Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are You Hooked? #10

TITLE: Dry Bones
GENRE: Adult Speculative Fiction

She knew she could not deny what she had seen. There, ten yards outside their grid, the sheen of smooth stone and shadowy lines that distinguished it from the surrounding rock of the Montana Badlands.

Her brain ran through every possible permutation of what it could indicate. Hammer and chisel in hand, she intended to find out.

Against that notion came words of caution. Venturing outside their marked off grid would bring the attention of the entire dig team. Had she had seen a mere trick of shadows and sunlight? What would the other team members say if it proved to be nothing? The echo of teasing laughter and hurtful words echoed through the years. A voice inside her screamed, don’t risk it, don’t draw attention to yourself. Stay safe, comfortable, and secure.

Most days, those voices won out as Lilith faded into the background, her khaki shirt, and pants blending chameleon-like into the beige rock of the Makoshika State Park.

She wiped her hands on her pants, sweaty from more than the mid-June heat. The other graduate students busied themselves loading excavation equipment into the vans as the late afternoon sun dipped ever closer to the mountains.

The longer she debated, the harder it would be to act. If she hesitated and boarded the vans back to Glendive, she would toss and turn all night tormented by a brain that demanded answers she did not have.

Taking a deep breath, she silenced the voices of caution, and marched toward her discovery.


  1. I like this. I am definitely intrigued.

    Check the sentence beginning with "Had" in the third have a second "had" there.

    I love the line about her khaki shirt and pants "blending chameleon-like" into the surroundings.

    I would definitely read on.

  2. I love the setting of the dig and the excitement about what she thinks she has discovered. I would read on to find out what happens next and to see which direction you take the story. Good luck!

  3. I found the later part of the passage more interesting than the beginning, actually. The first couple of paragraphs present your mystery of whatever unusual "something" Lilith has seen, but didn't give me enough of a clue to be intrigued by the mystery myself. (Your title hints at what she's found, but that's not a certainty.)

    I would have liked to get more of a sense at least of why her discovery was unusual, if not of what it was. That would have drawn me in more.

    However, further along, as you add characterization, I felt more of a connection to Lilith, which increased my interest.

  4. Stumbled a little on "Against the notion words of caution..." I didn't realize it was in her head until the next sentence. But it was probably just me.

    I think fix the few things already mentioned and you've got a great opening. I was hooked from sentence one and ready to read more.

  5. Intriguing opening. I'm curious as to what she thinks she saw. A couple nitpicky things.

    This sentence tripped me up: "The echo of teasing laughter and hurtful words echoed through the years." At the very least you repeat the word "echo." But I was also trying to find out if she was reminiscing about being laughed at all through her childhood or something. Is that what's meant by that sentence? Could be just me.

    Also, the "Most days" sentence jarred me, because she wouldn't have had the temptation to go outside the dig site before this scene, right? Didn't she literally just see something she thought was special? So why would these voices be telling her to remain obsolete "most days" when this particular day is the one in question? Hope that makes sense.

    Overall, I liked it, though.

  6. The second sentence isn't really a sentence, so that threw me. Also, I've been on an amateur dig, and there would be no big deal about venturing outside the grid.

    More sensory detail, such as whether her clothes or skin feel hot, and whether there is any dust in the air, would help.

  7. I like the premise, but some of it was confusing. Some issues were already pointed out. Near the end of the sample it implied they were ready to leave, meaning this discovery has been under everyone's noses all day long. I had a hard time buying that. I'll buy into her hesitancy to leave the group if she has her own issues, but not that it's really a big deal to walk ten yards to check something out. Is it outside the area they have a permit to search? Would it be trespassing? Is she afraid of snakes? The imagery is good, but her inability to check out a potential find needs validation, even if it's just to clarify past disappointments/failures. If she's a grad student, she has some ambition and shouldn't be as timid as a high school freshman.

    I am curious about what she's going to find, but if she's not a strong character, I wouldn't read too much farther.

  8. I wondered why she would keep her find a secret? Why not say - Hey, guys. There's something interesting over there. This isn't to say she shouldn't keep it a secret, but I'd like to know her motivation for keeping it to herself. Is she not a team player?

    Maybe put an em dash between the first and second sentences. The second doesn't really work as a stand alone.

    Parg 2 -her brain went through every etc. First, 'she'd' go through it, not her brain. Second, you don't tell us what conclusion she came to. Maybe add something like, but she couldn't figure it out.

    I wondered what her motivation was for staying behind to check things out, especially since she has always played by the rules before this? Is she trying to make a name for herself? Is there something eerie about the item that unnaturally draws her to it? Why is she doing this? It seems to be more than mere curiosity.

    I'd give it a bit longer. It feels like there's something here.

  9. I like the concept and the setting here, and it makes me excited to find out what Lilith has discovered. And while I agree that her insecurity seems extreme for a graduate student, I'm willing to assume that she has something like a true social anxiety disorder.

    Someone else pointed out the extra 'had' and the repetition of 'echo' and 'echoed', and I noticed a couple of other small issues. The transition to her memory of being teased feels awkward; I'd start another paragraph, and perhaps rework that a bit. And you need to punctuate her thoughts after 'the voice inside her screamed' differently -- you might lead into them with either a dash or a colon, or even use quotes.

    In the sentence beginning 'Most days', I think it might sound better if you said 'faded into the background, just as her khaki shirt and pants blended' (etc.). And it should be 'boarded the van' (singular), since one person can only get into one vehicle at a time!

    I would suggest using contractions -- i.e., 'She couldn't deny what she'd seen, etc.', because not using them tends to sounds a little outdated and formal. Also, you need to use the character's name more; her name only shows up once here, and the reader shouldn't feel like they have to search to find the MC's name; I would definitely recommend replacing the 'She' at the beginning with 'Lilith', since it's usually best not to start with a disembodied pronoun.

    Overall, this has lots of potential, and I like many of the details -- I would certainly keep reading. :)