Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drop the Needle: EXPLOSIONS! #5

TITLE: The New Eden Chronicles
GENRE: YA Futuristic Thriller

16 yo citizen Eve wants to see how slave laborers in New Eden really live, so Sister Mary disguises her as a fellow healer and slips her into the Non-native Precinct illegally. When soldiers discover her, rebel slaves Mana and Yusef rush to the rescue. Told in Mana’s POV.

“Stop, or we’ll shoot,” Reinhardt shouts. But Eve and Sister Mary keep moving. Yusef and I sink blow darts into the necks of the two Defenders flanking Reinhardt while four or five more pour onto the path from different directions, their guns drawn and shooting.

Sizzling blue energy balls rip through the air as Yusef and I sprint toward Eve and the sister. Several shots graze my legs and back, but I barely feel the flesh burning to blackness. We’ve got some fire grenades we’ve been hoarding for months. I stall the soldiers by lobbing two then motion for Yusef to get the girls out. He catches both of them by the arm and runs toward the back of the Precinct and our hidden tunnel.

I turn in the opposite direction, hurling more grenades to create a thick wall of fire, smoke, and thunder. Suddenly, Eve darts past me through the haze toward the Defenders, weaving between narrow rows of shacks. What the hell is she doing? She'll never make it out alive.

I look around frantcially for a way to slip after her in the chaos, then have to stop. Doors in every row of shacks fling open and Non-natives step out despite the gunfire. It’s like someone’s thrown a switch. I’m suddenly lost in a crowd of bodies. Women, men, teenagers, and grandparents advance steadily, their faces set in grim lines. They’re protecting us, helping the women who've come to heal them.


  1. I like a lot of things about this, especially her voice. I did, however, find this sentence confusing:

    Yusef and I sink blow darts into the necks of the two Defenders flanking Reinhardt while four or five more pour onto the path from different directions, their guns drawn and shooting.

    The way it's structured it,at first, reads like 4-5 more DARTS pour onto... which was confusing. You might want to break it up into two sentences.

    I'm also a little confused about her having the grenades they've horded at hand, but I'm sure that's explained earlier.

  2. I don't read much sci-fi, but I was drawn into this story! I only have a few small comments.

    You've probably already explained, but maybe identify the guns as energy guns, if they are. I was confused by the blue energy balls, thinking they were coming from somewhere else.

    I'd leave out "to blackness" b/c you don't feel a color. Then maybe use a stronger verb than burning. Scorching?

    "In every row of shacks, doors fling open" instead of "Doors in every row of shacks fling open" sounds smoother to my ear, but that's just my opinion.

    Nice job!

  3. So much to love about this. Great idea and setting.

    The trouble in here is mostly sentence structure, I think. You took some of the urgency and excitement out at random places.

    "Yusef and I sink blow darts into the necks of the two Defenders flanking Reinhardt while four or five more pour onto the path from different directions, their guns drawn and shooting"

    (Before I criticize the whole, that last phrase is where you caught me. It's nice, simple, active, scary.)

    But that's a long sentence for a action scene and lumps a lot of the action together in one long statement.

    Also, some words you should always be aware of in a scene meant to be active and fast paced: while, then. They're certainly not "wrong" but they can slow and weaken action. Look for them in your action scenes and make sure they're not just filler words.

    Check your verbs too. In a lot of cases you could have made a sentence more active. "Stalled" is, well, a stalling sort of word. Just lob the grenades and haul a--.

    "Hurling more grenades to create..." Don't tell us why. Show us the smoke and the confusion. We're not going to wonder why she's throwing grenades.

    The final image is awesome. The crowd of bodies, the old and young with grim faces. Very, very good. Do that more.

  4. This scene flowed really well. I think the third line could be restructured to be more clear. Maybe split it in two sentences?

    I could also do without the third line in the second paragraph. It slows the action a bit. Especially jumping from her melting flesh to that. I'd rather her just launch the grenades.

    Lastly, I'm not sure what's happening when the people come to help. The "advance steadily, their faces set in grim lines" makes me think they're zombies, but the last line doesn't read that way. Again, it may just be a matter of too little information since we're dropped in mid-scene.

    Good luck with this ms!

  5. I like a lot of this. I wish I weren't dropped in the middle so I could understand what's going on better :-)

    Couple of things:

    1) "but I barely feel the flesh burning to blackness" It's on her legs and back, and she's not even paying attention to it, so I wonder how she knows it's turning black.

    2) I feel like there should be some more power and description the two times the grenades are thrown. Those are your explosions, but they barely happen.

    3) I know this is my only introduction to the world, but I bet you could come up with a better, more natural term than "non-Natives" :-)

  6. Thanks for the comments so far. Mana is actually a guy, so it's funny to hear him referred to as female. I've been really impressed with the quality of these excerpts and the crits!

  7. This seems like a really interesting story! I actually like the line "feel the flesh burning to blackness", it gives me an image of the flesh actually turning black and charcoal like around the wound. If that's what's actually happening,and we've already seen that earlier in the story I think it works just fine. I also liked the term "non-native". It seemed to add a level of racism to the story (either you're one of us, or you're not), which says a lot about the society.
    I did find the action a little confusing. How far away are Yusef and Mana from the gaurds? Are they blowing the blowdarts out of blow guns? The word "sink" makes me think they have them in their hand and are stabbing. Then later you use the word "lobbing", but the gunfire and grenades makes it seem like they are fighting from a distance, rather than hand to hand combat.
    The last paragraph also confused me. Are the people trying to act like a human shield? If so, why? Why not rush the guards and try and fight them instead? And if they're coming out to fight it seems strange that they would "advance steadily" instead of charge.

  8. Heather: Thanks! Great feedback. My idea was that they are just stepping out at the end in a sort of determined but quiet way. It is the sheer numbers of them that will overcome the guards. Sort of like nonviolent resistance. Maybe I need to make that more obvious. You are spot on about the term non-native!

  9. I thought the things that happen here are exciting, but aren't told in an exciting way. I'm not feeling any emotion, tension, or urgency, and I think it's because it's all told.

    In that first parg, show us Mara put that blowgun to his lips or fire the dart gun. Show the dart sink into the Defender's neck. Show the Defender fall to the ground.

    In parg 2 you show the energy balls, which is good. But a few shots hit him and he barely feels them, so what's the point of mentioning them? Don't tell us what doesn't happen, show us what does. Let him feel one and let us feel his pain.

    I stall the soldiers by lobbing two grenades. The soldiers are being stalled before the grenades are thrown, and again, you're telling us. Put things in the order in which they happen. ANd show, don't tell, especially in an action scene. Have him lob the grenades, then show us the explosion. Let us hear the sound, smell the smoke and burning flesh, see the trees and maybe even a soldier get blown to bits.

    Parg 3 you might leave in telling mode if you show parg 2, because we'll already have seen a grenade explosion.

    And I also got an image of zombies in that last parg, but I did realize they were there to protect Mara and company. ANd while I get the racist attitude you're showing with Non-Natives, I do think you should come up with another term. Non-native does delineate between them and us, but if they're supposed to be second class citizens, I think you need a name that sounds a bit more derogatory.

    The info is all there, just go into more detail.

  10. This is a slow paced explosion scene, moving on as the action does. I think there is enough detail and dialogue to move the event forward. I don't find any thing to comment on specifically other than if this a fight scene, it read slowly. Maybe too much inner thought going on in the line of fire. But if you're intent is for it to move slowly, instead of BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! it's still pretty intense and reads well.

  11. I think you could split the last sentence of the first paragraph. That way it reads snappier, and the action feels more urgent.

    I like how the second paragraph reads, but I feel like it's missing something. I'm kind of wondering if we could see a bit of the main character's thought about this, her emotions. However, you've done this in the third paragraph, and it has that urgency and the emotion I've been looking for in the previous two sections.

    Question-- does the reader know at this point that they're here to help heal them? If so, I don't think you need the line after "they're protecting us" because it feels like we're being reminded of something we would already know.

    I did get a little confused by the capitalization of "Defenders" and "Non-natives." It's one of those things were sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Defenders I think could work, if we had an idea of who they were earlier in the story. Might be something to check later and see what others say.

    Good luck with it. :-)

  12. The sentences drag too much for me, for an action sequence. Take the third sentence, for example. My brain goes on and on without pause through three or four sequences of actions that all blend together before the period happens. I think it would work better chopped up! Blow darts get their own sentence. The four or five more jumping out get their own (shouldn't she know whether its four or five? Usually in a fight sequence people are clearer--adrenaline and all), and their guns can do better than just being drawn and shooting. They can blaze. They can flash like peppered lightning. They can do something other than just "shooting." Also, if they're shooting, I kind of assume they're drawn. = P

    (Forgive the snark. I tend to be redundant when I write, so it's easy for me to notice it in others. Isn't that silly hypocrisy in me?)

    Anyway, shorter sentences! Also, I have trouble believing she "barely feels" her flesh burning to blackness. While yes, third degree burns (black ones) don't have feeling anymore (permanent nerve damage), the passage through the second degree is pretty darn painful! I guess I don't quite get the line.

    Thanks so much for sharing! I love the picture of these girls weaving through the soldiers, and of the crowds trying to help them. I'd love to hear more about their social background. I hope this goes well for you!