Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Drop the Needle: Death #30

TITLE: Dead Ringer
GENRE: YA Suspense/Thriller

Sixteen-year-old Kae returns from an evening run to find her house on fire and foster mother dead. Nate is her foster brother.

Dizzy with smoke inhalation, Kae ran back to the kitchen, covering her mouth. Her mind and eyes raced, until the sight of a large, dripping stain on the kitchen counter brought the situation back into focus. What the hell was that? Heart pounding from the run and fear, she fell to her knees and began to crawl forward. The substance had spread to the floor and was smeared by a large shoe imprint. Her hand reached out, quivering. It was dark red and sticky.

Inner voices battled:

What happened here? What's happening?
Dammit, get out you stupid idiot! Get out!
Shut up. Get Nate.

She grabbed the sharpest knife in the kitchen, the one Claire used for hacking at chicken carcasses to make soup stock, and turned the corner. One hand gripping the blade's handle, she crept up the stairs like a twitching cat. Every muscle tensed at the sickly-sweet stench filling the second floor hallway. Panic and smoke started to threaten her consciousness, and she pinched her left thigh hard and deep.

Get Nate.

Claire's room was first. The bedsheets were rumpled, but the room was empty... wait. Feet. The mauve toenails were unmistakable. Trembling, Kae forced herself to the other side of the bed. The knife dropped silently to the ground at the grisly scene. She leaned down to get it, unable to tear her eyes away from the murdered woman she'd come to love like a mother.

Kae backed away from the body, shaking her head back and forth. Warm urine ran down her leg.


  1. I'm hooked, for sure, though it's a bit extreme for my usual tastes. I am confused about the blood being downstairs in the kitchen and the murdered woman upstairs...

  2. Very intense - and I'm sure the blood downstairs will be explained in good time. The details here were great, and the pace moved along quickly. I'm hooked. :)

  3. This is a very intense scene. Sometimes this sort of intensity does better if the description of the POV character's physical sensations are kept to a minimum - meaning the right description of Kae's sensations in key places. Otherwise the scene becomes diluted and these sensations actually do the opposite of what you're going for.

    There are lots of cliches here:

    Her mind and eyes raced..., Heart pounding..., Her hand reached out..., Every muscle tensed..., unable to tear her eyes away...

    My advice is to kill those and find your own unique way to say it.

    Good luck with this.

  4. Good scene.

    Soemthing terrible is happening here. I like the kithcen knife and its purpose (for soup stock)...Good. Then comes the blood. Why is she crawling on the floor to look at the blood?

    Once upstairs, "The knife dropped (silently?) to the (ground? Floor? Carpet?) at the grisly scene. A better impact if the knife does not fall "silently."

    Kae backed away from the body, (shaking her head back and forth.... I WOULD TAKE THIS OUT. HAVING HER PEE IN HER PANTS AS SHE BACKS OUT OF THE ROOM, GIVES A BETTER IMPACT ON THIS READER) Warm urine ran down her leg.

    Good luck!

  5. I like this right off.

    I agree with Moonette about saying it in your own way. I found the scene very driven and I felt the urgency and I was already disturbed (fire is a real phobia for me) but it would be even more terrifying if you found a way to say it differently. Not way different, just different enough to make it you own. And you can, this writing proves that.

    I also agree with Henya. Peeing your pants is the most brutally blatant way to portray devastation that's incompatible with typical processes of thought. You don't need the 'backing away, refusing to believe what you're seeing' bit to prove how galvanized Kae is by her discovery.

    My only other quibble is the question of who the 'Inner voices' are. They, it, don't belong to Nate because they're telling Kae to go find Nate. So who are they?

  6. Thanks for all the wonderful feedback-this gives me an excellent place to start in revising the rest of the manuscript too. I agree with everyone's comments, and am excited to improve the scene!

    A. Grey--the inner voices are Kae's--her fear, common sense, and instinct to save Nate are having a little argument. It came across as awkwardly-phrased; thanks for pointing it out :)

  7. This is intense and definitely hooked me. I would find a smoother way to incorporate her thoughts without the tag :inner voices battled. Since there is a fire, I would also like to see more smoke--her vision shouldn't be so clear.

  8. The tag, inner voices battled, also stopped me. I didn't think it was necessary and took the tension out of the moment for me.
    I also wondered about the crawling bit. There's a lot of dropping to your knees in YA fiction at the moment, and it's a pet peeve of mine.
    But great job. It'll be an intense piece of work for sure!