Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Drop the Needle: HIGH EMOTION #23

TITLE: Untitled
GENRE: MG Contemporary

Cassidy's talking to her father while he's on his deathbed. Cassidy's mother, who died years ago, claimed the end of life was like the end of a book--your line just runs out--but her father claims the line continues, but perhaps, in another book.

Cassidy moved in the direction of the call button, but her father's eyes built an immediate wall in front of her. Cassidy knew this look--this wall. And she respected it.

"Come to me," he weakly demanded.

The girl moved slowly, lip quivering with each step.

"Don't think this is the end for me. Don't focus on the line. I'll be with you always. Tell me you believe that."

Cassidy didn't believe that, but her father's eyes begged her to tell him otherwise.

"I believe you."

The man smiled. His knuckles gained color and his fist opened. He ran his palm over the back of her hand. "Always believe that. I love you more than you can possibly imagine."

"Love you too, Daddy." Though her mouth was an empty well, Cassidy swallowed hard. Moments later, her dry lips welcomed the tiny drops that gravity brought their way.

The man grunted and his hand left hers. He strangled the blanket again. "Water."

Cassidy rushed to the table behind her. She reached for the water and hastily poured, more water falling to the table than in the glass.

A flat and droning hum pierced the silence.

"Daddy," she meekly whispered as she turned her head.

A peaceful smile covered the man's pale face. His grip loosened and the white blanket was set free. Cassidy's grip loosened as well, and the shattering of glass mixed with the droning hum that filled the room.

Her gaze moved to the bedside where a monitor displayed a flat line.

Cassidy stood motionless, trying desperately not focus on the line.

"Impossible," she whispered.

5 comments:

Holly Bodger said...

The action here is fine but the POV needs work. If we are in Casey's POV, she cannot be "the girl" and her father cannot be "the man". Words like this are you (the writer) speaking and they pull us out of the POV and out of the story. If you really want us in this emotion, we can't be pulled out. We need to see and feel Casey losing her father. As is, this is a little removed and robotic.

I'd also suggest you kill the adverbs and see if you can find some less cliché ways of describing his death. The whole flat line on the heart monitor thing is really quite overdone. I’m not saying the monitor shouldn’t flat line but maybe you can find other things to focus on here (for example, the BP numbers).

Good luck!

melodycolleen said...

I think this would be a very difficult scene to write well. The emotions for the girl have got to be running high - if she cares for her father as seems to be the case. We know that she spilt the water, but you maybe could show us a bit more of her trying to get her shaking hands under control.

I didn't quite get the comment about her dry lips welcoming the drops - is she crying? That wasn't clear enough for me.

I wish I could offer more help in strengthening this, but it's a difficult subject for me.

Good luck with it!

Gale Martin said...

You dropped the needle at the right place! I was drawn into the scene. I felt for Cassidy right away. You got some sound advice re: consistency in POV.

Make sure your verbs and nouns are as strong and fresh as they can be to help impart new life to the all-too-common hospital death scene.

But I was moved. Good entry.

Barbara said...

I didn't feel a lot of emotion here. The words are there, but the feeling isn't. The problem, I think, is in the writing. It seems you are trying to be writerly, rather than just showing what is happening. Leave the flowery writing for later. He's dying. You want it to be raw rather than pretty.

Also, look for vagueness in the piece and make it more specific. For instance -

Cassidy moved in the direction of the call button, but her father's eyes built an immediate wall in front of her.

How did Cassidy move? Did she walk, stride, skip or run? Did she need to walk? This is a hospital room and she's presumably by the bed. Couldn't she just reach for the call button?

In the direction of - so was she interested in the call button or not? Was she going to something near the call button?

But her father's eyes built an immediate wall in front of her.

What is an immedate wall? Are you saying her father's eyes/gaze stopped her? If so, say that. Cassidy reached for the call button but her father's eyes stopped her. Clean and simple, and it says what happened.

If you clear out all the vague and extraneous stuff, this will be much stronger.

Anonymous said...

[quoted]

The man grunted and his hand left hers. He strangled the blanket again. "Water."

Cassidy rushed to the table behind her. She reached for the water and hastily poured, more water falling to the table than in the glass.

A flat and droning hum pierced the silence.

"Daddy," she meekly whispered as she turned her head.

[/quote]

I wasn't wowed by the first part or, actually, the last part, but my throat got tight when I read the part I quoted above.

What I liked about it is that most of it is showing me what's happening. You don't tell me he's in pain; he strangles the blanket. You don't tell me that her hands are shaking because she's upset; you just show me water spilling. You don't tell me her father died while her back was to him; she hears the drone of the heart monitor.

All of those details are short and punchy but still very clear as to what they show. I liked that for a tense scene... it needs some cleaning up, still, but I liked it.

The earlier parts were a little overwritten--two much flowery prose trying to fluff up emotion rather than stark prose delivering it with a punch.

In the afterward, you did such a good job of succinctly saying he died by just showing the hum, that I felt brow beaten with another reference to the hum and then two references to the flatline. I just need one. If you repeat yourself, you lose the emotion the first reference evokes.

I was a little confused by him telling her not to focus on the line and her at the end trying not to focus on the line (of the heart monitor), given that her parents have been talking to her about death in terms of lines in a book... The connection of flatline with the metaphor didn't quite come off right here, as written.