Wednesday, December 16, 2009

26 Drop the Needle

TITLE: The Impeller
GENRE: Fantasy

Willem is part of a rebel group. He is on a mission to save a certain child with special abilities who can help with their cause.

‘This way,’ the boy cried, skidding off down a different corridor. The sounds of barking could be heard coming from the direction of the large hall. They sprinted down a lamp-lit hallway towards another, old wooden door, heavy set and grim. Just as they reached the back Willem heard snarls from behind and the skid of skin on stone, followed by the heavy clop of wooden soles. He glanced behind and what he saw made his heart thump painfully. He swiveled fully to face the new danger.

The pretty matron stood at the entrance and placed a hand on the blonde girl’s shoulder, whilst holding a whip in the other. Her smile was serene. At her feet crawled six children, their hair grown long, covering their eyes and ears. Their bodies were naked bar a small strip of cloth covering their genitals, and around their necks clung thick leather collars tied to leashes which traveled back to the small, blonde girl’s hands. The stench of urine slapped Willem in the face as a throaty growl issued from one of the children. Willem’s eyes bulged. Grotesque fingernails, thickened, pointed and clawed grew from each of the thing’s hands and feet. One child bared its teeth. Willem stepped back, a cold sweat sweeping across his skin, his hair standing on end as he looked at the things’ teeth, filed to points and gnashing sharply. Something broke inside Willem. A tear of rage dribbled down his cheek.

‘Release them,’ the matron whispered.


  1. This scene imparts a horrific portrayal of the captive children! There is, however, a lot of overwriting that bogs things down quite a bit.

    Stay away from too many "-ly" adverbs:

    "heart thump painfully"
    (just "heart thump")

    "swiveled fully"
    (just "swiveled)

    The description of the children, while it certainly captures their pathetic state, is extremely over-written.

    "bar a small strip of cloth" is a bit confusing; "except for" would be clearer.

    "whilst holding" is a bit clunky:

    The pretty matron stood at the entrance and placed a hand on the blonde girl’s shoulder, whilst holding a whip in the other.

    Try, perhaps:

    "The pretty matron stood at the entrance, one hand on the girl's shoulder, the other holding a whip."

    (Something like that; that was off the cuff.)

    The word "towards" is incorrect. It is "toward" without an "s" (this is a regional thing; my husband even says "towards" when he sees the word "toward"!).

    POV error: "Willem's eyes bulged."

    If this story is from Willem's point of view, he would not see his own eyes bulge.

    I'm not sure if I buy "tear of rage." Would rage cause a tear? Outrage, maybe.

    Overall, the second paragraph just needs a lot of tightening, word-cutting. I can see the poor creatures in my mind (a good thing!) but there are too many words through which to wade in order to get there.

    Fewer is better.

    Press on!

  2. Ooh, first comment. This doesn't happen often... :)

    Anyway, I liked the tension in the first paragraph. There was just the right combination of action and description. But there were a few small points I thought could be cleaned up a bit:

    "The sounds of barking could be heard coming..." - Why not something a little more direct, like "The sounds of barking echoed from the direction of the large hall"? Any more active verb would do.

    "Just as they reached the back..." - The back of what? I thought they were running toward a door.

    "...made his heart thump painfully" - The adverb is superfluous. If you don't like just "made his heart thump," you could try something like "made his heart twist," or maybe lurch.

    The second paragraph had too much description to keep the tension up. You might try cutting all but the most important - or most vivid - details. Also, I was surprised that the new danger from the first paragraph turned out to be a pretty matron - and because I wasn't expecting it, my brain didn't immediately connect the fact that the pretty matron WAS the new danger. Just something to consider...

  3. I get that this is fantasy, so anything's possible. But the description of the children makes me want to pity them for being abused and ill cared for, rather than fearing them like so many little pit bulls. Is that what happens to Willem ? I couldn't tell if his rage was going to be at the dog-children or the matron or the blonde girl.

  4. I think you have the makings of a great villain here - a woman with a pack of rabid children. She sounds almost Mrs. Coulter-like. Pretty, calm and smiling, while at the same time clearly evil.

    Like the others have said, in a tense scene, you really need to keep things quick. This entry was slowed down a bit by the excessive description and wordiness. The second sentence, for instance, could be, "barking followed him from the large hall."

    In long paragraph, some of the descriptions are almost too cartoonish to be taken seriously - the bulging eyes, the hair standing on end. People's eyes do not bulge, I don't think. They widen in shock, perhaps. And have you ever seen someone's hair literally stand on end?

    Trim this down and I think you might have something though. I really want to see Willem get away from this woman.

  5. There is a some really good material to work with here. It's vivid, original, and certainly disturbing, but there are a few catches. You might consider playing with the following suggestions to keep the pace to more of a straight shot.

    1. Kill off any repeated words/phrases such as 'skid/skidded' in the first paragraph, and the two instances of 'covering' in the second.

    2. In several sentences you have more than one adjective or verb that mean basically the same thing for a single subject. Trying to choose one, or even reframing the sentence to make an adjective and action. You still get to use your descriptive without bogging the reader down with a mini-list of concepts.

    See how many character attributes you can streamline. For instance, 'matron' is a good word because it tells us general age, gender, authoritative role, but see if you can alter the first sentence to include the sense of the matron's serenity. Then again, I think that tidbit would work well in place of 'the matron whispered' later.

    Lastly, try not to end on an adverb. You're not over-using them (score!), but they are a weaker descriptive option, so you want to stop you sentence on a stronger note. If I may?

    "Willem stepped back, a cold sweat sweep across his skin. His hair stood on end as he saw the thing's teeth--filed to sharp points--gnashing at him."

    I know I'm bossy, but I promise it's only because others have been cruel-to-be-kind enough to boss me.

    Hope it helps,

  6. I think the idea is excellent. The execution could be stronger.

    As others have pointed out, its mostly the second parg. Perhaps rewrite in a more active voice (show, don't tell.)

    Whilst holding a whip in the other.

    show us. Start a new sentence for the whip. Describe it. Show us the long leather strands pierced with nails at the tips. SHow us how she holds it in her hands - lovingly, threatening.

    The children appear more pitiful than threatening. A throaty growl issued from one of the children - turn it around and keep it simple and direct. A child growled, deep and throaty. ANd add some reactions from Willem, otherwise, all you're doing is creating a list of ugly things. Someone (usually the MC) has to react to those things in order for them to be really effective. When the MC reacts, the reader - who is following the MC - reacts with him.

    Again, great idea!

  7. I think what I noticed has already been mentioned. I also felt like the opening paragraph needs some tightening. I was pulled out by the description of which door, and the barking. I would just streamline. Are they running or sneakign through a castle/keep/ect to escape? I wasn't sure which one. Just my thoughts. Neat ideas here, best of luck.