Wednesday, December 16, 2009

37 Drop the Needle

TITLE :A Line in the Sand
GENRE :Suspense

Eve and two other survivors of a shipwreck are on a small, damaged craft sailing, hopefully, for land. It is night, and Eve needs to, ahem, relieve herself.

Eve stepped over the sleeping forms and walked to the rear of the boat. The wind whipped her long hair away from her face, and she had to brace herself. Pulling down her shorts and panties, she crouched over the hole at the stern.

Suddenly she fell. There was a microsecond of realizing she was off balance, and then the abrupt shock of hitting water. Its coolness surged through her like icy electricity. She clutched her shorts, struggled to tug them over her knees into place and at the same time kick upward to the surface. She churned, bewildered by the darkness. Which way was up?

The blackness pressed in on her and terror gripped her chest. She could never be alone in the dark, never. The air in her lungs squeezed for release. She had to let it go. Bubble by bubble it bruised its way down her throat and through her lips. Her body went limp. Her consciousness swirled like tub water spiraling down the drain. In one last effort, she clawed at the ocean, willing herself not to breathe in.

Her head broke the surface, and she gasped at the air. Oxygen burned the lining of her throat and lungs like iodine on a raw sore. She choked and wheezed and coughed up seawater until finally she could breathe.

The boat. Where was it? She twisted one way, then the other, until she saw it, a smudge against the stars as it sped away from her.


  1. I had a problem imagining a character trying to get her clothes on first when faced with the emergency of falling backwards into the ocean. Especially because she seems to be deep enough to have lost spatial orientation and is low on air. Maybe she can find the articles floating after she surfaces and starts screaming. Otherwise the concept is terrific.

  2. There's tons of danger here and, for the most part, it's conveyed really well. But like DCS, I'm distracted by her trying to pull on her shorts. She has a lot more to be concerned about.

    Also, try not using the word "suddenly". It's a crutch word, and you don't need to use it. As a reader, I want to see her fall, not be told.

    Great snippet! Good luck.

  3. Other than the use of "suddenly, she fell", which I don't think you need at all, I really like the tension in this piece. The microsecond of falling, tough, I think would seem longer.

    One last thing,

    "Bubble by bubble it bruised its way down her throat..."

    Wouldn't the air bubbles be slipping up out of her throat?

    Other than that, good job.

  4. Agreed about the shorts... they would be very distractint since she's trying to swim, but "thrashing her legs" against them would be enough.

    Also regardless of what kind of boat this is there would be no hole; instead (and trust me, I've done this a lot) she would sit down on the transom (the stern) and slide her butt out over the edge if it's a small powerboat/outboard.

  5. Writing is stellar but there are logistical issues. I agree with the comments about the bubbles and pants--neither should go down! Why not pick another reason to lean over hole? Perhaps she is sea-sick! Also, don't make her body go limp and then talk about her consciousness--it reads as if she passed out. It's hard to imagine her one last effort after that.Maybe just say her body felt like it was ABOUT to go limp and her consciousness SEEMED to swirl...that way when she makes the last effort it doesn't seem unbelievable. By the way, I think it's refreshing to see a character go to the bathroom! Maybe not at this particular juncture, though!

  6. I'll echo Carol's comment about the hole in the stern. That's a logistic issue you simply must fix. It stopped me right there. If there's a hole in the stern, the boat is going to sink.