Tuesday, December 15, 2009

11 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Untitled
GENRE: Young adult science fiction

Seth and Adair, two high school delegates at a biomedia conference, are sitting at the head table at the closing banquet. Adair, apparently ill, has her head pressed into her hands; Seth has been trying to rouse her.

Diantha Knead, Nellis’s other female delegate, was now eyeing them strangely from across Chance’s seat. Mr. Hermes’s knife and fork clanked against his plate, and Seth decided he must have noticed, too. The server behind Adair had clearly noticed: She was still standing there with her dish, her too-wide eyes darting from Adair’s hunched form to Mr. Hermes and back again, looking like she was about to hurl all over Adair’s first course.

Seth started to reach for her, not knowing what to do, not even knowing what he was going to do once he touched her, but his fingers never found their mark. And the server never got her chance to vomit, at least that he could see. Because sometime before his hand reached her shoulder, the blazing light in the ballroom flickered, flashed—and promptly died. And darkness black as space encased them.

The people gasped, the server squealed, and one loose dinner plate clattered to the floor. He realized, one second later, the sound had come from behind him. And then a light—a single one, directly overhead, like a spotlight—turned back on.

In the murky glow that streamed from who knew how many stories above them, Seth saw immediately that Adair was no longer in her seat. She was standing behind him, where the poor serving girl had just been, long hair cascading in rough jumbles past her face. And in her upraised fist she held something that looked remarkably like a knife.


  1. Eeek!

    I'm a little confused about the setting, but definitely feeling the danger here.

  2. Wow, suspenseful, for sure. If Seth and Adair have some sort of relationship (as in, they haven't only just met at the banquet), I'd like to see more of his concern for what's happening to her-- both before and after the light.

    Sounds like a great story, though!

  3. Ooo! This ended great. It took a minute to get into- possibly from the dropping in. (the odd names were alot all at once)

    I have a few picky things that might move the first paragraph along. "was now eyeing them"
    Do you need the now? "was eyeing" conveys immediacy.

    "and Seth decided he must..." If this is in Seth's pov, we don't need "Seth decided."

    I wonder why the server was about to hurl? Wasn't Adair just sitting with her head down? Is there something icky about her I don't know about or does the server have a bad case of nerves?

    And one last picky point: that opening phrase in the last para is long.

    In the murky glow streaming from who knew how many stories above, Seth- it only cuts two words but it does move quicker.

    Hope that helps. Good story.

  4. Very gripping. Little more editing. Makes me want to see more...

  5. Danger, yes, but mixed with confusion. It's just logistical though, so it can easily be cleared up. How is someone eyeing someone else across a seat? Where is Diantha in reference to Chance? Why would Adair's head in hands cause the server to vomit? "What to do" followed by "what he was going to do" in p.2 is plain repetitive. After that point it soars.

  6. So, I like this. I'm not usually into scifi, but I'd bite if this was on the shelf. I do have some questions though.

    Names? These people are all human, right? I wish I went to high school with people named Adair, Diantha, Nellis, and Mr. Hermes. I like all the names. I love having characters with different, but easy to say names. But this seemed a bit much all at once. Perhaps in context it isn't. And I wouldn't change them, just maybe add something about them somehow.

    I get that the server is thinking 'If that girl hurls, I'm going to hurl too' but it doesn't come across precisely that way.

    The Seth 'not knowing what to do, not even knowing what he was going to do once he touched her' sentence was awkward. I understand that urge to 'do something' even though you don't know what, but it was too many 'don't know what to dos' in one place. And it was too long for me. Cut it at the 'but' and just say 'His fingers' next sentence.

    I'm not sure that I'd say 'one second later' that's awful precise. One exact second, amid all this chaos?

    Also, when Adair is suddenly behind him her hair cascading (great image) I for a moment thought it was the serving girl's hair.

    All in all though, great. Like I said, I'd keep reading!

  7. I think you should drop the first paragraph and start with the second, and make your semore danger/suspense.

    A good start, though...

  8. Wow - I really love this. I got immediately sucked into the story. Nice work!!

  9. This definitely has suspense and tension, and by the end, danger as well! Changing the passive writing to active, and revising to make it tighter (lots of unnecessary words and phrases)would make it really shine!

  10. This is great. I got a little confused as to what the sound was behind him. I thought it was one of the sounds you described in the previous paragraph. Great ending.

  11. This really makes me want to read more, but I agree with previous commenters about the need for you to clarify some points that I had to read more than once to understand. I'm still not sure I understand what's going on in the beginning paragraph. Your beginning sentences are passive and awkward, unlike the rest. For instance, I'd change "was now eyeing them strangely from across Chance's seat." Scrap the passive "was" and the adverb, "strangely," and see if you can't come up with something more direct. I don't know your story or what you mean by "strangely," but "watched them" is easier to read than "was now eyeing them."

  12. Well written and engaging. Good luck!

    We are seeing the scene through Seth's eyes. One suggestion: I read somewhere that if you remove some of the "he saw/she saw" and just show the action, you remove a filter that places the reader more into the story. Of course, this would be selective -- you wouldn't want to remove all of them.

  13. Although I didn't exactly know what was going on, the element of danger was definitely there. One tip to help alleviate confusion would be to cut down on all the names in the first paragraph. In the first three sentences, you have Diantha Knead, Nellis, Chance, Mr. Hermes, Seth, and Adair. Which ones are people, and which ones are places? For someone unfamiliar with your work, this is kind of confusing.

    Otherwise, great job!

  14. Niiice. Not much to impart, just pointing out how you could streamline this a little (fix the pace) by making sure you don't have more than one phrase to convey one idea (such as tightening a sentence like this: "Seth began to reach for her without knowing what how he could help once he touched her, but his . . ."

    Kick up your verbs to kill passive voice ('was now eyeing' becomes 'now eyed')

    Take those two things through the entire passage and voila! Bullseye.


  15. Yikes! I definitely sense the danger here! The only thing slowing me down was the amount of names in the very beginning. I'm assuming it's because we've been dropped in the middle of the story. Once I got past my own mania of having to memorize all the folks I've been introduced to, the pacing was spot on. I agree with the other comments concerning passive verbs...an easy fix. Past that, I'm very intrigued by the relationship between Adair and Seth, I'd love to read more!