Wednesday, December 16, 2009

48 Drop the Needle

TITLE: School Zone
GENRE: YA Dystopian

Eric, suspended from school by an Administrator who wants him dead, is outside City limits without permission. On his way back, he realizes someone is following him.

Eric moved forward, slowly at first, senses on alert. He passed the next solar generator and kept moving, waiting for a sound, a flicker of movement, that would give away the location of whomever was out there. It came. As he approached the next generator, he heard the distinct sound of a dry twig snapping. It was faint and, to someone who wasn’t used to being outdoors in the wilderness, unremarkable. But Eric stopped in mid-stride, eyes darting to the generator and just beyond. Nothing was there.

Tensed to spring, he moved again, pulse pounding in the bruised side of his face. He reached the generator, passed it. The next generator was still about twenty yards away when he heard the quick footsteps behind him. In an instant, he bounded forward, reaching his top running speed within seconds. He ran without knowing where he would find safety, without knowing whether his pursuer was still behind him, the sound of his own breathing too loud in his ears. After passing another generator, he hazarded a quick glance over his shoulder. A darkly clad figure, less than ten yards away, matched his speed, gained on him.

Energy morphed into fear. Without planning to, Eric opened his mouth and yelled—long, loud, interrupted only by a ragged breath and then beginning again. He knew there wasn’t anyone to come to his aid; he knew he was out of control. He yelled anyway, until his voice was hoarse and his throat was dry and burning.


  1. You hit a home run with the last paragraph. Everybody has done a scene where the MC is being stalked, starts running and then either starts fighting or gets caught. You made Eric start screaming and that caught me by surprise. All my preconceptions go out the window because now I no longer think I know what is going to happen.

  2. Good stuff. But a few things I found distracting. Phrases like "He reached the generator, passed it" and "matched his speed, gained on him" are unusual, and call attention to themselves. Keep in mind your reader is going to be flipping the pages quickly here, so the action should be quickly paced and full of nouns and verbs, not unusual sentence constructions that make him or her pause.

    (That was the same problem I had with "Energy morphed into fear" ... it's passive, in that it has no agent. "His energy became fear" is clearer and simpler.

  3. In general this did the trick, so my suggestions will be small things.

    You have 'moved' and 'moving', and 'movement' in the first two lines, which is a bit repetitive, so see if you can switch up one of them.

    Really evaluate those commas. Some of them are actually killing your flow, like the one after 'movement'.

    A little sentence restructuring could eliminate the bit of passive voice you've got here.

    I really like the mention of the pulse under the bruise. It's a vibrant description of his pain level.

    Good illustration of giving up and just letting it all hang out.

    I might cut the dry throat and hoarse voice. It takes a long time for that and it sounds like her tracker is right on top of him, already, so there wouldn't be a LOT of time to scream.

    Hope that helps.

  4. Overall it's good, but I think you could up the ante. A lot of passing generators, but I can't see them, how tall or wide they are or where he is in reference to them. Why is it so important to mention each one? It seems to bog down your pacing. I feel like the first three sentence in paragraph one read clunky instead of economical. Too many uses of move and movement in them. I don't think you need to telegraph everything. For example, if you tell us his senses are on alert, then you don't need to reveal he is waiting for a sound or flicker of movement. It takes away from the dry twig snapping.
    In paragraph two he is both tensed to spring and moving. Cut the movings and the forwards and keep the juicy stuff and I think it will really soar.

  5. I agree that all the talk of generators kept interfering in my sense of tension. If the lay out of the scene and all those generators is something you want us to know maybe you could have Eric survey the scene when he gets there- just put it in somewhere else so you can keep this scene's tension tight.

    I also agree about the screaming-it surprised and therefore delighted me. I want to know if anyone comes to his aid or something happens because of that scream.

  6. Generators didn't bother me as long as you kept me in the action, moving forward.

    "In an instant, he bounded forward, reaching his top running speed within seconds." I have a personal dislike of time references in tense action sequences. This line in particular slowed me down, pulled me from the terrific action up to that point.

    Someone above also mentioned "matched his speed, gained on..", which was contradictory and pulled me out again.

    Easy fixes. Nifty scene.

  7. I like the voice here. I also noticed those few clunky sentences, but those are minor fixes. This would certainly hold my interest!

  8. I like this piece, and I'm curious about Eric and why he's being followed. I also am intrigued by your opening, and wonder why Eric is such a troublemaker.
    Something VERY SMALL (really, VERY) is this sentence "...heard the distinct sound of a dry twig snapping. It was faint and, to someone who wasn’t used to being outdoors in the wilderness, unremarkable" I think you may want to say someone who WAS used to being outdoors in the wilderness. Because to someone not accustomed to that sound, it would not be unremarkable. Again, very little thing! Good job!

  9. I love your set-up - an Administrator wants him dead? That makes me want to know more right there. That and the fact that you need permission to go outside the city. It sounds like you have a interesting world here.

    I think you do a great job of easing the tension up gradually. First, it's just a feeling, then a little nervous, finally, full-blown fear. Good job.

    My only nit is that when Eric turns to look, the darkly clad figure is "less than ten yards away." That's pretty darn close. If you think in terms of steps, that's 7-8 steps away. If you're running, that distance would be covered in a couple seconds. Eric wouldn't be able to scream that long - two whole breaths. Unless the scream froze his attacker, that is.

    Other than that, I'm dying to know what happens to poor Eric.

  10. Good tension. Too many generators. In the last paragraph, I'd change "yelled" to "screamed." Yell is more like when you are shouting at someone. Scream, to me anyway, translates to terror.

    Very intriguing concept! I'm very curious to know what happens.

  11. I liked this, too. Two small suggestions:

    1. You might try breaking the second paragraph into two, between the sentence in which he hears the footsteps behind him and the one in which he responds by bounding forward. A little more white space might move us forward faster.

    2. In the second paragraph you write, "...he hazarded a quick glance over his shoulder." Glances are by definition quick, so you can cut the adjective without losing any meaning.

    Also, I wasn't bothered by the generator references. Good luck with this - you're definitely on the right track.

  12. I don't have anything more to add that the others before me haven't already said. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed it, and that I like how it ended. It was a surprise. Great job!