Thursday, February 26, 2009

60 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Camp Wylde
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Drew (MC) is a camp counselor, who took one of her campers (Sarah Jane) to the bathroom in the night. But while Sarah's in one of the stalls, a goblin comes in and Drew can't breathe. Just before he starts to attack her, Drew sees a glowing, spinning, blue bauble in his hand. Drew knows that goblins usually come after children. So at this point in the scene, she's sitting in front of the stall door, blocking Sarah from getting out and the goblin from getting in, all while unable to breathe at all.

And in that moment I knew one thing for sure: he wasn’t getting Sarah Jane.

I narrowed my eyes at the goblin; he kicked a foot up onto the tiled wall behind him, bowing his body to aim the top of his head right at me. He was already starting to glow with blue fire, the flames engulfing him slowly from his head to his feet, growing brighter and brighter until they were all I could see. I leaned back, bringing my feet out in front of me. There was only one thing I could do. And I’d only get one shot.

Right as the goblin pushed off from the wall, I spun sideways and propped up my feet. I kicked out with everything I had, connecting at the last possible second. As some kind of miracle, the very edge of my left foot collided with his knees, so that his momentum sent him spinning through the air to thud loudly against the far wall.

His small form slumped to the cement floor, and the cloudy blue marble rolled out of his hand toward the central drain. I had to reach it. I had to break it. I opened my eyes as wide as I could, but everything was dark and out of focus. The marble was holding my breath, and I knew I had to get to it before I blacked out. Summoning the last of my strength, I crawled across the floor, dragging on my stomach when I could no longer hold myself up. And just as I reached the marble, just as my fingers closed around it, everything went black.

The last thing I remembered was hearing Sarah Jane scream.


  1. Nice job! Clear. Lots of feeling. Good descriptions. But I don't understand why she can't breathe? Is the blue ball keeping her breath? Or does she have asthma or something. I'm sure I'd understand more if I'd read previous parts.

    I'd also like to know what power the blue ball has. I'm also confused as to how big this orb is. I thought it was fairly large since you mention his body glowing with the flames from it, but then you call it a marble, which is super small. Just not clear on that.

    I also think you could emphasize the last sentence a little more. I love the fact that Sarah Jane's scream is the last thing she heard. (The hearing IS the last thing to go when you black out) I think it's the word 'remembered' that jumped out at me. remembering takes me out of the here and now... maybe it would be as simple as saying 'the last thing I heard was ...'

    Good job though. I'd turn the page.

  2. I'd turn the page with this, but there are a few things I think you could improve slightly. I was having quite a hard time picturing anything whilst I was reading, but that was probably because I don't know how you've portrayed your goblins in this. I also have no idea what this marble ball looks like or what the goblin was doing when he was in flames. I just couldn't picture it.
    However, I still think I'd really enjoy this. There's something about your writing that draws me in.

  3. Wow! Great action, great cliffhanger. Everything was pretty easy for me to picture. Yeah, this was really good!

  4. Very nice! Clear, descriptive writing. I had no problem picturing this. Great ending line, though I agree with Charlie V, change remembered to heard.

    One little thing, if she is unable to breathe throughout this scene, it didn't seem she was panicked enough about that. She seemed too clear-headed. But maybe you meant her breathing only started to be affected when the goblin began to glow blue.

    Excellent writing!

  5. Extremely well done! Polished writing, compelling voice. I'd turn the page. Good job!

  6. Thanks for all the comments so far!

    I totally agree on that last line, and the change you suggested is a great improvement.

    Just FYI for anyone who has the need to know, the goblin's flames aren't from the orb. The orb is just a glass marble that holds her breath inside of it. She sees it earlier and makes the connection more fully.

    In my little world (insert Bob Ross nod here), goblins can streak across rooms on blue flames. It's described better earlier when he does it the first time... as is her panic over her lack of air.

    But you make a good point, I should probably include more of that here as well.

    Yay! I do love critique in crazy ways.

  7. I was going to comment on the last line, but Charlie beat me to it.

    I didn't get the 'propped up my feet' part. That's what I do with my feet on the coffee table.

    Otherwise nice writing. One thing. Goblin's sounds more MG. I had a YA novel that had goblins in it (taller, more vicious sort). When I presented it during the writers intensive session at the SCBWI NYC conference last year, one editor asked me if it had to be a goblin. Apparently he wasn't too impressed with that. I changed the creatures because they did sound cartoonish (unless you read my description).

    Good luck with it!

  8. Much of what I was going to say has already been said, but I definitely wanted to compliment your visual descriptions of the action.

    However, I disagree about the last line. For me, it was awkward. I think maybe something like this might run a little smoother?

    "And just as I reached the marble, just as my fingers closed around it, Sarah Jane's scream filled the air. Everything went black."

    Just a suggestion. Good luck :)

  9. I agree that propped was an odd verb to use here. It didn't help my visual at all.

    The key event here is that she is suffocating and trying to fight. I think her internal struggle to function is just as important as her battle with the goblin.

    Perhaps that needs to come out more in the description of the action. I didn't feel I was quite there with her.

    But this certainly has promise.

  10. Goblin was an immediate turn-off. Can you give it a different description and name? Invent something new and menacing?
    I loved how the marble was holding her breath.

    Also, as an editor, I see a lot of scenes end with the protagonist blacking or passing out. Can you make your protagonist endure the scene to the end? Please.

  11. Sorry for the late review.

    I really liked it! The descriptions were very good, and it's always a good sign when the reader can visualize what's going on. One thing that could be made better is making us really feel what it's like to fight and hold your breath at the same time. Make me feel like he's suffocating. Make me forget how to breathe too!

    I like the MC's resolve too. Feisty! The last line is a bit cliche. I've definitely read that before, pretty much every time a MC passes out, it starts with, "The last thing I remember seeing/hearing/whatever was..."

    Besides the small gripes, I would read on. This seems like a cool premise you have, and I'm interested in seeing where this goes. Goblins are awesome. Haven't seen that in a while. Good luck!

  12. Incredibly tense. I would continue reading.

    Some suggested nits:

    "And in that moment I knew one thing for sure"
    delete for sure. It dilutes things.

    "at the goblin; he kicked"
    why not separate with a period?

    The first paragraph reads as very passive. Too much "ing" describing. For example use engulfed rather than engulfing.

    "He was already starting to glow with blue fire, the flames engulfing him slowly from his head to his feet, growing brighter and brighter until they were all I could see"
    suggest breaking up into shorter senses to pick up pacing.