Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drop the Needle: EXPLOSIONS! #21

TITLE: Sustenance
GENRE: YA Speculative

Quinn, who has sneaked out of Centrix, is staying with Kalan's family. Earlier, she and Kalan argued. Now she has come to apologize--but she stops just outside his bedroom when she overhears a conversation with his brother Tanner.

“There’s no other way,” Tanner says. “And if you try to stop her, she’ll go running straight to Lem. He’ll be happy to send her back.”

Kalan makes a disgusted sound in his throat. “I wish he’d never stopped by.”

“You can’t just keep her hidden.”

“Well, I’m going to have to do something,” Kalan says. “Because there’s no way she’s going back to Centrix.”

My heart is pounding and my jaw aches from clenching my teeth. I am about to blow into the room and tell Kalan exactly what I think of his plan when I hear a loud crash from the other end of the hallway.

My room.

As I turn to look through my doorway, an explosion rocks the house and sends me stumbling against the wall. My bedroom is engulfed in flames.


Kalan and Tanner burst from their room as I find my balance, Kalan’s expression bathed in horror. Then he sees me, and his arms go round me as naturally as if we’ve always known each other.

“Are you okay?”

I nod, unable to speak. Dillon and Lydia come running; I hear Rose calling to the younger children, herding them out of the house.

“Quinn, get outside,” Dillon says. “Boys, let’s go.”

In a daze, I back out of the hallway, watching as Dillon hands Kalan a large, black cylinder and yells for Tanner to grab the cylinder out back and work from the outside. Tanner almost runs me over on his way.

“Get out of the house!” he yells, pulling me by the arm until I follow him.


  1. Nice. "rocked the house" is a bit cliched - is there another way to convey the same thing with a different description?

    The only thing missing, I think, is a greater sense of fear and urgency.

    Best of luck.

  2. This is interesting. It does make me want to know more about the characters and their relationships. I was a bit confused by some things in the second part (chapter 11), but it may have just been because of hopping into a scene.
    Nice job.

  3. Seems like there's a great story taking place around this. Some solid tension between Tanner and Kalan, some complex weaves with Quinn's disposition--overall promise of a good conflict for such a tiny snip.

    What would really take this to the next level, for this reader, are some solid, well chosen, concrete details to make the explosion and aftermath feel real: does the engulfing flame feel hot against skin? does the house shudder? does a prize trophy or photo shatter or boil away in the intense heat? Does Kalan's heart whimper and stutter or thrash inside ribs and sternum? Is there fear someone might have been in the next room and killed?

    Not all of those, just the right ones that give us those details that only the narrator could know and put us right into the moment.

  4. I agree there needs to be more tension. Just having an explosion doesn't do it. What happens to the two who are discussing her? Why aren't they mad at her, suspect her of setting it off? Does her anger disappear in the heat of the moment, or is she afraid still of what they might do to her?

    I'd love to know more about the characters and their reactions.

  5. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of useful advice on this one. I feel a bit disoriented with so many characters and not enough information (which is what happens when we're dropped into the middle of a novel). I'm not sure what the "11" is. Is that chapter break? Also, why do they say "cylinder" instead of fire extinguisher? (I'm assuming that's what those are).

    This isn't a bad scene or a great scene. I feel like I simply don't have enough information for the word count allowed. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful.

  6. Chapter break is in the perfect place. Maybe you get to this later, but I'd like to hear more internal thoughts of the narrator. What does Quinn think the explosion is? The potential for conflict here is awesome, and I'm intrigued enough to read on...

  7. Some of the voice takes away from the tension. Like, "My bedroom is engulfed in flames." This is so matter-of-fact, there's really no emotion in it (except maybe shock.)

    And then, couple with the dialogue from the other characters in the aftermath, it seems everyone is a little too calm, too level-headed. I feel like there should be more disorientation; being so close to an explosion, maybe your MC would have ringing ears, dizziness, not know what happened.

    The other characters should be confused, too, but they also seem matter-of-fact. (How Dillon said, “Boys, let’s go.”) They seem very organized - getting the others out of the house, fighting the fire, planning. More confusion, slow responses from the characters would add more realism.

    Otherwise I love the surprise of the explosion coming from the MC's bedroom, the relationships we see of the other characters. I want to know why someone is trying to kill your MC!

  8. Sounds like a really cool story. I'm in.

    However, this scene is lackluster. Nothing glaringly wrong about it so much as that there's nothing glaringly right, either. The description of the explosion and the reactions to said explosion are fairly standard and evoke no particular emotion in me at all.

    In context, knowing these characters better, I probably wouldn't complain much about this scene. But I wouldn't remember it, either.

    I totally want to know more about this girl and the people she's staying with (since it seems she didn't know them before.) Give this some punch!

  9. At first I thought the eavesdropping scene would be cliche, but it pulled me in. Then the explosion happened and I was hooked! Really good timing and situation for this.

    I agree that unless fires break out in their house all the time they are reacting way too calmly. I would save the hug and "are you ok" from Kalan until they're out of the house. If he cares about her his reaction here would be to get her out as quickly as possible.

    I was also confused about the cylinders. Make it clear that they're for putting out the fire so the reader doesn't have to pause to figure it out.

    I would have liked there to be more revealed in the conversation between Kalan and Tanner. I assume that everything they said was already understood between the characters. I'm confused why Quinn was mad at Kalan when it seemed like he was protecting her, but I assume that is explained earlier in the story. I just think the scene would pack more punch if she overheard something worth eavesdropping for.

  10. The first section reads fairly smooth, and there's some conflict and tension here that draws me through what's happening. My thought for editing might be to add some of Quinn's thoughts and reactions as she listens to the conversation. You have it afterwards, but I'm curious as to the moment she hears this. You might draw more suspense and tension by having her take care not to be heard, or making that decision to storm in.

    The second section also holds my attention (though I'm confused about the cylinder).

    Overall, it held my attention, and though I wasn't sure who all the characters were, it didn't feel overly confusing. I would likely have continued reading to find out what happens and who/what was behind the explosion in Quinn's bed room.

    Good luck with it. :-)