Monday, January 28, 2013

Talkin' Heads #18

TITLE: Where There Were Deserts, I Saw Fountains
GENRE: (YA) Science Fiction

Joni and Kelly have just run away from a monster in the woods and have been found by Sierra, who they believe is a spy, but do not yet know that he is not of their world.


He shushed them and nervously pulled them away from the mob. He then spoke quickly.

“What are you doing here? What happened?”

“It was some kinda mammoth jaguar thing! It just tore through the forest!”

That was Kelly, relieved to find a familiar face.

“What are you doing here? What’s going on?”

That was Joni, suspicious at Sierra’s sudden appearance.

Sierra answered awkwardly, “We must leave this locale. The police may ask questions and I do not know what you will be able to tell them.”

“What was that thing?” Kelly whispered at Sierra.

“What did it look like?”

“Like a mess of trouble! Thirty feet tall, and shaggy with a flat tail. It took off sprinting through the trees!”

Sierra thought for a moment

“It might have been a pismire.”

“A pismire???” said Kelly.

“Yes, a high body with long legs? Herbivores, but very territorial, I believe.”

“What are you doing here, Sierra?” asked Joni, steering the conversation back to him.

“I was in the area when I detected the disturbance, but I could not determine its nature.”

“Why were you here?” Joni asked, red with anger. “What’s so special about this area? What’s your part in all this? Where’s Redpoll?”

“Redpoll? The woman you left with? I do not know. All I know is that there was an illicit operation of the AGA, and then you suddenly leave, and then a pismire shows up. Why did you use the machine?”


  1. Maybe "Did you use the machine?" for that last line instead of "Why did..." Simply because the 'why' is presumptious and somehow pricks the air out of the mystery hovering there...let the reader make the leap between the machine and the pismire.

  2. Careful with the use of exclamations. The "!?" together bumped me completely out of the story. Also the double exclamations later.

  3. As the above comment says, use only one punctuation mark. Someone either yells or asks, not both. Also, a little farther down you use three question marks, not necessary. Just one mark per sentence.

    And I'm not sure why you used "That was Kelly/Joni" in the first part of the scene. It pulls me from it. Why not just use "Kelly said".

    Last thing, when you have descriptions before a line of dialogue, but it's all the same character, it should be all in one paragraph. For example, the second and third paragraphs should be pulled together into one.

  4. I wondered about POV here. From the blurb, I got that it was either Joni or Kelli's story. The piece itself seems to be an omniscient POV with a narrator telling us everything. It's hard to tell because it is all dialogue. But I couldn't tell who your MC was in this excerpt.

    I agree with Danielle about the punctuation and the parg breaks. It was hard to tell who was speaking sometimes because of those broken paragraphs.

    This could be cleaned up a bit.

  5. I agree with Danielle about the punctuation and was also unsure why you used "That was Kelly/Joni" It jarred me out of the story.

    I also agree with Barbara about the POV. It wasn't clear to me who the MC was in this scene.

    Lastly, I felt the transition between the 4th & 5th para from the bottom could be a bit smoother. It jumps from one topic to the next abruptly. Consider adding a bit more internalization from Joni to show she's suspicious of Sierra.

  6. There's a lot of energy in this passage, and I thought you created a distinctive voice for Sierra, marking him as an outsider.

    I agree with all the comments above regarding punctuation, paragraphing and POV, and would add that you don't need to tell us in the opening lines that Kelly is relieved and Joni is suspicious; their dialogue speaks for itself. You might instead show some body language. For instance, Kelly might be taking deep breaths and Joni might be squinting at Sierra or making some other suspicious gesture.

    Finally, I thought the tense shift in the last para was out of character. People do sometimes mix tenses when speaking, but Sierra's dialogue up to that point has been quite formal and precise, as though he thinks about every word, so I would not expect him to casually shift from past to present tense.

  7. Thanks everyone for all the comments!

  8. I think the other commenters addressed some pretty good issues with this, I'd just like to add that I'm not sure where this scene takes place. Are they safe inside, discussing what happened? Or are they right in the middle of encountering this jaguar-like creature? Either location would add a different level of subtext to the scene. Just something to think about.