you are five or fifty - hate people talking down to them like they are stupid.

  5. There's a distancing in the writing here. Modifers such as 'fairly' and 'somewhat' reduce the impact of your words. Try to show rather than tell.

    Maybe try something like “Shushan, we need to hide behind that tree.” he said, pointing to a solid maple that lay maybe fifty steps away.

    I would also avoid the use of 'had' in verbs eg had creased, had darted, as they put even more distance between the action and the reader.

    I agree with the comments about the blonde hair (lose that) and using words like juvenile as a descriptor.

    Perhaps something like this: 'Her sweet, childlike face crumpled in disappointment.' would have worked better.

  6. Most of my comments have already been taken. I also pictured the voice being more of a droid (devoid of emotion) and the "twerp" comment threw me off. I think I was expecting the "voice's" comments to be more direct and simple. All easy things to fix. Keep going!

  7. I think if Shushan darts her eyes when Nakajima stops talking, then this action should appear in the text immediately after he stops speaking. Then we can hear from Lieutenant Pearl.

    I was a bit confused as to whether L. Pearl's voice was coming from the headset, or whether he was present in the scene. I also wasn't sure whether Shushan could hear Pearl or not. I'm sure this would be clear in the actual manuscript though.

  8. From the author:

    Thank you for your comments. It's hard to tell from this snippet, but the entire scene is from Nakajima's viewpoint. He has a lieutenant on a ship in orbit telling him what to do at crucial moments through the headset, and the teenage girl is reacting because she thinks none of his words were his own.

    On the sentence about the tree, I can see there are some extra words in there, and I can take them out to make a stronger sentence.