Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drop the Needle: EXPLOSIONS! #29

GENRE: YA Magical Realism

Sami recently learned she has power to neutralize Aquamarine—the magic extracted from the gemstone that had given her athleticism yet destroyed her musical skills and threatened her life. She strips magic from the rock/gemstone while playing her piano.

Tiny blue sparks appear when my fingertips touch the keys, as if I’m trapping a lightning bug with each note. Tiny blue sparks—just like those which appeared whenever I set or spiked a volleyball fueled by Aquamarine. Although I’m startled enough to stop playing, I keep going, reveling in the electrifying burn that zings my artistic talent back to my hands, my soul. A laugh escapes me as chords ripple up and down the scales, as if I have four hands. It’s nothing like what it used to be. That natural high I remember from our apartment in Manhattan is nothing compared to this.

It’s almost magical.

It’s the cracking sound that stops me, as if a ceramic pot has dropped from the second story onto a tile floor. My hands fly from the keyboard on reflex, and I scramble off the bench—fearing irrationally the piano might topple on top me. My white hot fingertips graze my neck as my heart pounds in my chest. I know what’s happened. My eyes go to where I rested the rock atop the piano, and although I knew something would happen, the sight in itself stops my breath.

The rock is cracked open, spilling brilliant blue crystals in a messy pile. The crystals reflect the fluorescent piano light, sending laser-like arcs across the room. All kinds of blues: pale, rich, turquoise, azure, periwinkle, sapphire, indigo.


I breathe it in, this glorious light, energized by it.

But, how do I know it worked? The only test I could think of is too dangerous, and yet...


  1. Oh what a neat concept! I love that Sami is -- at first -- forced to choose between music and athletics -- and she goes for a third (and apparently dangerous!) option.

    But watch out. You're relying on Sami's body parts acting on their own quite a bit. "A laugh escapes me." "My hands fly." "My white-hot fingertips graze my neck." "My eyes go to..." Make Sami take responsibility for her own body parts.

    You're clearly a talented writer, but take note of this crutch and be sure not to overuse it. Once in a while is fine! But don't overdo it.

  2. There are a lot of 'its' right in a row and that distracted me from a very cool premise.

    It's nothing like...
    It's almost magical...
    It's the cracking...

    I like the laser light show image once the rock cracks open. It gives me a great visual.

  3. "It's the cracking sound that stops me, as if a ceramic pot has dropped . . ." I could imagine the sound- good- but I didn't get the immediacy. I'd love something that feels like we just stopped in our tracks. Some options might be to use onomonopia or simply some short, choppy sentences to change the tone & pace of the story.


  4. I like the idea of this one. I love the different colors you mention. The sentence, "the rock is cracked open..." might have a bigger impact if you say, "...the sight stops my breath. Brilliant blue crystals spilled into a messy pile reflecting the fluorescent piano light sends laser-like arcs across the room."

  5. Great premise, I presume Sam has changed the rock somehow? Made the crystals inside by music? If so, that's very engaging.

    "as chords ripple up and down the scales, as if I have four hands" - that was simply magical.

    The first person present voice is a tough one, and this passage feels subtly off in some subconscious way, but that will smooth itself out with time and practice.

    Great work!

  6. Just a note on genre: based on your description this is not magical realism. Magical realism is where "the impossible" is accepted as possible in an otherwise realistic environment. The imposible is noted but not commented on - it just is.

    Otherwise a very interesting and unique idea.

  7. I like both the style and the content. You may have a unique concept.

    A couple of the sentences didn't quite work. "It’s the cracking sound that stops me." That is not abrupt or violent enough.

    "My hands fly from the keyboard on reflex." This is unnecessary, since she scrambles off the bench. But "scrambles" is a good verb.

  8. Wow, that's such a fantastic idea, very unique. There are a few things holding you back here.

    The repetition of "tiny blue sparks" bugged me as a reader.

    "Although I’m startled enough to stop playing, I keep going"

    This sort of thing is really annoying in present tense. Reporting what you didn't do. It's one thing to note it after the fact. It's quite another to say 'right now I am scared enough to run from that bear but...'

    "It’s almost magical."

    Doesn't she know it's magical already?

    "topple on top me"

    The proper word here would be "topple atop" but the really proper thing would be to not put "topple" right next to "top" at all.

    "My white hot fingertips graze my neck as my heart pounds in my chest. "

    This could be a very powerful image, the white hot fingertips, yet it's buried in another thought and stated almost like a POV break anyway. It sounds like an observation someone would make from watching another person do this action, and we know she can't see her fingertips on her neck.

    "I know what’s happened. My eyes go to where I rested the rock atop the piano, and although I knew something would happen, the sight in itself stops my breath."

    This is bad. Sorry. But the "I know what happened. I knew something would happen" is unnecessary, redundant, all telling, and makes he sound a little stupid too. As if all this stuff she just marveled in was all stuff she'd been expecting to happen--so why the marveling?

    "But, how do I know it worked?"

    How does she know WHAT worked? Since it's the end of the excerpt not the beginning, I don't think the confusion is a lack of context. There's something wrong in the sequence of events that puts this so far away from anything that it's referring to.

    Good luck with it!

  9. You have some really lovely images in this passage -- the blue sparks, lightning bugs, and the laser lights at the end. You also did a great job of conveying how it feels to get lost in the music when playing an instrument.

    There were some places, though, where I thought you tried to pack to much into one sentence. "A laugh escapes me as chords ripple...," would be more powerful if you separated the actions. "Chords ripple up and down the scales as if I have four hands. I laugh." When the rock breaks, shorter sentences would make the action more immediate. All of Leah's suggestions there are good. And I think you could delete the whole clause about fearing the piano would topple. Scrambling off the bench shows enough fear.

    Good luck with this!

  10. Wow. I really want to keep reading. I'm fascinated by the concept, and the only time I was pulled out of reading was on the repetition of "tiny blue sparks" in the first paragraph, but I'm not sure I'd cut it.

    The scene pulled me in, made me wonder what happened previously and what happens next. Good job-- and good luck with it. :-)

  11. I think the end of this is stronger than the beginning. When I first started reading, I sort of like I was sitting with the character as she/he told me about the circumstances. But when the cracking sound it, you really got me into things. I was captivated from then to the end and then I wanted to know more.

    I think bringing the energy from the end and using it in the beginning as well would really make this strong. It's something I struggle with as well, which is doing more showing than telling. I firmly believe telling has its place, but I think in this situation, more showing will really help make this stronger.