Wednesday, December 16, 2009

42 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Dyeing to See You
GENRE: Urban fantasy

A witch has trapped Karie, a college student, with a spell and is ripping her soul from her body so the witch can use Karie's body for herself.

The witch raised the knife high above her head and said more words Karie didn't understand.

No! No, she said she wouldn't stab me with it. Oh God, what's happening? Help me, somebody. Please! The panic broke into her smoke hazed brain. Karie would have sobbed if she had control over her body. She watched the knife descend in an arc in the witch's hands. Karie braced herself for the pain which never came.

Karie's head was still fuzzy and the sight of the knife protruding from the witch's stomach really confused her. Uh, Okay, did she miss? Karie hoped the witch's hold over her body would break when the witch stabbed herself, but was disappointed when she still couldn't move.

The witch dragged the knife from one side to the other. She chanted while coating her hands in the gore coming from the wound.

Karie felt a horrible ripping sensation which grew stronger as the witch chanted. Please, oh God, please, it hurts. Stop, make it stop! She tried to scream but it echoed only in her mind.

The witch took her stained hands and rubbed blood on Karie forehead, hands and feet. As she finished her chant she clasped Karie's necklace with both hands. There was a flash of blackness as Karie felt like her body was being ripped apart. The pain increased until she could no longer form a coherent thought. She screamed in mindless terror.


  1. Ewww! If that's my reaction, this passage works pretty well.

    A few things tripped me up: "broke into her smoke hazed brain" didn't work for me. I pictured the panic breaking into her skull like a thief.

    "the knife protruding from the witch's stomach really confused her. Uh, Okay, did she miss?" I'd cut really, and Uh, Okay, since they take away from the drama ... and "Uh, Okay" sounds like of like a sarcastic teenager, and you don't want that in the middle of an action sequence.

  2. Wow, some creepy stuff in here!

    But I think there's a lot you could do to up the tension. One is to drop the internal dialogue. You're using it to drag the reader deeper into your MC's head, but I'm afraid it's doing the opposite of what you intended by reminding me that I'm reading about her, not already in her head. I've seen internal dialogue used for good, but too often it seems like a crutch. I bet if you look at every place you use it and try to replace it with narrative, you'll find your writing is a lot stronger.

    The other thing that kept me from really feeling like I was in this scene was the distancing verbs. "She felt" "She heard". That sort of thing. We're already in her POV, so there's no need for a reminder. If something's being felt or heard, the reader already knows she's the one doing the feeling and hearing.

  3. Vivid, really vivid things going on here.

    Each time the MC has inner monologue, I'me sort of jerked out of the scene. Something about her syntax and the cadence of her inner voice make her sound very young, younger than college age. For example, I wouldn't have thought a college age student's initial reaction to seeing a person commit seppuku would be "Uh, okay..."

    I think that there are other ways you could describe how she's experiencing each moment as the scene progresses that could pull the tension even tighter. What does your MC see in the witch's eyes or facial expression, how does the blood feel smeared on her skin? what does the MC smell?

  4. What you have here is a great scene, and you're rushing it. Slow down and quit telling us the story and start showing it to us. She put blood on 'forehead, hands and feet.'

    Really? That's such a great place to put more gory detail. She rubbed it on the forehead, slowly worked her way to the hands, you have words like crimson, dark, blood, sticky, metallic, thick, gooey... all sorts of fun words and adjectives here that are missing!

    I agree with others about the internal dialogue. I want to be in a character's head, but not really be in their thoughts. Generally, people don't think in complete sentences and it's more 'thought impressions', so internal dialogue never has rung true to me.

    Focus more on the picture, set up the scene better. I know you see it all in your head, but your reader won't see what you see. Give us enough to draw a great word picture, show us more and tell us less.

    Keep writing! You have a great rough draft here, so you're going to do just fine perfecting it!


  5. I'm confused about why Karie feels the witch's stab wound, but maybe that would be clearer in the actual manuscript...

    The italicized thoughts were distracting; there were just too many of them for it to be an effective motif. And the description of the ripping sensation in the last two paragraphs is a little repetitive.

    Also, there were a few little grammatical issues that pulled me out of the piece:

    1. "Her smoke hazed brain" would probably work better with a hyphen: "her smoke-hazed brain." (And now that I'm thinking about it, I'm wondering if that even makes sense, smoke-hazed. I understand what you mean, but it just doesn't sound right in my head.)

    2. The italicized okay in the third paragraph shouldn't be capitalized.

    Well, hope that helps. Good luck with this.

  6. Definitely a tense, creepy scene. I agree with other comments that you're better off toning down the internal monologue. Use sensory descriptions; details of what Karie hears, sees, even smells. It'll put the readers in the scene much more directly than the italicized thoughts.

  7. Very creepy. Me likey!
    I agree about the internal monologue, with the exception of the "oh God, what's happening" type things. I would like more descriptions of the witch - what she looks like, what is the expression on her face, so forth. One other quibble - I think you use the MC's name a bit too much. Karie braced, Karie's head, Karie hoped, etc. Don't be afraid to use pronouns.
    But even before you make these changes, the tension is awesome, and the sense of danger is strong. I really, really, like this.