Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Drop the Needle #7

TITLE: Boat Against the Current
GENRE: Fiction

Sailing toward the Mississippi, 11-year-old Gwyn and her friends suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives. Gwyn was thrown off and is now trapped under the water.

I saw a bright light. I knew it was coming for me.

God? Santa Claus?

I realized – I wasn't ready to go yet.

A shadow passed over the light. A hand came through the water.

It was a very large hand. Different from Wilbur's. It reached for me with authority. It was strong, calloused, a farmer's hand.

I could hear the voice even under the water. It was not a request.

"Take my hand," the voice said. "Guinevere St. Clair, take my hand!"

My eyes focused in on the hand. There was a missing finger.

I took the hand. It yanked me up hard, the hood of my coat tearing as I was hauled out of the water. The hand dragged me across the rocks, my sopping socks and heels hitting the jagged and smooth stones.

I was cradled like a baby, hair and water wiped from my eyes. A large mouth opened and closed above me. Veins bulged on a forehead, cracking open a long red and purple scar. I was stiff, unresponsive, catatonic. My brain, face, and body felt numb and tight. But when Bitty threw herself on me, a warm relief came. She was safe. Micah grabbed my hand, sobbing, hot tears falling like sizzling embers on my cheeks.

The light shifted toward the river.

I turned my head. It was Jimmy I last remember seeing. Floating dead on the water, on the other side of the protective rocks, as the current carried him away from us. Micah clutched my hand and sobbed harder.


  1. That was a sad ending. I like how she wasn't thinking about it but then remembers about Jimmy. I think this sentence "It was Jimmy I last remember seeing." would be more clear if you said something like, "I remember seeing Jimmy last" or "the last thing/person I remember seeing..." Also, is she drowning in the Mississippi? I'm not sure the water is clear enough to see a hand with a missing finger, especially if she's panicking. If that detail is important, perhaps she could feel he's missing a finger when she grabs the hand?

  2. I’m not sure what genre this story falls under since “fiction” is kind of vague (in my opinion, anyway). It seems kind of dark for MG (not that I'm an expert), which I’m assuming is the audience, since the character here is 11 years old.

    In any case, you should show more emotion in this scene. The girl is fighting for her life, right? Would she really think Santa Claus was coming for her? Get rid of the verbs “saw,” “knew,” and “realized” to create a deeper POV. E.g.: A bright light was coming for me. God? No! I didn’t want to die. I wasn’t ready yet. (not perfect, but hopefully you understand what I mean.)

    One last nit picky thing: I find it hard to believe she’s catatonic, but sees so much. If that’s the case, then you need to have us SEE what she’s seeing in a strange, mixed-up way.

    You have a lot of good stuff going on here, but it could be more powerful if you add more emotion and sensory detail.

  3. Sounds this is in the midst of an interesting chapter. I would get rid of the "I realized." I'm not sure why the hood of the coat would tear it seems odd that the hand that rescued her would then drag her across the rocks so that her heels hit jagged rocks. Ouch! Then, from the roughness you transition into being cradled like a baby. The rescuer is doing this? It seems incongruous with the previous paragraph. It's a relief to see the friends but so sad to see Jimmy floating away. That makes me want to read more to find out how they all recover from this.

  4. I liked this scene for the action. What is missing is any emotional expression to the things that are going on. There are some great opportunites to insert her inner thoughts as she watches these tactics happening to her with such clarity.

    For example, since her heals are dragging across rocks, she is facing the sky. Is it more beautiful than she remembered from mere moments before?

    Micah's tears felt like hot embers, but did they make her motionless heart ache for him?

    The light shifted toward the river. Did she long to follow it?

    She remembers seeing Jimmy, did she understand the peaceful look on his face?

  5. I was confused by the "cradled like a baby" paragraph. I thought that was too much telling. Would a MG kid know some of those words to describe themselves (catatonic, unresponsive etc...) And when Bitty threw herself on her - was she warming her body up?

    I guess I would just say to be careful in your MG writing to take on the role of a MG kid -- know how they feel or describe things and what words they might use.

  6. I sense no fear here. Having been in a few boating accidents, let me say that even those that didn't land me in the emergency room have been absolutely frightening.

  7. The problem here for me was that throughout this whole ordeal, she feels nothing and has no thoughts. What was it like being in the water and almost drowning? Was the water cold? Was she gulping for air? Trying to save herself? Or was she past the point of caring and just wanted to die? How did she feel when she was pulled out of the water, when she realized Jimmy was dead? Give us some thoughts and emotions.