Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drop the Needle: EXPLOSIONS! #16

TITLE: The War of the Worlds and Fairies
GENRE: Science Fiction

In this mashup of The War of the Worlds, ASHLEY is a fairy who has grown to human size. She and her friend VIOLET are fleeing to the Thames, accompanied by an artilleryman named CUTTER. They passed some artillery guns on the way.


The ground heaved under my feet.

My wings stirred beneath my blouse, an instinctive reaction to keep my balance. I grabbed someone I thought was Cutter, and that’s how I’m sure of my memory—the vibration through solid ground arrived before the huge explosion that boomed through the air a heartbeat later.

Violet had latched onto Cutter with both hands, fingernails digging in. I looked at the man I had mistakenly grabbed and hoped he hadn’t noticed any stirring beneath my clothes. “I beg your pardon.”

“There they are!” The man pointed. He wore a nice knitted vest, otherwise I could have thought of him as a whaler in Moby Dick spotting a pod of whales, his voice carried so. “Yonder! D’you see? Yonder, yonder!”

Ascending above the treetops, a great cloud of black smoke stained the blue sky—not from normal cannon fire, more like what happened to Cutter when all the powder went off at once and destroyed his gun. Now Cutter himself looked back, his face frozen in anxiety—except for a nervous tic that passed over his left eye.

“Oh heavens!” My hands clawed the air. “All those men—their guns!”

Below the black cloud, through flat meadows and trees that now looked small, a cowled figure strode in a rolling motion. Glittering in the sun, it was a Martian war machine approaching the river. Approaching us.

11 comments:

  1. I like the language, (yonder, oh heavens), it sounds different and old (in a good way). I also really liked the use of her wings, thought I was a little confused how they could stay under her blouse undetected. Is she wearing a jacket?

    While I like the descriptions of the smoke, you might want to consider shorter sentences, or going from long to short sentences, to increase the tension.

    Good luck :)

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  2. "I grabbed someone I thought was Cutter, and that’s how I’m sure of my memory—the vibration through solid ground arrived before the huge explosion that boomed through the air a heartbeat later."

    This sentence really threw me. I think maybe change the emdash to a full period.

    I had a little trouble following the excerpt. I realize a reader would have been in your story for a while , and already familiar with the characters.

    I really like the description of the man yelling "There they are!" but I would just concentrate on his voice and snip the part about what he's wearing.

    The ending of the snippet really builds tension well.

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  3. "There they are!" The man pointed. He wore a nice knitted vest, otherwise I could have mistaken him as a whaler in Moby Dick spotting a pod of whales, his voice carried so.

    So . . . avoiding snarky comments about fashion critiques in the middle of a crisis, let me say that this needs tightening.

    LOVE "The vibration through solid ground arrived before the explosion that boomed through the air a heartbeat later."

    Question: was there some question as to the validity of her memories? I understand that this is a snippet and that issue might be addressed elsewhere, I was just wondering b/c it was such an odd statement.

    Thank you for sharing. Great dialect, good descriptions.

    -MommyMagic

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  4. One-- I like the concept. I was curious from your description, and when I read "Martian war machine" I think I kind of smiled all giddy-like.

    Two-- The voice is great. It carried me through the whole piece, and not a lot really jarred me out of reading.

    The only thing I really didn't like was the use of "had," especially in the first couple paragraphs. However... it does give the feeling we are being told the story after the fact, and the style isn't necessarily a bad thing. The main thing I see here is the "Violet had latched onto Cutter..." "I had mistakenly grabbed..." I don't know that "had" is necessary, since its already in past tense.

    Might be something to toy with at see what others think.

    Overall, though, I would keep reading, at least a bit further to see what's going to happen. Good luck with this, it sounds promising. :-)

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  5. I'm unsure what a martian war machine should look like. I think that would be a very important moment and deserves a good amount of attention.

    I'm also murky concerning its distance and what's going on with the briefly mentioned soldiers, who are probably (hopefully) being eviscerated in some horrible alien way.

    Those bits of plot, which have been given significance here, need a few well chosen details to help sharpen the imagery and hold me in this new reality.

    Voice is wonderful, excluding a couple constructed oddly sentences here or there. I'd read on just because it's so engaging.

    The premise also piqued and I'd read on for that too.

    I'd also read on for a knitted sweater that reminds of Moby Dick.

    I'd read on.

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  6. Oh, I love, love, love this idea, and it's already good with a few things holding it back from being great.

    "I grabbed someone I thought was Cutter, and that’s how I’m sure of my memory—the vibration through solid ground arrived before the huge explosion that boomed through the air a heartbeat later."

    I have no idea what that means, though one piece of it--"that's how I'm sure of my memory--is so frickin intriguing I want to love this whole thing just for that.

    It wouldn't hurt anything to just say she grabbed Cutter and then reveal later that it wasn't him when she looks at him. You really don't want to waste words in an action scene.

    This is another example of that:


    "My wings stirred beneath my blouse, an instinctive reaction to keep my balance."

    I bet by now the reader knows she wouldn't be working her wings on purpose, so the majority of that sentence is just filler and slows the pace.

    I love the idea of: "He wore a nice knitted vest, otherwise I could have thought of him as a whaler in Moby Dick spotting a pod of whales"

    But it confused me. I'd love to think you could save that sentiment there, and maybe with this character and this voice you can. The thing that confused me was the knitted vest and then "otherwise." Isn't a fisherman in a knitted sweater almost a cliche image? The mention like that makes me more likely to think he's been plucked straight out of Moby Dick, not less.

    As much as I like that image, it's one of many asides in here. If you parsed it out, I bet you'd find there are more non-current-action sentences in this than action-in-the-moment ones. If you want an active, intense scene, ones that "hands clawed the air" can fit into, save all the asides for a different place, and consolidate the action as it's happening.

    I'd love to see this go somewhere, it's a great idea with great characters. Good luck!

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  7. I was confused by this sentence " I grabbed someone I thought was Cutter, and that’s how I’m sure of my memory" It felt like a word or two might have been left out. Loved the second half of the sentence "the vibration through solid ground arrived before the huge explosion that boomed through the air a heartbeat later." Towards the end, I wondered if the cowled figure was the Martian war machine. I like the feel of the language in this snippet.

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  8. This is very interesting! I like the voice a lot.

    One option with the confusion over who's latching to who would be to allow the narration to be closer than it is. If the narrator thinks she's grabbing Cutter and only realizes her mistake after she sees Violet, then you can show that ("I grabbed cutter. Vibrations through the ground. Oh crap, no, Violet's holding Cutter.").

    Another way to get around some extra wordiness in an action scene is to look at putting important information first. Consider: "The man pointed. His voice carried so loudly that--if it hadn't been for his knitted vest--I would have suspect him to be Ahab spotting a whale."

    Great job and keep writing!

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  9. Great idea!

    This:

    I grabbed someone I thought was Cutter, and that’s how I’m sure of my memory—the vibration through solid ground arrived before the huge explosion that boomed through the air a heartbeat later.

    .....is unclear. I had to read it twice.

    Maybe if you said, "and that's how I'm sure what happened next" -- or something. But this definitely isn't clear.

    This:

    "Violet had latched onto Cutter with both hands, fingernails digging in."

    This is a POV error. Only Cutter would be aware of Violet's fingernails digging in.

    As for the actual explosion? I kind of missed it. I guess the ground heaving under her feet was it...and I'm thinking this would stand out more in the context of the entire chapter. I actually had to go back and figure out where the actual explosion happened.

    And finally, there's something awkward about this sentence:

    "Glittering in the sun, it was a Martian war machine approaching the river."

    Technically, it's grammatically correct, but it just reads awkwardly.

    Something tells me you've got a great story here!

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  10. Very engaging. I like the tension. And clever touches, like: “My wings stirred beneath my blouse, an instinctive reaction to keep my balance.” I’m a bit disoriented (who is the other man, where are they exactly) but that’s more a product on the word limit.
    I think you can edit this line so it’s less tell: Now Cutter himself looked back, his face frozen in anxiety—except for a nervous tic that passed over his left eye.
    i.e. Cutter looked back, his eye twitching. I’d seen it before- a nervous tic.

    This is a great line: Below the black cloud, through flat meadows and trees that now looked small, a cowled figure strode in a rolling motion – but I think something more descriptive than “figure” would work better.
    Good stuff!

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