Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Drop the Needle: HIGH EMOTION #6

TITLE: The Machenwood Chronicles
GENRE: Fantasy

Lead in: Anabelle McShay, a widow in 1840's Ireland, receives a visitor.

Ana slipped Michael from her lap and crawled from the bed. Careful to tuck the blankets tightly around him, she crossed the room, opened the door a crack and peeked out.

The overseer stood in the doorway wringing his hands.

She stepped outside and closed the door quietly behind her. “What can I do fer yeh, Jarrett?” Ana already had a pretty good idea why he stopped by, but prayed she was wrong.

“Well, Missus McShay.” Jarrett scratched his bald head and shuffled his feet. “I'm afraid I got some bad news for yeh. Mr. Reardon charged me with clearin' out the blighted plots. I'm here ta give yeh notice.”

Ana's stomach churned, her hands balled to tight fists. Just what I need. She knew it wasn't Jarrett's fault she'd have to leave, but that didn't make her any less destitute. The desire to rail, scream at the unfairness, and plead for her sick son engulfed her, but she knew the man who stood at her door had no power to help. He just worked for the landowner, Mr. Reardon.

“How long do I got?” Ana was surprised her voice sounded so calm considering the emotions raging within her.

“A few days. ‘Ave to get it all clear by week's end. I'm real sorry, lass.”

“I understand. I'll get packed up right away, then.” His face swam before her eyes. She gripped the doorway, nails digging into the wood.

Jarrett nodded, mumbled more apologies, then turned and headed across the empty dirt field toward his next unlucky target.

Ana watched his retreating form before her attention turned to the barren land surrounding her hovel.


  1. I would love to read this! It's an interesting period in time, but I'm disappointed that you told us she had emotions raging inside her, but show us a calm exterior. The woman is along with a sick child, she's got to be frantic because she has nowhere to go. This would be a gripping scene if she pleaded for mercy, or railed against him for the unfairness of the situation.

    As an aside - at least she is getting notice. I know that so many were burned out of their cottages and put on ships in the middle of the night, by strangers because the wealthy landowners didn't want to do their own dirty work.

    Good luck with this. I'd love to read the book!

  2. I didn't think your MC's emotion came through here. I could feel Jarrett's, and I think it's because you allowed him to speak and act without commenting on it, so we see it for what it is.

    Mrs. McShay, on the other hand, is busy being explained, rather than being allowed to play her part. You say she had a desire to rail, scream, plead, but you don't let her act on it. If you want her to keep her composure, that's fine, but we still need to see her struggle with her emotions.

    Maybe she can start to plead or rail, and stop herself. Show us how she holds herself. What's her body movement? In other words, show us how she is feeling. Don't tell us.

  3. First, I find your title intriguing and salute you for undertaking a period piece. (They're tricky, but satisfying to write.) Unfortunately, I have to agree with the other comments re: showing vs. telling. Perhaps consider having Ana start to plead and rail against the unfairness, *then* stop herself with the realization that she's taking it out on the wrong man. (Right now, she's handling this news too well, too logically.) How about starting her tears even before she reaches the door? She doesn't have to wail and rend her clothes; sometimes the silent ones are the most powerful. Give us a little more of her physical reaction to this news -- hollow feeling in her chest, breathing constricted, head feels light, cold creeping across her scalp, trembling. Seems like she should be on the brink of a panic attack.

  4. I agree with what everyone else said, particularly Monica. I don't think Ana should lash out at Mr. Reardon if it's not in her character to do so, but I should be able to feel her anguish instead of getting a lesson on how logical she can be. I'm glad she's a logical person, and that's probably a strong character trait you want her to have, but even logical people feel the sting of injustice.

  5. I'm a little confused by the other comments, mainly because I think the author HAS shown how Ana is feeling. Yes, there is some telling, but I don't see anything wrong with that.

    Here's the showing:
    Ana's stomach churned, her hands balled to tight fists.

    His face swam before her eyes. She gripped the doorway, nails digging into the wood.

    I'm thinking that her self-control is just part of the character that this author is writing. I also think it's possible to go over the top with all this showing business. Sometimes I have emotions that don't make my spine or my heart or any other part of me do anything at all.

    Anywho, rant aside, I liked this a lot, and I'm interested to know more about this character :D

  6. Thanks everyone. Some great suggestions and comments on this. Always welcome and appreciated. one of the MC, Ana's flaws is her overtly logical nature at the beginning of the story. Part of her arc includes becomming more outgoing and not bottling her emotions for the sake of logic, so I am both pleased and slightly concerned about the comments regarding her being too subdued. Her reactions should feel a bit off, but I am not so much on the telling and agree that some of that should definitely be culled.