Thursday, February 26, 2009

51 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Swan Song
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Lily is a self-loathing immortal trying to work through her issues with the help of her immortal psychologist friend, Victor. She has just finished a nighttime swim in the ocean when she hears two gunshots in the distance. She finds two dead/dying woman on the side of the road and is able to track down and kill the murderer. She has just hit speed-dial after realizing what she has done.

“You need to come to headquarters for a death review following the forensic team’s inquiry.”

Lily had heard of death reviews, but had never attended, especially as the defendant.
“I’ll be on my way as soon as they allow.”

“Good. We’ll be expecting you.” The man immediately hung up the phone.

Lily sat motionless for a moment, her surroundings uncomfortably silent. She turned and saw the lifeless body next to her. His pained eyes were still open, staring upward. Now the consequences came crashing down all around her. Now it mattered. Closing her eyes, she felt sick; whatever humanity there would’ve been left in her had also died this night with the man. Her devolution from human to monster was now complete.

“Damn it, Victor!” Lily began to cry. She didn’t remember the last time she had cried. Victor knew how important it was to her to never kill another human being, no matter how foul. Why didn’t she feel this way before she drained the mortal? She had plotted, planned and attacked to release the rage. Now, she had real blood-lust. Fresh blood was so much better than stored blood.

She exited the vehicle and dropped to the ground. Did Victor know how journaling would unleash her anger? Did he realize how dangerous she was now? After a few minutes, her crying ceased as she dried her eyes. She sat on the gravel, leaning up against the car. Suddenly she remembered the victims off the side of the road. He would have killed again and again. She wiped her mouth on her sleeve. Obirian law allows for killing of murderous mortals…

Lily was unsure of how much time had passed when headlights approached, causing her to squint and shadow her eyes with her hand. Now the explanations would begin.


  1. Let me start by saying this is not a genre I read, so I'm not really qualified to comment. That having been said, I really liked it. You conveyed her emotions as they swung from horror, self-disgust, rationalization to acceptance. I would read on to see how she handles her new fresh blood lust. Very nice!

  2. This sentence stopped me: Did Victor know how journaling would unleash her anger?

    I just couldn't make the link between writing in a journal and murderous rage - it almost made me me laugh - but maybe the rest of the chapter would have set that up for me.

    (And I admit, I do have prejudices against journaling.)

  3. I needed more information about the setup to understand this. Who did she call, and what is headquarters?

    I’ll be on my way as soon as they allow.”--Police? Or other immortals?

    whatever humanity there would’ve been left in her -- Perhaps this can be simplified to say "whatever humanity left in her."

    “Damn it, Victor!”-- I don't see why she blames Victor for her murder of the man. She says later that therapy with Victor roused her anger, but did she kill the man solely out of anger? Maybe the answer is earlier in the chapter, but it's not clear here.

    You refer to Lily as an immortal. Is she a vampire-type of immmortal?

    The final two paragraphs built up some tension, but not to a level that made me want to read further. i was intrigued by the possibility of her becoming dangerous, but that faded when she got her emotions under control.

    Overall, I did get a good understanding of Lily's mixed emotions, and there is the possiblity of conflict within Lily and with the people back at headquarters. Something more is needed, IMO, to make this a compelling ending, though.

    Hope this is helpful, and good luck with your story.

  4. Intriguing. Excellent lead-in to the next chapter. Overall, well-written. I just had a small problem with two sentences.

    1) "Lily had heard of death reviews, but had never attended, especially as the defendant." If she had never attended, there is no especially. Consider: Lily had heard of death reviews, but had never attended. Now, she would appear as the defendant.

    2) "Closing her eyes, she felt sick; whatever humanity there would’ve been left in her had also died this night with the man." This felt a little clunky to me. Consider: Closing her eyes, she felt sick; whatever humanity left in her had died along with this man.

  5. Thanks for your comments.

    I can understand confusion about who Lily is calling. She is calling a forensic team of the Obirian Order--immortals and human protectors coming to take care of the situation.

    Lily's journaling brought to the surface injustices in her own life--the fact that she saw what the murderer had done sent her off an emotional cliff. Her psychologist friend Victor had been trying to help her out of her decades-old funk...she's mad that he helped her to do it, per se.

    I will definitely look into all comments to improve my story. Thanks again.

  6. I think this a a well done chapter ending. It's interesting.

    Only question: Lily states that her devolution from human to animal is complete, but then she shows real human emotion and cries. She feels guilty and worries about the consequences of her actions. That seemed somewhat incongruent to me, but maybe it is showing us that she isn't really a lost cause??

    Also, the part about her humanity dying w/ the dead man was confusing the way it was written...had to re read that sentence twice. I get the idea and think it is good, but it could be worded better.

    Good work!

  7. I saw you needed more crits on the new thread, so I looked you up. I sort of picked numbers at random, starting at those near me (#38) looking for ones that interest me...sorry I didn't happen across yours immediately!

    Yours is good when it comes to grammar and sentence structure. I think, perhaps, your room for improvement is found in learning to see what isn't clear to someone who doesn't know the story as intimately as you do. :-) But then, we're all there, to some degree.

    Anyway, since you begged for crit, I'll be really, really picky (more than I usually am) and tell you where I see possible room for improvement. Take what helps you and toss the rest. :-)

    ...her surroundings uncomfortably silent.

    I'm wondering if this fits. It's hard to know without reading what's before...but presumably, you've already set the scene well enough for your readers to know whether there's noise around or not. If you have...then what you really want to portray here is that she's uncomfortable with the silence. On the other hand, if you haven't, and this 250 words coincides with dropping the reader into a scene, then this line is perfect. All I'm saying is, make sure that you're not repeating that it's quiet around her, if it should have been established earlier.

    ...and saw the lifeless body...

    This is telling, not showing. But honestly, you can simply cut it, because the next few sentences make it obvious that she's looking at the body. From your set up, it seems she already knew it was there, right? So you should combine the "She turned" with what she's uncomfortably aware of at that moment.

    Now the consequences... Cut "Now."

    Now it mattered. What does this mean? If she had killed someone two weeks ago, would it not have mattered then?

    Closing her eyes; she felt sick. I understand the correlation...but stating it this way means that she was in the act of closing her eyes the entire time she felt sick. Which doesn't make sense. I think it would work much better to say something more like: Her eyes slid shut as her stomach rolled.

    I'll echo lindacassidylewis's comments about the next sentence.

    Lily began to cry. How about, ...she said as a lump formed in her throat. She never cried!

    The rest of that paragraph and the next one don't make any sense to those of us who haven't read the book. I read your comment, above, and here's my question. Do the readers understand, by this point, everything that you explained in your comment? Have you shown all this by showing your reader what she's like, what her world and rules are, and what she's been through, so that they understand why she's "snapped?" If so, then this explanation doesn't belong. If you haven't, then that's what you need to work on, in reality. You want your readers to see this as it's playing out...not need it explained after the fact.

    Your last paragraph reads very cold and clinical, rather than in her POV like it could be. First... keep using "She." There's no one else to confuse "she" with. But bring it more into her POV...what she's sensing and thinking:

    Headlights sliced through her thoughts. She put up a hand to shield her eyes. Yep, that was the cops.

    Her hand fell to her lap, and she took a deep breath as she gathered her thoughts. The questions would begin in moments.

  8. I agree this needs to be tightened up. But content-wise I have a question: Which is the most important event in this section, the fact that she's got to "explain" things, or the fact that she's lost all her humanity?

    I'm thinking the plot point is the loss of humanity, so you might want to end with that -- but I could be wrong, as this is only 250 words.

    One other little thing. In the setup you mention her "friend" the psychotherapist for immortals. I would be more intrigued if she was seeing a psychotherapist for immortals on a professional basis -- and it would allow for noninfodump infodumps too!

  9. I liked the idea of a vampire going to see a psychologist. That's humorous to me; though, this doesn't sound humorous.

    I felt like this was too passive. I noticed a lot of was, were, had. This scene seems to be explaining something that just happened. I'd rather see some of these emotions she's feeling as the killing is happening.

    I think I would connect more to the character with more visual images in the writing and 5 senses. But that is connected to the passive writing. So, for me, sorry, but I probably wouldn't read on.

    But you have an interesting premise. So keep at it!

  10. Thanks guys! If you are interested to read the whole chapter, (and it does include more explanations and dialogue) you can read it here:

    Keep those helpful crits coming! I am getting a thicker skin every day.

  11. It's good and it makes me want to know more! I really want to know more about the journaling, and I love the whole explanations that need to begin part! that should turn out to be very interesting. you go girl!

  12. I like this premise a lot and am interested to see where it goes.

    There are a few suggestions:

    "Lily had heard of death reviews, but had never attended, especially as the defendant."
    I'd change especially to even

    "Now the consequences came crashing down all around her. Now"
    two now's too close together.

    "whatever humanity there would’ve been left in her had also died this night with the man."
    Would have been is conditional. Did she ever have humanity in her? If so. whatever humanity had been left

    "Lily began to cry."
    I'd like a bit more description here.

    "her crying ceased as she dried her eyes. "
    These two actions don't occur simultaneously. Crying stops, then she dried her eyes.