Wednesday, February 25, 2009

40 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Under a Dark Star
GENRE: Science Fiction

Best friend's Kit Marlowe and Beka Sweets decide to renew their military contracts after Kit's family threatens to kill her. This is the ending for the chapter where the girls arrive on the cruiser-class warchip, Warbringer. Denay is one of the other special forces pilots.

After chow Denay gave them a complimentary tour of the Warbringer, flirting outrageously with Kit the whole way, and introduced them to General Vesuvius who was in charge of the fleet.

The old man with white hair and no family name of meaning glared at Kit, but seemed mollified by the fact that she was just another Marlowe peon. Beka tried to be grateful for small favors from the Muses.

Much later, when ship’s night descended and the bunk room fell dark, Beka leaned out of her bunk enough to peer up at the light above her. “Kit?”

“Yes?” Kit’s personal computer whirred to life

“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Beka asked, the ionized curtain crackled as her hair brushed against it.

“I’m too awake to sleep. Giddy, almost.”

“Giddy?” Beka stifled a yawn.

“This is wonderful.” Kit leaned out of her bunk to smile down at her. She looked beatific, almost glowing with joy. “I feel so free here. All the weight is gone. I can breath!”

“Right.” She rubbed her eyes and curled back under her army-issue blanket. “I’m going to bed. When is the light going out?”

“Soon,” Kit promised. “I just want to check the news at home, see what I missed today.”

Beka heard the keys clicking in rapid succession. Kit’s breath hitched and there was a muffled groan. “Anything exciting?”

There was a beat of silence, then, “I’m dead.”


  1. First, you do a great job of communicating small details of your world with subtlety. Two hundred fifty words and I already feel immersed, which is an amazing talent.

    Just a few things:

    You need a comma between Vesuvius and who. The second sentence is a little convoluted. But I think it's an easy fix. Maybe try:

    The white-haired old man, with no family name of meaning, glared at Kit.

    I think the end is a definite pull to the next chapter, but I think it could be even better if you gave us a little more build up. Right now, the "I'm dead" reads like something a teenager says after a car wreck.

    If Kit is really in life-and-death danger, and it's at the hands of her own family, I think Beka might flinch a little to think that Kit was checking the news at home. I think it's a fantastic idea, but I'm not feeling the urgency of the moment right now.

    ... this could totally be because I haven't read the previous part to get into the emotions of the moment. But the section starts with a lot of tell and then drifts into a kind of lazy, peaceful moment in bed. So the "I'm dead" probably doesn't have the impact that you want yet.

    I'm thinking if you let us see into Beka's head just a little, you could make the moment more powerful.

  2. Loved the last line. I'd read on to find out if she means: I'm reported as dead or as in, dude, I'm so dead!

    Up to that point, the scene read rather leisurely and without much tension. Maybe a little more thought or emotional context on Beka's part could ramp things up a little.

  3. There are a few spelling/grammatical errors (should be "I can breathE", need a period after "whirred to life") but an interesting story, and a kicker of a last sentence. Watch your comma usage, or lack thereof.

    Also, I'd recommend using dialog tags like "said" instead of actions. A person doesn't say something by brushing her hair against a curtain, for example, she just says it.

    Good job, otherwise.

  4. So far as the assignment, which is chapter endings, this works. There is certainly enough suspense at the end to want to start the next chapter right away. You need to work on your syntax and punctuation, and one thing that bothered me was the line about the "army-issued" blanket. I thought that they were on a ship?

    Overall, this works, but needs some tightening and editing.

  5. The name "Kit Marlowe" is too much like the elephant in the living room, unless the story gives good reason why such a well-known "celebrity" name was selected. For some reason, this bothers editors (and contest judges).

    I agree with many other points already made. Was this written for an adult or a younger audience? It reads a younger level than I would normally pick up for science fiction (I'm a nerd, though).

    LOVE the last line. That's what makes a page-turner.

  6. The last sentence created the need to read on. Until then the smiling and the pleasantries got in the way. Setting is good. If the last line was previously set up, prior to the page submitted, then I would understand.

  7. I like the short, snappy paragraphs and the way the story moves forward. I would definitely read more!

    A few grammatical issues that can be easily solved.

  8. I definitely got a sense of the world and the characters here and fell into the world right away.

    I actually liked the leisurely start with the tantalizing bits!
    "…no family name of meaning" and "…just another Marlowe peon." etc.

    But yes, some of the sentences could use tightening. The "Old man with white hair" sentence, as Heather suggested. And maybe instead of:
    "…General Vesuvius who was in charge of the fleet."
    "…Fleet General Vesuvius."

    I like it overall and the final sentence is a good "read on" hook.

  9. Others have commented on most of what I could say here, but I'm wondering who's POV we are in. I thought it was Kit's until her friend heard the computer keys clicking. Maybe that was intentional but it stopped me for a moment.

    I really like the last sentence because I don't know "how" she means dead - as someone earlier pointed out. This would make me want to read on to find out.

  10. I liked this. I, too, think there are a few grammatical errors, but the last line would propel me to turn to the next chapter, even if my chicken was burning! Good job! :)

  11. Overall, I thought this was good. Do work harder on spelling and grammar. Your blurb starts out with an apostrophe for a plural, in addition to the problems already mentioned.

    I disagree with the comment about dialogue tags. The problem in that sentence was a comma splice, not clumsy dialogue attribution.

    The names all seem gimmicky to me. It might be appropriate in the overall work, but at first glance, it's off-putting. If it's not a humorous novel, you might reconsider.

  12. Your last two paragraphs definitely hook the reader to turn the page, but I had a little bit of a hard time getting to them.

    Part of that might be getting dropped into the end of a chapter, but the beginning of this sample was quite synopsis-like. If meeting the old man with white hair is significant to the story, then I think you should show the scene, rather than summarize it.

    Bring me into the moment where Vesuvius glares at Kit and show me how Kit feels. Or give me Beka's reaction to Denay flirting with her friend all through the tour. (I'm not sure which is your point of view character)

    If the scenes aren't significant enough to show, they're probably information that will be revealed along the way, in which case I'd cut the paragraphs before the bunk room. As it reads now, they come across a bit info-dumpy.

    I agree with the others that you've done a great job with subtle worldbuilding here. Yay, you!

  13. Best friend's Kit Marlowe and Beka Sweets decide to renew their military contracts after Kit's family threatens to kill her.

    ouch. plural vs plural possessive alert! unclear pronoun alert!

    And that's just in your setup. Sure enough, too much wrong punctuation and bad construction are like demon storyworts throwing a mystical haze over your words.

  14. I agree with H. L. Dyer. It seemed like these were important things and they were only given a sentence each.

    "Much later" is an awkward transition for me - but it is very likely just personal taste.

    I agree that this reads very YA to me - but this is a small section to judge. And I also agree that I'm not sure what character's head I'm supposed to be in. The blurb suggests Kit, the excerpt seems to lean towards Beka.

    The ending to the chapter implies a couple of possibilities, which is good.

  15. Since it's science fiction, you are, of course, free to set up the military command structure however you like, and maybe this was explained earlier.

    However, it sits quite oddly on my ear for a general to be in command of a fleet. "Fleet" is Navy terminology, so I'd expect a fleet commander to be an admiral.

  16. *will not let her brain wander to femslash here*


    I suppose I'd turn the page, though it's really only the last two paragraphs that interest me. Unless, well, there's more to Kit and Beka's relationship that just friends... O:)


    P.S. Is it weird that the word verification is "shipho"? :P

  17. Merc- you're cute... and their relationship is openly ambiguous although they know where they stand behind closed doors. %-)

    I have to say, this was the unedited version so I'm sorry some of you felt the need to crit the synopsis and do the corrections. Those were done, but in a rush to get this up I put up the wrong one. My bad!

    Guppy- I'm still trying to edit around that transition, which is why it was part of this contest. It is awkward, I don't like it, but there's a several hour segue from the main chapter action to Kit finding out she's dead.

    Gypsywitch- yes, it's a literal, "Hey! They found my body!" kind of dead. In the broader context I hope it makes sense.

  18. Maybe you could try the title of Commander instead of General?

    right here is where it comes across as being from Bekas POV

    Beka heard the keys clicking in rapid succession. Kit’s breath hitched and there was a muffled groan. “Anything exciting?”

    Maybe you could change it to

    The room quieted except for the sound of the keys, clicking in rapid succession. Kit's breath hitched and then she gave a muffled groan.

    I'd read on to see just how dead she is.

  19. Ditto on the comments about commas, spelling errors, and overly complicated sentences (such as: The old man with white hair and no family name of meaning glared at Kit,).

    Also, Kit's full name kept jarring me, as "Kit Marlowe" always makes me think of the famous writer, just as "Vesuvius" will always make me think of the volcano. It brought me out of the narrative, which works against the world building you've done.

  20. I am torn here. I would probably read on to find out why she is dead. My thoughts were that the local paper reported she was KIA.

    Then I thought that perhaps she found something there that tipped her of on "the family wanted to kill her" thing.

    So... page turned.

  21. I was grabbed by the last sentence, especially since I now know it was literal. I'd read on. Other critiques have been addressed by others on here so I won't repeat, but general stuff like comma usage and some confusion with who is saying what after Kit leans out of the bunk.

  22. Just a note to say I LOVE the title of your book! I would want to read more.

  23. I can see what your intent is with the last sentence, and it's a great chapter-ender, to be sure. I think that, not having been immersed in the entire novel up to this point, it didn't have the impact I wanted it to. In fact, I had to read it twice.

    I'd love to read the whole chapter and THEN decide. ;)

    Your first few sentences are long and cumbersome; I would definitely shorten and tighten.

    The Vesuvius guy? His name jumped out and slapped me. I mean, it's a volcano.

    And one teeny thing -- I'm not sure how far into the future your tale takes place, but the term "personal computer" sounds almost dated -- as in, even now we don't hear that much anymore (it's "laptop" or "Blackberry" mostly).

    Keep going!