Tuesday, December 15, 2009

1 Drop the Needle

TITLE: The Memory Of Henry Franks
GENRE: Suspense

In the middle of a hurricane, Henry and Justine find themselves unable to evacuate and stuck outside of Justine's house which has been boarded shut for the storm. To make matters worse, a serial killer is also trapped and looking for someplace to ride out the storm. The 'hissing' referred to in the scene is a recurring motif throughout the book concerning the murderer.

The hissing grew louder, seeming to drown out the storm.

Justine picked up the planter, slamming it into the window. Glass shattered everywhere, caught on the wind. A shard slammed into her thigh and she would have fallen if Henry hadn’t been right next to her, already pushing her through the window. The spikes of glass at the bottom of the sill cut through their pants as they climbed over but, then, they were through. The screaming of the storm lessened, wind and rain following them through the broken window.

Justine crawled away from the glass, holding her thigh.

“Pull it out?” she asked.

“Doesn’t look like it’s anywhere near an artery, should be ok.” He bent over her leg. “I think.”

“Do it!”

Blood soaked through her pants, but Henry applied pressure and the bleeding slowed, then stopped.

“You ok?” he asked.

“We need to cover that,” she said, pointing outside.

Lightning flashed, and the thunder followed right behind. A shadow fell across the window. Long hair whipped around but it was difficult to see once the lightning went away.

“This way!” she screamed, reaching for his hand.

Both limping, they scrambled to the kitchen, opening drawers at random in the darkness to find knives or scissors.

From the living room, they heard glass shattering to the floor and the hissing echoed through the house.

Henry and Justine backed up, away from the broken window and the storm outside, until they had no place else to run. Knives in each hand, they waited in the kitchen.


  1. An immediate thing I considered - and this was before I read your snippet -

    The hissing motif made me think about the breathing in the Halloween movies.

    The other thing is I think I'd risk running around in a hurricane over breaking into a house with a serial killer.

    That said, I do think you got the panic of the characters across and this is definitely a tense scene. There are a couple typos and maybe iffy word choices (shard slamming into her thigh), but goodness, I have those in my snippet too.

  2. I like this. I think the dialogue is very natural.

    The only thing I don't like is the very first sentence. Did the hiss drown out the storm or did it just seem to drown it out?

  3. It does have suspense and a sense of danger, but it could be stronger if you showed us what was happening, rather than told us.

    If Justine slams the planter thru the window, that kind of implies she's still holding it, which means she'll cut her arm all up. Maybe she could throw it?

    Then a shard slams into her leg. Perhaps sliced? Show her stumbling and falling and Henry catching her, rather than telling us it happened.

    The long hair whipping sentence - is it her hair or the shadow's hair? Perhaps build up that scene a bit so we get more of a sense of who/what is lurking there.

    And show them searching the draws, fumbling thru what's inside instead of telling us they did it. The more visual you make it, the more powerful it will be.

    Great ending sentence!

  4. Just reading your set up had me inching forward in my seat. I'm really curious about that hissing.

    This scene is filled with suspense, and I like the way you add to the panic by having Justine get stabbed by the shard. (Though you need to watch your repeated words- slamming and slammed in consecutive sentences).

    What was lacking here, for me, was a sense of the POV character. The narration seemed a bit distant and I didn't get a sense for what these two people were feeling. Justine gets gouged by glass - how does that feel? Slicing pain, followed by a dull ache, maybe? Panic at seeing her blood seep out? Or does she not feel anything, because she is so scared? I felt like I needed to feel more of their panic.

    And did he pull the glass out? It seems like he did, but maybe you cut that bit out?

    Good luck with this!

  5. I found the scene well paced and it made my heart speed up just reading it. I think there are a few run-on sentences that could be tightened up. In particular the one about the spikes of glass cut through their pants the they were through. I think if you literally just cut out the 'but' and made two sentences it would be more concise and faster.

    I'm also confused about the whipping hair. And I'd add to watch for repeating words. For example 'slamming' the planter into the window and then the glass 'slamming' into her thigh. I do that myself, I latch onto a word I love and before I know it I've put it all over the place. :)

  6. Great scene. Tension is high, immediate danger obvious.

    The hair part needs to be tightened, clarified or omitted.

    I would add to "Pull it out?" with "Should I.... or "Will you....

    And the last line- hope that's a chapter ending. Great hanger.

  7. I love the glass sticking out of her thigh but I think you should cut the comment about the artery. It's too rational for such a crazy moment. I think he should just yank it out without thinking about it then tie something around it.

  8. Liked this a lot. The writing's pretty clean and the scene moves along. I'm sure there are some small adjustments you can make, as the other commenters suggest, but nothing really stuck out to me on the first read-through. Good luck with this.

  9. I love the writing. By the end, I forgot I was supposed to be giving a critique, which is great because I'm usually a nitpicky reader - so mega-bonus points for getting me to forget everything but the story in 250 words.

    That said, after looking at it a second and third time to really see any problems, I have to agree with someone from above on the 'slamming' of the glass into her leg. I think you can maybe work that description a little different so we really see what's going on and 'slam' gives the image of a blunt trauma rather than a gash.

    I didn't mind the shortness of the description of the shadow with the hair whipping around - for some reason I assumed the reader would know it was the serial killer, that the description had already come up before or that this was foreshadowing for when you find out who he/she is... If it's the intro to the serial killer, you might like to think about being clearer here, but judging by the characters' terror, I don't think that's the case.

    The pacing is great and so is the dialogue. I liked the line about the artery and immediately after implying he wasn't exactly sure. Though I don't remember anything about them bandaging or tying anything around the leg and with a deep cut you'd think they might have to stop the bleeding - though that might be coming up once they get away from the killer :-)

    See that, it was good enough that my comment was longer than your 250 words! Great job.

  10. I don't like reading serial killery mysteries - but I used to -and I can tell the pacing is good here. Good tension. I absolutely agree with the above comments on the "slamming;" the shard of glass should do something different to her thigh (pierce, puncture, whatever). Also, this is a small thing, but I would remove the exclamation point from "Do it!" - I think it would carry more weight with just a period. I think you need to put us in the scene more when Henry is applying the pressure - as an above commenter said, do more showing and less telling. (How did he apply pressure? Did it hurt? Did blood get on his hands? Was Justine relieved / distracted / impatient / whatever when the bleeding stopped? Etc etc). "Long hair whipped around" is a bit awkward. GOOD LUCK! I enjoyed this.

  11. You don't ask your characters to overthink things. I like that; it keeps the action moving.

    It's a short passage, but I already get the feeling Kelsey is the strong one and Henry not so much, and that is also good.

    i'm a little concerned the hissing is a little too forward, but I'm not sure how you've approached it before, so this could be just the right amount of obvious and I wouldn't know.

  12. I thought your pacing was good, but that there were things in the writing that could be improved.

    'Slammed' is used twice in two sentences in the first paragraph.

    I also got pulled out of the story by the sequence of events. When you say that she would have fallen if Henry hadn't been already pushing her through the window, I had to make a mental adjustment to a few seconds ago when Henry started pushing her through the window. Then you say they were climbing through the window, implying both of them were climbing. Being pushed through a window and climbing through are different. The last sentence in the paragraph is good though.

    Another problem I had was that you missed describing important parts of the scene. We don't see Henry pull the shard fom Justine's leg and we don't know how she's feeling. Is her terror about the serial killer and the storm overriding the pain? Or is she gritting her teeth and trying not to scream? You also don't mention them finding the knives, just that they were looking.

    With some adjustments, I think this could be a very gripping scene.

  13. Not experiencing a hurricane, I can't tell if this is accurate about how it is in them.

    I wondered, however, if the glass would blow back into the wind. I'd have figured the shards would fall inside the house as the characters were striking the window from the outside.

    If the wind is that powerful, wouldn't it pull the characters off balance, too?

    I was pulled out of the immediacy of the scene when you used many of the xx-ing (verbal) form of the verbs. Try to change as many of them as possible to the simple past.

    Did I feel the pair was threatened or in danger. Sort of, but it was because you told me in the introductory paragraph.