Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drop the Needle: EXPLOSIONS! #14

TITLE: Heart of Gears
GENRE: Alternate History

Liliven and Altea are at a ball celebrating the Queen’s return. Altea is a rebel and Liliven the princess, but the two girls have joined forces to prove to the royalty that although a nearby land has just been conquered, the rebels are not giving up the fight for freedom.

“How are you, Altea?” Liliven spoke softly but she needn’t have worried about being overheard, as despite the fact the Queen was addressing the crowd, those around the princess continued to whisper to one another. Briefly, she wondered if they did the same every time she was forced to address them, then decided she didn’t care.

Altea smiled. “I’m well. And you, Liliven?”

The princess grinned. “I believe tonight will be stupendous.”

Not a heartbeat after the words left her mouth, an explosion knocked everyone off their feet. Liliven covered her head with her arms, but she and Altea had dropped a second before the others and thus gone unharmed. Now, they grinned at each other from under the forts their arms made, as the dust and rock settled, and the smoke wafted through the hole that had been blasted through the wall. Mist from the cloudfalls drifted into the room, coating everyone inside with its chilled droplets.

As the heads of the guests lifted, their eyes locked onto the snapping banner draped across the hole to the outside. The three rebels who had hung it were long gone. It was midnight blue, with white letters that spelled out a clear message:

Down With The Tyranny…But We’ll Give Them A Head Start.


  1. Nice dialogue and a great sense of each character.

    I would have liked a sense of the explosion itself - the volume, the way the floor and room shook, the smells, the sounds, the way it feels and the taste of atomized cement, etc. That would really ground the experience in the reader's body.

  2. I like the sly way the girls spoke to one another. It gives a real sense of their relationship.

    I think the explosion itself could have been made more of. It seemed to happen very fast without much in the way of reaction or drama. An explosion is a big moment, a symbol of change. Make it significant.

  3. I felt a bit bogged down by the long sentence structures, but as a disclaimer, I don't tend to read much alternate history-- I'm used to fast paced YA. So what I say may not apply.

    I think that if you shortened some of the sentences, especially in the first paragraph, it might read just a bit faster. I wouldn't suggest trying to ramp up the pace too much, since I do like the sense of formality that comes from this scene.

    I agree that I like the way the two girls are speaking to each other. There'a strong sense of character and how they work together.

    I'd consider cutting straight to the chase and cutting "Not a heartbeat after the words left her mouth," but I kind of like the voice it adds.

    I think maybe the stakes could be raise a bit more. Perhaps let us see them drop before the others, unharmed, rather than see it after the fact.

    As a side note, I'm not sure any of this really applies seeing as how readers who have the read the previous scenes and know right from the start that they know what's about to happen would already expect them to react. It just took me a moment for the description to sink in.

    Good luck with it. :-)

  4. I don't get a real sense of the impact of the explosion here. Are their ears ringing? Are people who were near that wall screaming in pain with untold injuries? This seems a little too relaxed for an explosion scene. It doesn't have to be blood and gore, but I feel no sense of danger here.

    Also, I'm wondering how they were able to drop a second before the others? there was no warning so how did they manage that?

    I think with a few small changes you could really bring this scene to life.

    Good luck with the ms!

  5. "but she and Altea had dropped a second before the others and thus gone unharmed." -- I feel like I need to know why. They either have inside information or prescience, I need to know which (although not necessarily the details). Often, even just the promise that I'll be told later will do, but I need something as a reader, or I feel like I'm being kept out of the loop and that's alienating.

    The banter is great and the premise that one of them is actually part of the royalty and the rebellion is very engaging--there are bound to be some wonderful snags in this tapestry.

  6. This is an interesting scene; I like what's happening and I like the friendship between the girls. There are a few points I think could be improved upon, however.

    For one, I don't know why they're worried about being overheard when all that's said is bland greetings and how-do-you-do's. If they're not supposed to consort with each other at all, then it would be far more risky to simply be SEEN with each other, surely, then be caught in the act of saying hello.

    For a second, your sentence structure is unnecessarily clunky in places. Always look for instances where a sentence would work better if cut in half. For instance:

    'Liliven spoke softly but she needn’t have worried about being overheard, as despite the fact the Queen was addressing the crowd, those around the princess continued to whisper to one another.'

    Really doesn't need to be one sentence. It would work much better as two.

    Finally, I think you missed an opportunity to describe the explosion. There's no sensation, no sight, sound or smell, to make the explosion real to me, which I feel is a missed chance. Since they obviously knew it was coming, I understand that they aren't freaked out, but there was no reason to skip over it.

    But I do just want to finish by saying that this seems like an intriguing story. I like a good rebellion, and I love the relationship between the rebel girl and the princess.

  7. Princesses undermining the social order and working with the rebels? Cool!


    The first paragraph has this really long sentence in it that I got tangled up in and since it wasn't remarkable, I was already starting to lose interest.

    And that's a terribly sedate explosion you've got in there. A few cliched phrases letting us know something blew up and then telling us the main characters had "thus gone unharmed".

    It's mostly telling and in unremarkable words and phrases.

    I finish this feeling "thus unharmed" as well. Unmoved and uninterested. Give this some visual, some sense of the action and the chaos. How does it look, smell, FEEL? Put us in the room so it's exciting, not just something someone is mentioning so we can move on to the next point.

  8. Interesting situation! A princess working with rebels against the queen is an interesting set up.

    If the girls are worried about being overheard, shouldn't Liliven address Altea as "princess"?

    Adding on to what others have said, I'd recommend maybe putting hints of the girls checking the area pre-explosion to build tension. The reader presumably knows that the characters know that there will be an explosion. So why not let us in on the tension of explosion plotting? I think that it was a distraction to get some prisoners freed. So have Liliven checking the outs, watching for a signal, hoping the bomb/whatever will work, hoping it will stun them enough for the peeps to get out.

    Also, an explosion that knocked "everyone" off their feet (especially it's a crowded space were people would support each other) would have had to be pretty extreme--extreme enough to compromise whatever building they're in. Either some more thought needs to go into what happens exactly, or that should be an added worry--that in getting the peeps free they're going to bring down the house.

    You may also consider putting the last line in italics and capitalizing it regularly, unless the rebels don't know how to capitalize. Just a thought!

    Keep writing!

  9. This is a great scene! I love the visual of a coordinated duck between seemingly odd partners right before an explosion. That said, I did have to construct that visual after it actually happened. I would have them duck right before the explosion so the reader can see the whole thing unfold. Also, I would have them standing behind a table, or something, so when they duck they have more protection. If I knew I would be in a room when a bomb went off I wouldn't duck and cover myself with my arms.

    I would like to know what's going on in the girls' heads during all of this. The sly, foreshadowing comments and the coordinated duck lends a cool James Bond feel, but it's also detached. With an explosion this big people are bound to get hurt. People they know. Maybe even some innocent people. How does this make the girls feel? Do they feel nervous or guilty before the explosion? afterward, they're grinning at each other, but aren't they wondering if anyone got hurt? Aren't they curious to see the extent of the damage done? I think they either need to be vengeful and hope that people would get hurt, or conflicted, trying to do the right thing, but not sure if this is the right way.

  10. I liked this and only had a few comments, which are below, but having read Heather's comments, she brings up a good point. People they know are going to be injured or killed, and that changes everything you've done here. It's something to consider.

    You might cut parg 1 down to - "How are you, Altea?" Liliven spoke softly as the Queen addressed the crowd.

    Perhaps start parg 4 with both girls dropping to the floor, then the explosion? And perhaps describe the explosion as well as you've described it's aftermath.

    "You might cut the three rebels sentence in the 2nd last parg.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. I like that the two girls are in on the rebellion and grin at each other after the explosion. It sounds like a story with a lot of opportunities for humor. Suggestions:

    "Briefly, she wondered if they did the same every time she was forced to address them, then decided she didn’t care." The first "she" should be identified as the queen. Interesting, too, that the queen was "forced" to address the the people.

    I agree about the "as despite the fact" sentence needing to be broken up.

    I notice a lot of these entries include the word "explosion", when it would be much more effective to describe what actually happens--deafening blast, people falling, debris flying. You did a good job on that. Just didn't like: " explosion knocked everyone off their feet."

    How did the two girls know to duck at the moment they did? You could have them watching some kind of clock, or listening for a certain part of the queen's speech.

    I liked the imagery but was a tad puzzled by the "mist from the cloudfalls." If the cloudfalls were the aftermath of the explosion, why were they wet? If the mist was from real clouds (or fog), why call them cloudfalls?

    "As the heads of the guests lifted, their eyes locked.." Sounds like the eyes belong to the the heads and not to the people.

  13. The word "as" doesn't seem to be working for you in the long sentences, and alternating long and short sentences can give a paragraph more punch. For instance:

    Liliven spoke softly, but needn’t have worried about being overheard--though the Queen was addressing the crowd, those around the princess continued whispering to one another. She wondered if they did the same every time she was forced to address them. She decided she didn’t care.

  14. I was confused here. How can they drop faster than everyone else AFTER the explosion happens? Perhaps if they knew the exact moment the bomb was going off they could have dropped to the floor or hidden somewhere. But as described, this just doesn't add up for me. Good luck with this.