Tuesday, December 15, 2009

8 Drop the Needle

GENRE: Middle Grade

Three American teens are magically transported to Namibia where they meet up with a native teenager who takes them on a dangerous safari. This is their third confrontation with a rhino they've been tracking.

The rhino must have heard the noise coming from the car. It had turned and was jerking its head up and down, definitely not happy to see them again.

Dakata crunched the gears into reverse and backed up a little. The rhino took a few menacing steps forward. Dakata backed up a similar distance. The rhino moved forward again. It was like the rhino and the Land Rover were doing one of those lame, teenage slow dances.

“Should you be moving?” Ernest whispered to Dakata. “It makes it mad when you move doesn’t it?”

“I am quite sure it is already feeling anger,” Dakata said. “You people should have more kindness for each other. One only makes more trouble for oneself by failing to work as a team.”

“Sorry,” Tyler mumbled, feeling kind of guilty. Usually he didn’t care if he caused trouble, but now he was beginning to wonder if cooperating might be worth something. Trouble here didn’t earn a simple detention. No, trouble here had more serious consequences--like getting skewered by a rhino.

“What do you think it wants?” Tyler asked.

“I believe you can better answer that question than I.” Dakata gave him a meaningful look.

Tyler narrowed his eyes at the rhino. What exactly did it want from them?

But it didn’t wait for him to come up with an answer. It pawed the ground a few times then charged, a full frontal attack. Dakata floored the gas pedal, and the Land Rover took off in reverse.


  1. I'm not sure... the first impression I have is they are teasing the rhino by keeping a certain distance away from him instead of totally backing up right from the first.

    Then too, I'm thinking that rhinos might be territorial. The only thing it might want is to clear invaders off its turf.

  2. I love the paragraph when Tyler is feeling guilty about causing trouble. I think it should be explored more, throughout the section, in short lines.
    I love the second paragraph. Good description, and I felt THERE. Until you compared it to a slow dance.That comparison really wilts the action. Try comparing it to a stand-off of some sort in order to play into the action-scene.

  3. I felt a bit of danger here, but I think it could be stronger. Perhaps some reactions to the rhino's actions? What does Tyler think when he sees the rhino charging? What does he feel? (I'm assuming Tyler is your MC. If not, do the same for whoever is.) Is he wishing they could get out of there? Has he heard of an incident where a rhino attacked a human before?

    How they react to the rhino determines how scary or dangerous it is. If they laugh about it, it's a joke. If he's wary, it could be dangerous. If he's petrified, then we're thinking it could possibly kill him. Perhaps have him react at an appropriate level to the danger you want the reader to feel.

  4. I think the scene works well overall, but could use a little tightening to enhance the immediacy. It had turned is very passive. It turned jerking its head up and down. Definitely...

    Dakata back up. The rhino moved forward. (a similar distance slows things down)

    Then, Dakata's long speal. He sure doesn't sound as if he's worried which may be what you intend, but it does slow down the danger. Of course, danger may not be the point of your scene just because it's the point of this exercise.

    I remember reading a post from this work before. Glad to see it again.

  5. I feel some danger, but not a tremendous ammount.

  6. Depends on what you want to do with it, because it stands on it's own, but if you want more tension there are ways to achieve it. Perhaps Dakata could describe what this Rhino did to the last truck, how fast it is, how persistent, something to give us more of a sense of their impending peril. I like the bit about the teenage slow dance, but it could be infused with a little more. Make one of them the aggressor (Preferable the rhino) and then you can allude to overactive teenage hormones. The rhino advancing on them just a little more than they back up will increase the tension.

  7. I felt like the dialogue was a little stilted. I would recommend reading it out loud, and seeing if it is actually something you might say.

    Who is tracking whom? The teenagers approach the rhino, only to run away? I'm sure there is more backstory, but right now I don't really get it.

  8. This is a charmingly fun "danger scene" for these teens, and it has potential.

    I'm not sure what kept me from really feeling that danger. It may be too much emphasis on humor. I love the line about the lame teenage dance (that is SO TRUE!), but I'm wondering if your protagonist would be making that comparison at a time like this.

    Also, I understand what you're trying to accomplish with Dakata (obviously brainy, well spoken), but his (her?) dialogue is stilted, overdone. It literally threw me out of the story. I think you can tone it down and still portray the character the way you want to. Yes, there are well-spoken, brainy, downright grammar-geeky teens (I was one of them..o_O), but this one isn't ringing true.

    I want to feel more uptight during this rhino scene! A rhino can kill, after all. Overall, less humor, tighter dialogue, focus on the inherent danger.

    Press on!