Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drop the Needle: EXPLOSIONS! #1

TITLE: Beyond The River
GENRE: Literary Fiction

Dean is the novel's antagonist. Here, the summer before college, he is working on a crew that fixes gas leaks. Clyde, his supervisor, used to work with Dean’s father, Ralph "Sas" Romanuski. Clyde tells Dean stories about his father. A T-bar is used to locate gas lines.

“So, what about him getting fried?” Dean asked.

“Your Pa couldn’t find the shut off for the mall. After trying, too, I said, ‘Piss on it, they ain’t gonna dig here anyway.’ But he blind-probed a short bar and when he couldn’t find nothing, he pulled out the six-footer. Down deep, he came up against something. He pulled up and pushed down. ‘Tree root,’ he said. Didn’t sound right to me, but I kept my mouth shut. No use arguing with him about his predictions.

“Next thing I know, he jumps and all his weight come down on that bar. Then came a loud-a** boom.” Clyde waved Dean off the cooler. He squatted and sat. “First I see the t-bar swaying back and forth like it’s alive. Then I see Sas, fifteen feet away, flat on his back. Next thing I know I’m radioing dispatch, screaming, ‘Send an ambulance; Romanuski done hit electric!’”

“Holy s***,” Dean said. His father, the enigma. Tragedy, the kind that might bond a family, the kind that might produce compassion and elicit understanding, hadn’t been shared or examined. His father never said a word about any of this.

“When the ambulance finally pulled up, the medic asked, ‘Where’s the body?’ figuring all the voltage had done him in. I pointed to the back of the truck. Sas sat there on the bumper, calm as could be, sucking a cigarette. His eyes were bloodshot and I couldn’t tell whether the smoke around his head was from the cigarette or his hair.”


  1. I love the last line of this entry. :)

    Clyde has a great voice here--I like the way he tells the story. And Dean's reflection about family bonding (or lack thereof) after hearing it is really interesting. I got a little lost in the technical details, but depending on where this scene falls in the book, maybe the reader would already understand what blind-probing is. (I also wondered whether the command "Piss on it" meant Sas should let it go, or should actually urinate on something.)

    It's always nice to see literary fiction on this blog! Good luck with the project.

  2. Love the voice! The last line is great! However, this one phrase didn't seem to fit: "After trying, too, I said..." Maybe: "I tried, too, then said,...

    "...pulled out the six-footer" was a bit confusing. He's poking around with the short bar, so when you said "pulled out" I thought that's what he was pulling out of the hole. But I think you mean he got out a bigger probe??

    Think you could put the action tag in the 4th paragraph in a paragraph of its own to set it apart from the story Clyde's telling. (Clyde waved Dean off the cooler. He squatted and sat.)

    Maybe tag the last paragraph. It's obviously Clyde, but Dean's thoughts were the last thing in the previous paragraph.

    Really nice job!

  3. Definitly agree with the great voice from Clyde. Admittedly, I'm not much of a fan of literary fiction, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

    The voice keeps me hooked. I like the surprise at the end, and I think I would have kept reading further at that point if more had been available.

    For me the beginning felt a bit wordy. I think it's this: "Down deep, he came up against something. He pulled up and pushed down."

    But... upon looking at it again, I think it may work fine as a product of voice.

    The main thing that jarred me out of the story was "Clyde waved Dean off the cooler. He squatted and sat." I think's it's because we were in Clyde's voice, but that may not be a problem if the earlier section had been from Dean's point of view. The other thing is the sentences felt like they have the same cadence to them, so they sounded repetitious. Might've just been the way I was reading them.

    Anyways, good luck with this. I enjoyed the characterization present regarding Clyde's voice and how Sas comes across at the end as non-chalant. :-)

  4. I like the voice too but got a little lost in the technical details. Hopefully this would be after the terms are explained earlier.

  5. I'm impressed by how dramatic you made the explosion, even though it is recounted second-hand, and apparently years after the event.

    Clyde had a great voice, but like MM, I thought the "After trying" line was a slip in diction.

    I liked the technical details. Even though I didn't understand everything, they added authenticity.

    Good job!

  6. I like the visuals here and your use of dialect in the characters. The scene kept my attention, but I felt like it was a bit wordy in places. Esp. here: "Tragedy, the kind that might bond a family, the kind that might produce compassion and elicit understanding, hadn’t been shared or examined. His father never said a word about any of this." I know what you're trying to convey, that this kid is just learning this, but I think you can get across in fewer words.

    But overall, I found the writing to be strong and the scene was very catching, if you will.

  7. I love the last two sentences. Great imagery! The voice is strong throughout, but I struggled with the technical descriptions. "But he blind-probed a short bar and when he couldn't find nothing, he pulled out the six-footer" - that sentence stopped me pretty cold. Even if you just cut the first half and went with "He pulled out the six-footer and probed deep down, coming up against something," would be a better for me. The fact Dean is discovering his dad through Clyde's stories is a nice touch. Enjoyed this!

  8. I like this scene, especially the voice of Clyde and the reflections of the young man. I could see the actions playing out by your descriptive word choices. I especially like the last sentence.

    The only thing that brought me up short, however, was that same line. Since I was dropped into the middle of the story, I assumed his father was dead from the beginning remarks about how his father was fried. I realize that wouldn't be a problem if I had the earlier sections of the book, so it's no big deal here.

  9. I like this bit of reality I can totally picture within my world. Nice change. :)

    As a scene, this is already going to be less exciting because it's just someone telling someone else, but that may fit the tone of the novel, so let's go with it.

    The problem is, Clyde's dialogue is inconsistent. At times there's hints of dialect (which is good) and then it disappears, only to come back later. It not only makes it sound "off" to the reader, but you lose the sense of excitement he has in telling the story or the other guy has in hearing it. It brings the author back into the scene because sometimes it's clear you're the one telling the story, not Clyde. When he's specifically telling the story in dialogue you can't get away with that.

    "His father, the enigma. Tragedy, the kind that might bond a family, the kind that might produce compassion and elicit understanding, hadn’t been shared or examined."

    This, I know, is supposed to sound lyrical and lovely as fits a literary novel. But it doesn't come off. It's totally analytical and unemotional. He just heard this story that made him go SOME emotional.

    So this novel (or at least parts of it) are from the antagonist's POV? That could be interesting. It's hard to tell from such a small piece of the novel, but that's also more difficult to pull off, so you've gotta put us into the scenes and his head so well that we fell for and with him. Otherwise he's just some jerk we're following around.

    Good luck!

  10. I thought this was well-written, and Clyde's voice feels genuine.

    The 2nd last parg. seemed off to me. Dean, it seems, is 18, and the language you use in that parg. doesn't seem like it would come from an 18 year old kid. It feels too sophisticated. Perhaps say the same thing using words an 18 year old kid with Dean's background would use.

  11. I feel like I'm reading an already published novel. I like the tone, the voice and I didn't find any hiccups to comment on in this section. I think this is a good use of an explosion for the kind of story I feel you have going on.