Monday, January 28, 2013

Talkin' Heads #16

TITLE: Drummer Boys
GENRE: YA -recent historical

After the events of 9-11, a father calms his teenage son who wants nothing more than to fight. Only Mike speaks but his two younger brothers are present. Mike wanted to run to NY to help with the search for survivors.

Dad spoke to all three of us. “What’s happening in New York, what happened in New York, is completely different than anything we’ve ever faced as a country. I know you’re angry. I don’t know if it’s going to get worse or get better. But what I do know is that you are all, each and every one of you, too young to be caught up in this.”

“I’m almost eighteen.”

“But you’re not eighteen yet.”

“If I was I’d be joining up already.”

“I know you would, Michael. So, all I can do is be thankful that you’re still a minor.”

“I don’t know how you can say that, dad. Our whole lives you’ve done nothing but teach us how proud we should be, how important sacrifice is. How can you now say different?”

“There’s a big difference between fighting for what you believe in and just fighting.”

“What do you mean?”

“Listen, in our history, in the battles we celebrate, there was always a reason. We fought for independence, we fought for the union, we fought against the evil of the Nazis.There was a moral reason for what we did. What makes what you're feeling different, Mike, is that what you're feeling right now is a very human reaction. You want revenge.”

“Damn right I do.”

“But we’re better than that.”

No one said anything. Mike flicked the flashlight on and off and on again.

“I’m not,” he finally whispered.


  1. Very nice. I would tighten the two long segments of the dad's dialogue. Love the flashlight on and off and on again.

  2. It's a very believable conversation and it flows nicely. My one worry would be the age of your audience. I understand it very well, but I've lived through it. I teach middle and high school and I think they would understand it, but I'm really not sure. They would certainly understand it enough, but I feel that it's probably a very important scene and so maybe needs a bit more too it.

  3. I thought this was a really good exchange. The only bit I got caught up on was "How can you now say different?" The wording is a bit awkward. Otherwise it was ver believable.

    Also, I believe recruiters allow you to sign up at 17 1/2. If Mike is close to that age, you may want to double check on the age of consent for that.

  4. I thought it worked ok for the most part. You might change the line about Dad yeaching them to be proud. Most people don't teach their kids to be proud. Either that, or say proud of what? Their heritage, who they are, whatever.

    You might also give his brothers something to do, otherwise, why have them there? The same with the flash light. Maybe mention it earlier. Show him clutching it. Use it as a way to show his emotion.

  5. I would add that since there are four people in the room, don't assume the reader knows only two people are speaking. There are a few lines that any of the three brothers could say.

    A difficult topic to tackle, and I get a sense of the emotion. I think a few tags and a small bit of exposition could ramp the tension a few notches.

    Keep it up

  6. I don't think the genre is YA (recent) historical. I think it's YA Contemporary.

    Little things, suggestions: "If I was, I'd be joining up already." (Added a comma). "How can you say different now?" (Changed where "now" was positioned in the sentence)

    Okay, I REALLY like Michael in this scene. He's got an authentic boy-voice, imho. And that ending... I caught my breath. The contrast of Michael flicking his flashlight on and off again and his whispered words, "I'm not," (about being better than wanting revenge) were brilliant.

    Didn't like the father as much. But, I don't have to. Maybe I'm not supposed to. I'm totally fine with big speeches in dialogue; however, I don't "agree" with what the father was saying (his reasons for war were too general, too didactic in nature, too formal), and that's mostly why I didn't like him. IF readers are supposed to like the father, his words could be made more personal, less general. OR the paragraph could be broken with descriptors of the father's physical reactions to what he's saying. IF they CAN dislike him, then it's fine. Also, this is just my opinion.

    Again, great stuff. Those last three lines are GOLD.


  7. I agree that the last 3-4 lines are the best part of this excerpt. That was the first point where I felt like I was seeing genuine human feelings.

    I understand the message Dad is trying to convey, and his desire to protect his boys, but frankly most of his dialogue sounded to me like something you would hear in an after-school special. (Do those still exist?) I think "Girl" hit it on the head -- too many grand, sweeping statements. And several of Michael's lines seemed to be there solely to set up Dad's speeches.

    I might buy into it more if we saw more emotion from Dad. If this is very soon after 9-11, he would still be processing his own response to the attack and that should come through. Show him fidgeting, or clenching his fists, or searching for words.

  8. I found it to be powerful - as has already been stated - especially in the last 3 lines. I get that we are in the middle (or end) of a much larger scene so I would have liked to have a chance to see what came before - i.e. why are the other 2 brothers in the room? I assume that is made clear. I agree with the replacing the position of the word "now" in "How can you now say different?" Other than that, I thought it was first-rate (especially with the ominous foreshadowing of the last line) and I definitely would be turning the page. Oh and I have to disagree with Bread girl about the category - I have seen agents answer any times in their FAQ's that anything older than 10 years is historical and not contemporary.

  9. I also liked the dialogue and agree about the father's earlier comments. Maybe he's got a personal or family related reason he could use instead of those grand sweeping statements--I feel like we need to see more emotion in the father's reasoning. Otherwise, he sounds a bit like a history teacher.