Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Drop the Needle: Anger #11

GENRE: Romantic Adventure

The scene takes place at an outdoor noodle shop in China. She previously told him how much she despises spooks (espionage agents) and he laughed at her for suspecting he was one. The man has led her to believe he is romantically interested in her and now asks her to help him on a job.

“It might only take a few hours—a day or two—at the most, but I promise it would be well worth your time. It could be life changing for you.”

Her face went blank. She stared at him as she slowly, repeatedly tapped the tips of the chopsticks on the table. Her mind was reeling. The tapping stopped. “So that’s what all this interest in me was about,” she said softly.

“No, no...not exactly,” he stammered, clearly aware he had just made a huge miscalculation.

She felt a switch click in her brain. Once clicked there was no stopping it. The anger started off as a white hot knot deep in her gut that made her nauseous. Then combined with humiliation at the thought of how he had turned her into a googly-eyed school girl lapping up his attention. Rage shot through her veins, her muscles clenched, and her vision narrowed down to a tunnel with the object of her anger square at the end of it.

Her words were slowed, hard-edged, each carefully chosen for effect. “You m*****-f****** son of a b****. You are some kind of a spook. This was just a recruitment game for you.” She rose halfway out of her seat and fixed steely eyes on him. “Don’t you ever, ever dare to presume you know about my life.” She threw the chopsticks down on the table with such force they bounced and flew up in his face.

He rose up and leaned across the table. “Please, Anna, think about this. I’m not—”

She slapped him so hard his head twisted to one side. He took a second to recover and then took a step backward.

“Go do whatever f****ing job you do and don’t ever let me see your face again,” she snarled. The tendons in her neck stood out against flushed skin, her eyes were slits, hard and glaring at him. Her rigid body rested on white knuckles. She crouched over the table, an animal primed to attack.

He picked up his bag, slung it over his shoulder and stood there looking at her for a brief moment. He started to say something, then closed his mouth, and clenched his jaw. Turning on his heel, he walked away melting into the crowd.


  1. I think so much anger seems a bit over the top. She thinks he isn't interested in her after all but is using her? Maybe if they'd slept together. But otherwise, I think she'd feel hurt as much as angry. Maybe she uses anger to mask her hurt, but I'd like to see her thinking process. You have good body language and actions and clearly her words are a string of angry invectives.

    I just can't see them ever getting past such hostility.

    I also was distracted by what appears to be some point of view issues. It seems to be from her point of view, but then it seems to change to a more distant third person who is also commenting on her in ways that she wouldn't comment about herself. There's even a line that makes her seem like a bit of a mind reader because she seems to know what he's thinking.

    Especially in a scene showcasing emotion, I think a closer POV will help readers feel what your protag feels.

  2. I must agree with the above. The POV seems to switch from Anna with 'Her face went blank' and then again in the section with 'The tendons in her neck...' I think if you stay anchored in how Anna feels, her anger will still be clear. I also thought you could trim the 'telling' bit 'Once it clicked there was no stopping it' since the line is surrounded by 'showing'.

    I like that Anna's not passive, but also wondered at the intensity of her reaction -- but that may have been made clear in the preceding pages.

  3. You do a good job of describing her anger, but just being romantically duped doesn't seem enough reason for such fury, unless she's told him about previous scumbags who have used her, and he's sworn on a stack of Bibles he'd never do that. I'm sure there's a back story that explains her invective.

    If this is in close third, she wouldn't be able to see the tendons in her neck standing out against flushed skin, or that her eyes were slits, hard and glaring at him.

    I figured out what you meant by "Her rigid body rested on white knuckles" but she just slapped him, so it took me a minute to picture this.

    Small suggestions:

    Delete "ed": Her words were slow...
    Delete "up": He rose and leaned across the table.
    Find another word for one of the "took"s. He took a second to recover and then took a step backward.
    Delete "there": ...and stood there looking at her...

  4. While I can see her being upset because she thinks she's been played, it does seem a bit much. And while it's perfectly plausible that someone might act this way, it does make her seem, to me, as not a particularly well-balanced person. It seems they haven't even been on a real date yet and she's getting way too upset. I'm not feeling empathy for her.

    As far as the POV goes, I don't think there are any issues if this is an omniscient POV. If it's supposed to be anything else, then there are issues.

    On the technical side, maybe lose the tapping chopsticks. First, it seems to denote nervousness and, at this point, she isn't. She's falling for him. Second, you go to great lengths to show her tapping 'slowly, repeatedly.' and then she immediately stops. If you want to use the tapping chopsticks, perhaps find a way to make it seem like a longer period of time passes between the starting and stopping.

    You could cut parg 4. Keep the first sentence, and then follow it with the dialogue from Parg 5. (Cut the first sentence of parg 5)

    He should react in some way to those chopsticks bouncing up in his face. He should also react to the slap.

  5. I agree with the comments about the anger seeming extreme for the situation. Dialed back this could definitely work. And for the Point of View, some of the phrasing feels distanced and for a scene showing anger, you may want to adjust some of those word choices to feel less like a stranger looking in and more like the reader is participating in the scene. Watch for filler words that aren't needed.


    Her face went blank. She stared at him and tapped the tips of the chopsticks on the table. “So that’s what all this interest in me was about?”

    *You don't need the dialogue tag "she said softly" since you showed us her staring and tapping, which implies she is trying to remain calm (nice job). When it said "the tapping stopped" it seemed a little odd like she wasn't the one controlling the tapping. This is the POV comment others made.

    A switch clicked in her brain. The anger started off as a white hot knot deep in her gut. How humiliating that he turned her into a googly-eyed school girl lapping up his attention. Her vision narrowed with the object of her anger square at the end of it.

    *You can ditch the "she felt" since we are in her POV. Watch for repetitive phrases and also what is the appropriate level of anger to merit the scene. Spinning some of the description of her physical feeling into an internal thought also helps to connect us closer to her without feeling like a distant bystander.

    As for the swearing and the slapping, maybe decide whether the scene really calls for that.
    These are all just suggestions, so make sure to retain your own voice after you get all this feedback from us!