Wednesday, May 6, 2009

45 Drop the Needle

TITLE: School Zone
GENRE: YA Dystopian SF

Eric Volker (MC) is in a secret group of free-thinking students. Having discovered that another friend, Alison, knows about the group, he invites her to come, even though he knows his friend Neil will be angry. Alison doesn't show up to the meeting, and afterward Eric tells Neil he'd invited her, and that he believes she should be a part of the group. Neil disagrees.

Neil kicked one of the metal chairs. It clattered to the floor and slid into the wall with a crash. “Who do you think you are, Volker?” His voice was still low, but he was breathing hard.

“Look, I know you two had some sort of falling out—”

“Falling out?” Neil’s face was twisted with incredulous rage. “Falling out?” He was shouting now.

“Disagreement, then.”

“It wasn’t a disagreement, you idiot! It was the worst kind of betrayal you can think of. Alison Dahl doesn’t deserve to be in this group, and she doesn’t deserve the kind of attention you’ve been giving her.”

“If you would’ve told me—”

“Told you what, Volker? All the details that are none of your business? I already told you not to trust her and you should’ve listened to me. And you’re damn lucky she didn’t show up tonight.”

“Maybe you’re letting whatever happened between you keep you from seeing things straight.”

“Maybe you’d better shut up.” Neil shoved Eric; it was a warning, like a growl from a trapped animal.

“Maybe you’d better take some more medicine.”

Neil lunged. The impact of his fist in Eric’s face sent Eric sprawling backward, into the bathroom door that Trace had just opened. Eric staggered to his feet as Trace stepped through the doorway and supported him. The second hit burst Eric’s lip and sent Trace and him both backward against the wall, hard.


  1. This works perfectly. I understood everything. Saw it all.

    I laughed when Eric said he should take more medicine.

    one suggestion- the word "you" is repeated too many times in the sentence beginning with Maybe.

    How about "Maybe whatever happened is keeping you from seeing things straight."

    And then "The impact of his fist in Eric's face sent Eric sprawling"

    Do we need the impact of? I think those two sentences could be tightened, made more immediate.

    But all in all, I liked it.

  2. I love it, too. VERY well done. The only part I didn't like was 'incredulous rage.' Twisting his face in anger would be enough for me.

    The second correction I'll suggest: the last line. Instead of 'Trace and him both backward' I'd prefer 'The second hit burst Eric's lip. He and Trace slammed into the wall behind them,' or something along those lines. I like what you say better than my example, I just don't like 'Trace and him'.

    Overall, well done.

  3. I liked it, I felt the emotion.

    I agree with most of what's been said, but I do have one suggestion (as I'm currently tearing my own manuscript to pieces on this topic, I might be over sensitive, so keep that in mind please.)

    You use "was" alot. Often in many sentences in a row, right after one another. I keep hearing "there's always a better word than was" and how using it too much can give the effect of flat writing. And that if you use it too often, it takes away from the dramatic effect "was" (like "it was a warning") can have.

    Despite this - I did still feel emotion in this scene. But it can be even better!

  4. Very nice, I could feel Neil's rage and understand it, too. "it was a warning, like a growl from a trapped animal" - great imagery there.

    This feels like omniscient POV, where we aren't really seeing this from either character's specific perspective. The scene might have more impact if you got in the head of one of these characters. For instance, if we are in Eric's head, we would see his reaction to Neil kicking the chair. He knew Neil would be mad, he probably had to brace himself to withstand the anger that was coming his way, but when Neil kicks the chair, how does that make Eric feel? Rising panic? Annoyance? You could ramp up these feelings as the scene progresses.

    Just a small suggestion, overall I think this works really well.

  5. I agree with what everyone's said, but particularly Sheila. My only real issue (if you want to call it that) with this piece was that I couldn't really get a good feeling for the narrator. You said Eric is the MC, but I didn't really get that the POV was his, if it was supposed to be.

    Great job with the fight scene though! Those are the best. :)

  6. Dialogue is great. A few extra wases--eg, Neil's face was twisted... How about Neil's face twisted?

    The last paragraph could use a little work, IMHO--it's hard to write action that's clear yet reads at a matching pace. By trying to include every movement of everybody, it actually sort of slows and confuses things. I think sonja had a good suggestion. A matter of paring things down to just enough words to spark a movie reel readers already have in their heads.

    Wow, does that make any sense at all??

    Emotional display was really good and you kept up the suspense on why Neil is enraged re Alison throughout the scene. Good job!

    And as I said, I loved your dialogue!

  7. Great piece. The only area that needs tidying is the action in the last paragraph. The fist impacting is especially awkward. Love the dialogue and the pacing!

  8. I LOVE THIS! My favorite part is the dialogue, it's so real. I could hear their voices rising as the tension in the scene grew and I felt that punch! I am interested to see where this is going and what has gotten him so upset. It must be love because really, if not for love, then what?

  9. The dialogue is really good. The "incredulous rage" seemed over the top to me though.

    Also I think the last paragraph needs either more emotion to it or more "action". Shorter, tighter sentences would make it seem more active and exciting, especially the second sentence -- it's too long.

  10. Over the top emotion? You nailed it. Love kicking the chair. The dialogue flows well and I can HEAR the words being spewed between the boys.

    To enhance the emotions, you might add more body business -- facial expressions, opening and closing of fists as the dialogue becomes more intense, so that we not only HEAR the words, but we also SEE the emotion.

    The last paragraph is weaker than the rest as far as intensity goes. Go ahead and give the physical fight just as much emotion as you do the dialogue before the fight. Let me hear them grunt and groan, throw in some more swearing and dialogue during the fight. Fights are never silent.

    I get the feeling this is an early draft. Some suggestions for revisions: replace every single "was" in non dialogue sentences with a STRONG and POWERFUL action verb. For example, in the third paragraph, "Neil’s face was twisted with incredulous rage" you could leave out the "was" altogether and never miss it -- in fact, the sentence is much stronger without it.

    My favorite line in the whole piece -- Neil shoved Eric; it was a warning, like a growl from a trapped animal." I love the simile. Drop the "was" though. Maybe try this:

    Neil shoved Eric; like a growl from a trapped animal it carried a warning.

    Placing that strong word at the end makes it a much more powerful sentence.

  11. Echo the was's and changing the incredulous rage. If you add a couple snippets of internal dialogue we'll get more of a sense of POV. On the last paragraph, try writing short, quick sentences to speed the pace. Even some fragmented sentences.

    I like it!

  12. The dialogue is great. I agree with all the "was" comments and one more tiny nit . . . maybe you could say "caught" instead of supported him. IMHO

    Great job!

  13. I too agree with the "incredulous rage" part. In the first para - isn't the chair already on the floor?
    Instead of having a question, maybe just say "the details are none of your biz."
    I also think the last sentence "Trace and him" is sort of awkward.
    All of that being said, the piece flows really well and I enjoyed reading it very much. I can definitely feel Neil's emotion boiling over even if I can't know why yet.

  14. I liked this and thought the emotions came through really well. I would watch repeated words and the last paragraph could be tighter, something like:
    Neil lunged. His fist sent Eric sprawling backward through the door that Trace had just opened. Trace helped Eric stagger to his feet. The second hit burst Eric's lip, sending them into the wall, hard." That's just rough but something like that. I'd read more.

  15. I wondered if boys really spill out their emotions like this? Aren't they usually a bit more taciturn, and that's why they are more prone to turn to violence. I'd cut down a bit on the dialogue.

  16. I thought this was great. I really felt the emotions of both of the characters, and the dialogue seemed very real.

  17. The dialogue is fantastic. The only real problem I had with it was with the fight scene in the last paragraph. I had to read it several time too picture what was happening. Did he hit the door and then fall to the floor? And the second hit comes from pretty much nowhere (which may have been the point but it threw me off).

    Overall, though, I think its good. I really got the tension between the two and, again, the dialogue was great.

  18. WOW! Loved it! I got suckered into the story slowly, feeling like nothing much was happening.....then, KER-POW! The pay-off was fast n' furious, n' the writing of it was AWESOME!

    If this was a YouTube vid, I'd give it 5 stars! KUDOS!!

  19. What? I have only one comment after reading the Friday Fricassee post. Saying you have trouble with dialogue is like Bill Gates saying he has trouble with computers. I only wish I had as much trouble with dialogue as you claim to have. I see no trouble whatsoever.


  20. Hahaha, I didn’t comment on this one yet because I couldn’t see anything to criticize, (It was too good) and because it was the first post, I didn’t want to just say that I liked it and look like a useless critter on my first crit of the day. Heheheh. You got us.

    Now I’m annoyed that I hadn’t checked your Twitter. I’ve had computer problems for two weeks and my time on the internet is limited at the moment. As soon as that is sorted, I will be checking out you Twitter. I’m on there too, but haven’t quite got the hang of it yet.

    Love the joke. You must have been laughing your head off.

  21. I just read it again and remembered I was going to come back and comment on the word ‘hard’ at the end. It sort of stuck out on its own a little. I’m going to play with your last paragraph now. Hehe.

    Neil lunged. He punched Eric hard in the face, sending him sprawling backwards, hitting the open bathroom door. Trace stood gaping. She dropped her eyelash curler and helped Eric stagger to his feet. The second jab burst Eric’s lip and he crashed against the wall. Trace lost her balance, falling head first into the toilet.

  22. Great dialogue! You succeed when you don't need the dialogue tags to know who is speaking, even in this short snippet!

    Reads very naturally. Good tilt toward the YA audience. The emotional response conveys there is some heavy baggage in the backstory, which makes me want to keep reading.

    Nicely done.

  23. Great over the top emotion. I concur with everyone and their "was" comments. The dialogue is a bit stiff. Try getting rid of one or two of the first sentences of Neil's dialogue. It still works. Also, I'm not getting a sense of what Eric is feeling. Is he surprised by Neil's outburst? Did he expect it? His dialogue gives no indication.

    I think you can come up with something better than the growl from a trapped animal. That is a bit cliche. And really look at your sentence structure. You don't want to state the obvious when the reader is already imagining for themselves. "The second hit burst Eric's lip and sent Trace and him both backward against the wall, hard." Backward and hard are both obvious.

    I think once you go over this a couple more times, it will be great.