Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drop the Needle: EXPLOSIONS! #27

TITLE: Overland
GENRE: YA International Thriller

Teenagers Tana and Obax live at a secret research institute in the Andes, but today have ventured to a nearby mountain village on an errand. The institute usually gets a monthly supply drop by plane, which Tana believes she is witnessing from the village.

I glance up in time to see the plane bank in an arc overhead and double back toward the Institute. Strange; it must have missed its drop target the first time. As it cuts around the promontory and disappears, I try to recall whether I’ve ever seen a supply plane fly over twice before. I’ve watched a fair few of them do their drops from the Obs window, and I can’t remember ever seeing one circle back like this.

Also, I realize with a jolt, I’ve never seen a silver one before. Our supply planes have always been black.

Something isn’t right.

I break into a sprint toward the boulders, shouting for Obax. I try to listen for the sound of her calling back, but all I can hear now is the plane’s drone and the whistle of the wind—and then, moments later, a different kind of whistle.

The ground shudders underneath me as the bomb hits, the boom of the explosion echoing over and over through the mountains. My feet stumble and I find myself on my knees in the damp pasture, looking up at the too-blue sky as a thick plume of fire and smoke rises over the crests of the hills. The hills that, until today, have kept our home so well hidden from outsiders.

“NO!” I feel the scream burst from my throat, but I can’t hear it.

14 comments:

  1. Wow... The last line really cinches it for me. So many people forget that a big explosion can make your ears ring so badly you hear nothing. Sometimes it lasts for a while.

    Well done.

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  2. I had a hard time trying to imagine why the MC would be watching this plane so intently. It was a routine part of her life. We tend to ignore things that are routine. And only after watching something that she should have ignored does she realize something is amiss.

    I would suggest either finding a way for her to casually notice the plane, and realize something is wrong *before* she spends so much time staring at it. Or give her a reason (maybe an anticipated package in today's delivery? or a cute pilot?) to be paying special attention to the plane.

    Once the actual explosion hits, the scene becomes much more real. Good luck!

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  3. Ooo, this is cool!

    Keep in mind that you're in first person and present tense, though. This is the deepest point of view there is! So saying things like "I realize" and "I can hear" is unnecessary. If there's a revelation or a sound, of course it comes from Tana. She's the only one it could come from. Omitting needless phrases like that will help tighten up your writing and ground the reader more firmly into Tana's point of view.

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  4. One thing that I know from being near actual bomb explosions is that, even from half a mile, they hit you in the chest like a fist. I always look for that when a bomb is dropped nearby.

    The narrative has chosen some great details here and done a great job of showing the stakes and circumstance without a lot of telling.

    I'm definitely engaged and ready to read more :)

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  5. From just the little I've read, I already really like this story. And an international thriller? There are ZERO of those on the market. Whoop. =D

    Anyway, onto the critique. This portion of the line "I've watched a fair few of them do their drops..." reads a bit strange to me. I don't think the pairing of "fair few" really works. Perhaps just taking out the word "fair" would be better, or substituting it for something else to make us understand she's seen a few planes (as I'm assuming that's the point you're driving across).

    The next thing I would consider changing is how she observes it's color. Rather than telling us that it is silver, and that the others are typically black, how about have her wonder if they've ever been silver before. Maybe the silver flashes sun in her eyes, and that's what makes her realize its color is not correct. Then, not only would we get a sense of the weather, we would also feel foreboding that is stronger when we feel it through the character herself.

    The next line I had an issue with was "I try to listen for the sound of her calling back..." It doesn't read smoothly. You can't really "try to listen." You either can or you can't. So maybe instead you could put something along the lines of "I try to pick up her voice" or "I wait for a reply that never comes" or something similar to that.

    The part with the "different kind of whistle" is good, but maybe instead of those four words you have "a scream replaces the whistle." That's more a personal preference, since I don't like using the same words in the same sentence (whistle and whistle), and I think the scream would add more oomph to the fear of a bomb dropping.

    Other than those few things (which don't really have anything to do with the explosion itself...sorry about that) I think this is a great scene. It leaves us feeling worry about what that bomb hit. Nicely done.

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  6. You've done a great job showing the surprise element of the explosion at the same time building tension. What I'm missing is more imagery. Engage all my senses in that 'The ground shudders' paragraph...

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  7. I found the first paragraph a little repetitive. The plane doubles back - whether I've seen a plane fly over twice before - I can't remember ever seeing one circle back. You've told me the same thing three different ways.

    Also, I'm not sure I find it believable that a circling plane and a different colour would be enough to make me "Break into a print towards the boulders" Unless Tana tends to be paranoid (and I can't tell this from an excerpt) I don't think this is a realistic response. I think you could cut this whole sprinting, calling Obax and listening for her response and not lose anything from the story line.

    I liked the drone of the plane and the whistle of the wind, but like Kat above, I'd chose something like scream rather than repeat whistle in the same sentence.

    I'm not sure if it's just me - but I prefer "the ground shudders beneath me" for some reason. Underneath read awkwardly. I liked the boom echoing through the mountains, but would have liked something more physical than "my feet stumble" to show the impact of the blast.

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  8. I really like this idea and how you've done it. Some tightening will make it really cool.

    "I glance up in time to see the plane bank in an arc overhead and double back toward the Institute. Strange; it must have missed its drop target the first time. As it cuts around the promontory and disappears, I try to recall whether I’ve ever seen a supply plane fly over twice before. I’ve watched a fair few of them do their drops from the Obs window, and I can’t remember ever seeing one circle back like this.


    Also, I realize with a jolt, I’ve never seen a silver one before. Our supply planes have always been black."

    Those two paragraphs tell us one thing. Trim that down so it doesn't slow the pace.

    "Something isn’t right."

    I'm usually of two minds about stuff like this. It can be a great way to manage pace and atmosphere, even create characterization. Or it can just be filler, telling, and repetitious. Following those first two paragraphs, it feels like the latter. You'll have to judge how it works in any edits, but try cutting it out and see how it works without it. You may like it better.

    "I try to listen for the sound of her calling back"

    This is a really small point that is a big deal in action scenes. "I try". Don't try. Do. [channels Yoda.] In action scenes be definite, no qualifiers. Wishy-washy isn't intense.

    "and then, moments later, a different kind of whistle.

    The ground shudders underneath me as the bomb hits,"

    That could definitely be more powerful. How is the whistle different? Don't even say it's different, just describe it. We'll catch on. Make us as afraid of it as she is.

    Also, I was thinking that, whistled aside, she's pretty definite about identifying it as a bomb. Is that something she has reason to know and be sure about, since she hasn't seen it, only heard it?

    I love what you're trying to do with the last sentence, but "I feel" is a weak, telling way to say it. Show HOW she feels it, contrasted with the fact that she can't hear it. That would rock.

    Good luck with this!

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  9. I wonder if there's any way you can reword "I glance up in time" so that we sense what she's looking at without the verb glance pulling us from the character's head.

    I'd consider cutting "Also, I realize with a jolt" and see if you can give the protagonist a physical reaction to seal their feelings. That, or cut that and go straight to "I've never seen a silver one before..." to signal the sudden thought.

    I like the separation of "Something isn't right" from the other paragraphs.

    I'm not a fan of "moments later," but that may be a personal preference. I do like the reference of the whistle.

    I like the description in the last large paragraph, though I'm wondering if you could split sentences/rephrase them for a more punchy speed of reading, while keeping the descriptors.

    Not sure I like the "No!" written in scream (even when writing, I have a hard time deciding whether it sounds too cheesy or not), but I do like the end sentence.

    Overall, the scene is interesting. It kept my attention. I'm curious as to what the rest of the story is about, since not a lot has really made it feel individually distinguished from other stories to me, but that may be a result of selecting such a short scene.

    Good luck with it. :-)

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  10. I like your explosion and the situation you have here, although I wish I had more background to tell me why she assumes something is so wrong with the plane. I want to know what's going on in this secret place.

    I do feel like you have too much filtering going on, however. When you use too many words such as "I felt" or "I saw", you are distancing me from the action. I want to be the one feeling and seeing, if that makes sense.

    The only other issue I have with it is the response to the explosion itself. If she was close enough to be temporarily deafened by the blast, it would have caused her to do more than stumble, I think. I would have expected her to be blown off her feet, actually.

    But I do like this set-up and the scene made sense to me.

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  11. There's a difference between a supply plane and a plane that delivers weaponized charges. A supply plane is bigger and clunkier. A plane that can turn the way you describe is probably carrying missiles not bombs and is going to be recognizable by more than color. A plane that drops bombs will do some from quite high and not be within her sight necessarily and therefore, not able to be shot down. In this community are there not radar warnings?
    What you have is interesting but accuracy needs to checked to add to the authenticity of the scene.

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  12. I like it!
    Maybe it could benefit from a little more internalisation, perhaps anticipation of some goodies in the drop-- anything to justify why she is as entranced by a routine event as that.
    I agree with the previous commnetators who made some points about tightening the language. Any time a protag uses a phrase like "I can see/hear/feel/sense..." it is actually a "tell". If you want to turn your tells into shows, do a search for any of those terms and change it so that, when you are deep in the POV it is apparent that the MC is seeing/feeling those sensations.
    Despite these suggestions, i think it's already strong as is. Good job.

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  13. Absorbing excerpt. I can easily visualize the scene. I agree with some comments, the “I ...” and “My…”s pile up pretty fast, but nothing a good edit scrub can’t remedy. Overall though, a nice pace and the paragraphs are constructed nicely.

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