Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Drop the Needle: Anger #13

GENRE: Contemporary NA Romance/Thriller

Brendan Donovan is a young cop in the same small beach community in which he grew up. Jamie, his friend from high school (and secretly the one-who-got-away), has returned to town unexpectedly and seems to be hiding something, which raises his interest and concern.

Cursing under his breath, he glanced over at Jamie in the passenger side window. Her mouth was set to a thin line as she eyed him expectantly. Heart still pounding, he reached over to shove open the cruiser door, watching as she slid onto the seat to shut it behind her.

“We really prefer guests to sit in back,” he drawled.

“What are you doing?” she demanded to know.

“I think we already went over this. Just checking out a call.”

“Right, right … an anonymous tip.” Nodding, she slowly drew out the words, each one weighted in more sarcasm than the last. “From someone who saw the car parked in this driveway, behind sand dunes and shrubbery, a mile from the closest main road, and thought it might have been involved in a minor fender bender two towns away.”

“We’re actually very proud of the commitment of our concerned citizens to their local neighborhood watch programs.”

Her gaze sharpened. “I know something is going on with you.”

Brendan finally allowed himself to look directly into her eyes, which always elicited his truths. It was always his undoing. “Right back at ya, sweetheart.”

His blunt, somewhat bitter admission was obviously unexpected. She immediately dropped her calm and cool façade to stammer out a response. “Well, I, … I don’t know what you think that might be, but I can assure you that I’m fine, and even if there was anything wrong, what make you think it’s any of your business to—”

“To what?” he snapped, cutting her off there. “To want to know you’re all right when everything I’ve seen and heard since you’ve been back in town tells me you’re not?” He shook his head with a low, humorless chuckle. “Sorry, but you don’t get to tell me whether or not it’s still my business to be concerned.”

“I don’t believe this! I’m telling you, for the last time, Brendan—I’m okay, all right?”

He held her gaze in the quiet and stillness of the car, the flicker of irritation in her eyes sparking a slow burn of something else. They both quickly looked away.

“I have to go.” She reached for the door.

“Fine.” His grip on the steering wheel tightened on his terse reply.

“I’ll see you later.”

“Yep.” His dark eyes followed her as she walked back up the driveway. “You can count on it.”


  1. I don't know. It seems slow in the dialogue. Maybe the explanation of feelings and what's going on with facial expressions stops the tension. I feel like this can be more explosive if you cut to the chase. I'm sure by now in the story readers would know he has a thing for her, so why re-repeat it? It slows things down. And with her having something going on in the background, again, it probably doesn't need repeating. The tension by the end is good, but then it leaves as soon as it arrives. The MC is conflicted with holding back his secret love for her but wants to be there for her, but it's all getting mixed up and in the way. There's tension in that right there. Just keep it to the facts, laced with emotion and description and your dialogue and story will flow better.

  2. I like Brendan's pretend disinterest. There's definitely tension between them! I agree with the above poster about pace. My suggestions are more about word choice.

    he glanced at Jamie THROUGH ?? the passenger side window. (Delete "over")

    watching as she slid onto the seat AND shut it behind her

    Did she mean "What are you doing HERE?" (You could leave off the tag here and put "I think we already went over this," he said. "Just checking out a call.” This eliminates "she demanded to know.")

    Tighten to: Brendan finally allowed himself to look directly into her eyes, always his undoing.

    "...what makeS you think it’s any of your business to—”

    Delete "cutting her off there." It's obvious he cut her off.

    Can't shake a head with a chuckle.

    "...the flicker of irritation in her eyes sparking a slow burn of something else." Of what? Have Brendan make a guess.

    All just suggestions!

  3. I agree with both of the above comments -- there's definitely tension between these two, but it's hidden by somewhat unnecessary details. Those took me out of the moment and tempered the tension. For example, at the beginning right before he opens the door for Jamie he's cursing and his heart is pounding, but then he drawls the first thing he says to her. If she's the one that has him so upset, I wouldn't expect him to be able to switch it off when he speaks to her, I'd expect him to be terse.

    Just a suggestion, of course, but I think with tightening up some things like that and the other areas mentioned above, the anger would really emerge from this scene.


  4. I'm wondering why this turns into an argument. A guy is worried about a girl and she gets all bent out of shape?

    Maybe we could see why she doesn't want him around, which would explain it. It seems to be written in his POV and he doesn't know what she's hiding, but perhaps you could show her acting suspiciously or something? And maybe you have in earlier chapters. If that's the case, maybe have him remember an event that made him suspicious of her or worried about her. If you haven't, you might show her doing something suspicious or unexplainable. We need a reason for the argument and anger.

  5. This also read a bit slow to me and I didn't quite get the anger. I got frustration, for Brenden since he's trying to help her and she's oppositional but we don't know why (though, if you have this written in dual POV and the reader knows what's going on for an earlier scene, this might make more sense).

    To keep up more of a suspense/thriller pacing, maybe consider reducing filler words. Show what needs to be shown in as few lines as you can to set more of a tone, that quick back-and-forth where they are clearly not understanding each other.

    For example, something like:

    Through the passenger side window, Jamie appeared, her mouth set to a thin line, eyeing him like [insert something that shows "expectantly" using your voice which matches tone/character/setting].

    He shoved open the cruiser door.

    (we don't need to know he reached for the door, only that he opened it. Though question here--he opened the door next to him but then tells her to sit in back? Maybe needs an explanation. Like, he auto-unlocks the back but she slides in front? Not quite following)

    Since we're in his POV, can you expand on his internal narration after he gives the canned line about the concerned citizens and the neighborhood watch? What is he thinking when he says this? What does he really see in her? He's a cop, I'm sure he's extremely observant.


    Brendan finally allowed himself to look directly into her eyes, which always elicited his truths. It was always his undoing.

    Maybe you can show him avoiding her gaze earlier because X [past hurt, whatever plot reason fits]. Perhaps show him squirming in his seat and thinking what he really thinks but saying something else.

    Her physical cues can let the reader know things too, things he as a cop would pick up on. Shrinking into herself, arms folded, twitching, etc.

    You have a great stage to work with!