Tuesday, December 15, 2009

22 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Bitter Bar Girl
GENRE: Commercial Fiction

Nora is at the bar celebrating. Her best friend Sabine is bartending.
Their merriment is interrupted by unexpected visitors.

Sabine’s face turns from smile to frozen dread.

Suddenly someone yells, “Everyone get face down on the floor!” Before I can react, a man in a knitted face mask pole vaults the bar in one swift move, then grabs hold of Sabine’s arm. He holds a gun loosely in his other hand like it’s a ten-dollar tennis racquet. She looks like a figure in a wax museum the way her face becomes pasty white with a thin sheen of glistening sweat. I glance over my shoulder, letting out a helpless squeal. There is another masked man guarding the door.

“Shut up! Don’t you (expletive) look at me, b****! Get (expletive) face down!” My stool falls backwards, and I grab the bar to brace myself but instead careen my chin into the lip of the wood as I plummet to the floor with a crash. I hear someone behind me kicking chairs.
“All right folks, let’s make this quick.” Someone—maybe Dean—lets out a muffled groan. I remain still, afraid to turn my head, but, from the corner of my eye I notice the guy grab my purse, fling the contents out, including my film. Then he grabs my wallet, apparently searching for cash. The sound in my head is what you might hear underwater, first a dull rush as you sink down and then the deep ring of nothing.


  1. I love the details and description you use--I can picture this scene clearly in my mind. I definitely feel the tension.

    Just a few thoughts: If Sabine's face changes before someone yells, why is the yell "sudden?" Maybe I'm missing something because the excerpt is short.

    I think "pole vaults" needs a hyphen. Also, you might want a comma after "wax museum."

    Careening a chin sounds weird to me... maybe bashing, instead?

    "grab my purse, fling my contents out" this sequence seemed awkward to me--an "and" before "fling" would probably fix it.

    Great job!

  2. I understand the beginning. The MC is staring at Sabine. Sabine sees the bad guys, MC sees Sabine. That's why the yell is unexpected to the MC. :)

    I liked this a lot, save for a few word choices. Since I'm guessing the bad dude does not, in fact, carry a giant pole, I think "vaults" would be better than "pole vaults". I agree that "careen" is a weird word for her chin bashing into the bar. She's pushed, yes? I didn't understand that initially.

    Small quibbles though - nice job!

  3. I agree with "vaults" without the pole.

    Also, I really like the last line.

  4. what's with the bleeped out expletives? is the finished version going to be like that? is sabine some kind of self-censoring super-christian or something?

    does the man in the mask have a pole or should this word maybe be dropped, leaving just "vaults" as the verb? "careen" also isn't working for me.

    other than those minor things, i like it!

  5. This is good. It's really good, but get it out of present tense, and it will be great.

  6. Pace and tension 8 out of 10 stars. Excellent description, it helps reader feel urgency of the situation. Cut Suddenly and like and use some more advanced descriptive phrasing. Also a logistics caveat, the stool falling backwards and she tries to brace herself. It might be good to mention the orientation of her face when she hits the ground. Otherwise not clear how she is seeing the intruder taking things from her purse?

  7. There's nothing wrong with present tense. Lots of great books are written in present tense. It may not cater to some tastes, but the same is true for genres. And if the author does it well, as here, it can be powerful.

  8. knitted face mask = ski mask

    Pole vaults = gave me a weird mental image even though I know what you meant here.

    gun + ten dollar tennis racquet = not sure what to think about that, because you have to hold those items differently.

    when she looks over her shoulder at the guy at the door, I assumed he is a distance away, but suddenly he's right there kicking her off her stool... ?

    Judging by the ending - I'm guessing she got wopped on the back of the head?

    All that aside - the danger is clear and it's a good snip. :)

  9. Felt some tension, yes, but I'm trying to figure out why she's passing out. She hit her chin on the counter, not the back/top of her head. Is it fear making her faint?

    Someone mentioned the tense, and for my taste I don't like present + first person, but you make it work.

  10. I like this a bunch. I'm assuming that the beeped out expletives are just for us, which I understand. I don't think it's warranted though unless the blog owner asks for it.

    I felt a little violated by the scene, which is good I think.

    I do have to agree,

    Pole vaults gives me a weird idea, but vault would work fine

    the gun/tennis racket thing takes a dangerous weapon and sort of makes it sound silly

    and the chin careening into the counter doesn't sound right. I like the idea of her careening as she falls off the stool, but maybe 'I careen forward as I slide off the stool and stumble, cracking my chin on the bar as I fall' or something like that?

    Oh, and I personally LOVE present tense when it rolls like this!

  11. Well, I'm not fussy about tense, as long as the writing's good. I thought this worked pretty well, but what I felt was missing was her reaction to what was happening. She doesn't have one thought about it. I realize it's all happening rather fast, but you could make this even stronger by adding a reaction or two from her.

    And ditto the odd word choices.

    Overall, it works pretty well!

  12. I thought this was pretty good, but "careen my chin" has got to go:) If I'm not mistaken, careen is not the sort of verb that can be used with a direct object: Her chin can careen (probably into something), but she cannot careen it.

    As far as the tense goes, I'll just say I think it can work - if there's a reason for it. Originality isn't a good reason anymore; weren't at least a third of these posts in present tense? Just make everything about your writing purposeful, and the rest will all work out.

    (Sorry about climbing up on my soapbox a little - I couldn't help myself:) Of the present-tense entries here, yours was actually one of the better ones.)

  13. A. Grey - Authoress does ask that people bleep out expletives. Or she does it herself, I'm not sure. But I know it's a condition of posting on this blog, and I imagine the actual story will have the words printed in full.

    Agree that there are some slightly offbeat word choices here. I was confused at the end when she heard the sound in her head. Wouldn't she have felt a blow? A sentence saying something to that effect would make a smoother transition from her watching him go through the wallet to the sound in her head.

    But yes, I felt tension and danger. So well done.

  14. Excellent scene but I agree that the word choice needs some work. I also think you are overdoing the use of similes/metaphors. You've got two similes in a row ("like it's a ten dollar tennis racquet" and "like a figure in a wax museum") and then two other metaphors (the frozen face and the sound of water in her head). These are very powerful writing tools but you have to be careful how you use them. You are trying to build tension here. The image of a tennis racket or wax museum doesn't make me scared. I think this would work better without these.

  15. This is excellent. Imminent danger, and some real tense moments. I think the present tense helps with this scene, although I'm not sure how I'd like it throughout an entire novel.
    My one quibble is with the words 'the way.' "She looks like a figure in a wax museum the way her face becomes pasty white..." would probably read better as just "She looks like a figure in a wax museum, her face pasty white..."

  16. I'm going against the main trend here, but I found the verb usage reduced the tension. The first para read like stage directions - as you placed every player in a very busy scene. Perhaps too much telling here?

    I think that using shorter sentences and more immediate verbs would have given this more punch and make your choice of present tense more effective.

    I found the first person/ present tense quite distracting

    There were some word choices that didn't work for me. eg careen was misplaced here.

    Since we are in the MC's head, I don't think she would perceive her squeal so self consciously.

    I did like the last sentence a lot.