Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Drop the Needle: HIGH EMOTION #22

TITLE: Deadline
GENRE: Women's Fiction

A 20-something journalist, Danica, has just been told by a CIA operative that she could rescue her brother who is being held by pirates.

"Why are you willing to help me?" Danica asked.

He looked away, then back. "There's something else I haven't told you."

"Uh-oh. I don't like the sound of this."

He smiled. "Nothing dastardly. Just that I've done a lot of reading the last few days, and I feel like I know you from your articles."

"They're about other people," she pointed out.

"Oh, your voice shines through, alright. Your thoughts. Your personality. Your sense of humor." He paused. "And then there's your essays. You wrote one your senior year in college about your brother and the personal sacrifices he made to get top honors at the military academy. After I read that, I don't know, I just felt like I had to help you find him. Rescue the rescuer, if you will."

Silence descended between them. The lunch crowd had thinned out. Only five other tables had patrons. Danica became aware of the sound of a faucet being turned on in the recesses of the kitchen, laughter from one of the tables, the painful pounding of her troubled heart. The high school students had long since gone, leaving a mess of napkins on the floor. A distant memory came to her: in high school, her brother used to sneak cheese fries into the house late at night. He always saved some of it for her if she'd already gone to bed.

Her finger traced a heart someone had carved on the battered table top. "I miss him," she said.

"I can imagine."

She raised anguished eyes to his. "You said something preposterous earlier. You said I could rescue my brother."

He nodded. "Yes. You can. And it's not as preposterous as you think."

"Okay then. How?"


  1. This is more quiet than it is high emotion. Of course, books need all types of scenes. Your CIA guy's a little too breezy with his "Nothing dastardly" line for this to be high emotion.

    But there are things you can do to ratchet up the emotion regardless.

    Toward the end, you tell us she has anguished eyes, but a few lines earlier she has a gentle memory about the cheese fries. So, if she is anguished, I don't think the reader is picking up on that--at least not this reader.

    Your CIA operative seems to be flirting with her. He's very complimentary of her, very taken with her. Someone reading a writer's work and then telling her about everything he's read is almost seductive--at least for writers. (It would be for me).

    People aren't as careful as your characters are here when it's high emotion. He'd speak in choppier sentences. His language would sound more like natural speech than lines. As it is, he speaks in a lot of compound and complex sentences. Not many people do that--high emotion or not.

    If she is truly anguished, you'll need to give the reader more to feel that than what we are getting.

    Make sure your dialogue--word choice--underscores the purpose of the scene, provided you have a bead on what that is.

    Hope that I've given you some things to think about. Good luck.

  2. I doubt it's your intention, but the paragraph where the guy goes into all the details about her articles makes him seem creepy. It's a fine point between being knowledgable, maybe even admiring of her work and creepy, stalkerish.

    I do like how you can see the emotional turning point for the girl, though. It's subtle, but you can still feel her determination.

  3. I know... it's a quiet scene. In hindsight I should have chosen another. :-) I think I liked this scene because it was pivotal in her decision. Thanks for the great advice!

  4. To me, this seemed like a normal converation. It is quiet, but I think we still need to feel the emotions she's having. I wanted to feel her desperation - please, please help me - or her determination - I'm going to find him, with or without your help.

    It feels like they're discussing soething unimportant like he'll help her find a job, or something. And he has to have his reasons for helping her. Here, it's because he was touched by her writing. Is that reason enough for the CIA to put the weight of their organization behind her? It doesn't seem probable when you consider all the other things they could be workig on. It seems he would have to have a bigger reason. Rescuing her brother has to matter in some way to the CIA, I think. So, overall, I'm not believing the situation. There just doesn't seem to be any real conviction here for the MC or the agent.