Wednesday, December 16, 2009

30 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Dwellers
GENRE: YA Dystopian/Urban Fantasy

Britta and Gareth haven’t seen another person in nearly two years. One night three strangers arrive and as Britta runs out to meet them, she falls into one of the Dweller’s burrow holes. They are a subhuman result of governmental experiments.

My foot catches on something and I stumble. I reach for Gareth, but he’s running too fast and just miss grabbing him. It’s a second before I realize I’m in trouble. I don’t just stumble, I fall into one of the Dweller’s holes. My hands and feet flail as I slide down the dirt tunnel, grappling for anything that’ll stop me from hitting the bottom, but I never make purchase.

I hit with a thud, bringing up a cloud of dirt. I find my footing fast and back against the wall of the makeshift cave. I stretch my eyes and don’t dare turn on my headlamp. Three Dwellers are in this tight six-by-six area. They curl together in the fetal position, hibernating until sunrise. The smell of decaying, burnt flesh grips my throat and burns my eyes. The sun cooks the Dwellers, just as it would cook me, but at a much slower rate. I stifle a cough. I must make no noise.

My eyes adjust slowly and I see their thick, gray-green skin. I have to get out of here. I look up the hole. The full moon is too low to provide much light down here. Night will be gone soon. Did Gareth see me go down? If he didn’t, he’ll waste time searching other holes. He’s too smart to call out for me or to shine a light. Dwellers won’t venture out of their burrows in the dark, but they’ll wake if provoked. Without light or calling my name Gareth won’t find me in time.


  1. This creeped me out. I have a fear of dark cave like places.

    So, good job! :)

    Sounds like a great book that I would pick up to read.

    I am torn between wanting to hear more of the danger- what will the Dwellers do to her? and letting the reader's imagination take over. Not sure which builds more tension.

  2. There is definitely a sense of danger, but a couple of things didn't work too well for me, and it may just be personal preference.

    Seems like a lot of "I's" in this short cut. You might try to find another way to word things so you can eliminate a few.

    The use of the word hibernate didn't quite work for me. Usually it would indicate a longer, deeper sleep than the norm, but doesn't seem to be the case here.

    Just nits on my part.

  3. Some nice creepy images here. There's definitely a sense of impending danger and urgency.

    I think you might be doing the pacing a disservice by using the present tense. It's always risky to use present instead of past tense, and I think that here it leads to confusion between exposition and the descriptions of immediate events. For example, "the sun cooks the Dwellers" - I assume that's an ongoing fact rather than something happening at the moment in this scene, but it's hard to tell because everything is in the same tense. Just something to consider.

  4. This definitely has potential. A little tightening will help this sing.

    I got a little hung up in the first paragraph on the sentence, "I reach for Gareth, but he's running too fast and just miss grabbing him." I had to read it twice to realize that Gareth didn't miss grabbing anything, SHE missed grabbing HIM. You might try something like, "I reach for Gareth and just miss grabbing him, since he's running too fast."

    Also, the third paragraph sputtered a bit. Maybe it's the mention of the full moon and the time of night, or the explanation of the Dwellers' actions. That explanation is probably unnecessary; that's how most of us are, too, so we'll understand it intuitively.

    Good luck with this. It's just the kind of thing I like to read, so I'd love to see it on the shelves someday:)

  5. Great job!

    I think the pacing and the tense works great, just a few small things need reworded. "The sun cooks the dwellers" could be reworded to say "The sun always cooks the dwellers" so that it's not confused with the immediate action.

    "Stretch my eyes" sounds a little odd. Maybe "strain" would work better. Along with this, I would put the mention of their gray-green skin when you first mention seeing them: "Even in the darkness I can see their gray-green skin" and then as her eyes strain to see, you can add more detail on the cave itself, or the position of the dwellers. We know it's a 6x6 area and they're curled up, but maybe one of them twitches, or she can now see the rise and fall of their bodies as they breath.

    This really is a great scene. I certainly hope to see the rest of it someday.

  6. This definitely has a lot of potential. The biggest problem I had, though, was all the sentences starting with I. It's a perfectly valid word, but it sets a pattern that's hard to break out of.

  7. I agree that the premise is good and the scene itself, but it just doesn't grab me and I think it's because of the present tense. Honestly, I don't get too worried since the person is telling me the tale and I know whether its the end of the book are not. In other words, I really don't think for one minute they'll get eaten.

  8. I like the world you've created here, it's very interesting and would compel me to read more. I like the sense that she has to get out of there before sunrise, but her friend can't call out to find her. That ticking clock really ups the suspense.

    But, you can't stretch your eyes, that's an image that pulled me out of the narrative. And I wondered why they hibernated until sunrise, when the sun burns them. Wouldn't they prefer to be nocturnal?

    Other than that, well done!

  9. The writing is very good, the pacing works, but it's not sucking me in. I'm not feeling anything or caring about your MC. Everything is I did this and I did that, and it tends to read like a list.

    Perhaps let your MC have some reactions to what's happening to her, and to what she's seeing and feeling? Try to work some emotion into it.

    First person, present tense doesn't leave you much room to allow the story to happen. Events don't happen to your MC, your MC tells us what happens to her, and telling takes so much away from what could be. You have to work extra hard at showing in first person present. Good luck with it!

  10. Good job at packing a lot of info into a small submission. Much is happening. Agree with the "I, me, my, they" sentences. Vary it up a bit. Also, give us a sense of time sooner, so that we know when the sun is coming up. Otherwise, I'm not clear why she is telling us this info. Is it a few hours, moments, seconds away? Stretch my eyes threw me, too. What does this mean? Stretch them more open? Roll them around? BTW, the full moon being low doesn't help establish time. Is it going down or coming up? Great job otherwise!

  11. Interesting piece. I, too, had some issue with all of the sentences beginning with "I." It's a trap I fall into myself quite often, but it can get repetitive for the reader.

    The only other difficulty I had was the sentence length. Especially with the first paragraph, I felt you were missing an opportunity for short, snappy sentences that would create an immediate sense of tension. With the longer sentences, I get the feeling that the MC is in control of everything, rather than totally creeped out about what is happening. Does that make any sense?

    Best of luck!

  12. One other thing: The last paragraph has a lot of internal monologue. I don't know the set rule on how this should be handled (or if there even is one), but it seemed as though these thoughts should be separated from the rest of the text in some way.

    Again, thanks for sharing your work!

  13. Very nice! I like the building of tension through these few paragraphs. I did stumble a bit on the 2nd sentence and all of the "I"s, but you'll catch those in editing. Nicely done :)

  14. Thanks everyone for the comments! And yes, Jemi (and everyone else) I'll catch all of those blasted "I's" in editing. Sometimes you're eyes glaze right over them when you haven't read it on paper, which I haven't yet.

    As for the "stretch" eyes, I was thinking strain so I'll be sure to change that. Thanks!

    And Susie J, you're right, when it's the person telling the tale it may lessen the threat of death, but I don't think it makes it any less dangerous. She may not get eaten, but she's still in danger of being clawed, bitten, or even getting very hurt. But I do get what you're saying and it's a price I think I'll have to play to write in the first person.

    These comments were so very helpful on this WIP so I really aprreciate everyone coming by to read my work!