Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drop the Needle: EXPLOSIONS! #30

TITLE: The Con of War
GENRE: YA Science Fantasy

Domino is prisoner aboard Anturo's airship. The explosion is from his sister Yula, who was trying to protect their city from Anturo's army. Meka = mecha.

The second explosion was much bigger than the first. When the shockwave struck the airship, the gondola pitched backward, sending table and papers flying. The crew either grabbed hold of what they could or else fell to the floor.

When the gondola leveled out, every man rushed to the windows to see what had happened. They shared a suffocating silence of disbelief. Where once there'd been an army, there was now a wedge of scorched earth a kilo long on either side. Outlines of fallen horses and men dotted the outer edge. A few still moved farther from the blast, but inside the wedge there was nothing. Not bodies, not ash.


At the source of the explosion were a small round crater and the husks of two mekas. Even from here, Domino could see the meka that had fired the blast was different from the ones Anturo had brought with him.


He watched a long time, hoping the machine would move, or someone would emerge from it, but it was as dead as the army it had destroyed.

"You knew . . ." Anturo's words sounded a long way off.

Ko was supposed to help Yula. She was supposed to be okay.

From the same distance as Anturo's words came the metal scrape of a sword pulled from its sheath. Domino turned, but everything was blurred by tears. He recognized the sword over Anturo's head too late.

"You knew!" The sword swiped through the air. Domino shut his eyes, feeling a wind brush his cheek, hearing the sword strike his bones.


  1. Hi author. For me, this explosion loses power because it happens to 'all the men' rather than to Domino. He is physically present, isn't he? (it's hard to tell from this excerpt). If he's not, he's certainly too emotionally distant, but I took my cue from the suffocating silence that the men shared that he was, in fact, there (otherwise how would he know?)

    Which leads me to my next point; I feel like the line 'The second explosion was much bigger than the first' robs the explosion of immediacy. You're telling me it's bigger rather than showing me.

    And I think this would be greatly improved by engaging my sense of sound.

    Anyway, I did like this excerpt, so good work. I hope this critique helps.

  2. I like this!!

    But I want to see a more physical reaction from people. For example, at the end of the first paragraph, "The crew either grabbed hold of what they could or else fell to the floor." What sounds can our POV character hear? Thumps? Screams? Deafening ringing?

    Does the airship make any noise when it pitches backward? What about involving other senses, like scents and tastes?

    While the writing is clean and easy to read, I'd love to see those kinds of grounding details all throughout this.

  3. I was a little confused about the 'meka that had fired the blast was different from the ones Anturo had brought with him' line.

    It took me a moment to figure that it was a vehicle of some type. Maybe just saying it was different from the one Anturo rode in would help.

    I like the angry 'you knew'. Lines like that always get me.

  4. I also really enjoy his emotional reaction to the implications of the explosion. But I feel like he's recovered too quickly. I don't get the sense of chaos that an explosion needs.

    The whole second explosion begins and ends before we really get a sense of what is going on. Were the men expecting a second explosion? Was the main character? Did the pitch of the gondola surprise him?

    We don't get any physical or emotional reaction to the actual explosion from him.

  5. I was confused about the gondola part because gondola's travel on water. I agree that more reaction is needed from the main character. The premise is intriguing though. Is it a steampunk SF? I caught the reference to airship and wondered.

  6. "the gondola pitched backward" - great working verb there; concise imagery

    I'd like to get a bit more of Domino's reactions--does he feel the impact against his chest? A scorching blast of air?

    I'd definitely read more of this.

  7. This worked for me right up to the end. But then, the agony of being stricken by a sword would trump the sounds by far. Is Anturo also a meka, then? Would there be emotion where there is no sense of touch?

  8. This is such a cool idea, and I'm totally into the emotion of it by the end. There were some weak bits that failed to grab me early in.

    "The crew either grabbed hold of what they could or else fell to the floor."

    That sentence could be used to describe a tea party. Way too bland and passive for the atmosphere you want here.

    "A few still moved farther from the blast,"

    Same as above. I bet they were doing more than "moving further." They were probably freaking the mess out, or stumbling away wounded, or trying to drag away wounded comrades. For the tension you want here, either make it more visual and active or cut it.

    "When the gondola leveled out, every man rushed to the windows to see what had happened. They shared a suffocating silence of disbelief. "

    I haven't read enough to know what exact POV this is, whether it's limited or omniscient, but if this is a limited POV, we're in Domino's head, then that's a break in POV. And it's less powerful to boot. Show us the main character in this bit of action, filter the images and impressions through his lens and then it will feel more real to the individual reading it, too.

    Good luck with this. Robots and swords. I'm in love.

  9. I believe in this sentence "were" should be "was." The subject of the sentence is "The source," which is singular.

    "At the source of the explosion WAS a small round crater and the husks of two mekas."

  10. Leah said nearly everything I wanted to say. I would just add that the tension between Anturo and Domino was really strong at the end, but the explosion itself was a little bland, for all the reasons that have been mentioned.

    Also, describing the wedge as a "kilo" long struck me as odd. "Kilo" usually signifies weight. "Kilometer" or "klick" might be more easily understood.

  11. I like the image in the first paragraph, but I wonder if you could increase the tension (perhaps by splitting the sentence?) on the last sentence in the paragraph.

    I agree with Vicorva-- perhaps Domino should be the one to rush to the window, rather than every man. If you could show this with a focus on the protagonist, it might draw the reader in more. After that, the reading picks up and holds my attention.

    Is there another way you can convey "he watched a long time" ?

    I'm a little confused by the end of the section, and I think part of it is coming from the "Anturo's words sounded a long way off." How far is it? What exactly is the revelation? (This might be more obvious had I read the story before this scene). At the moment I'm assuming there is a betrayal?

    Overall, sounds like an interesting concept. Good luck with it. :-)

  12. I thought you did an excellent job with the ending. I actually felt pulled in when the MC got beheaded...the detail was amazing. But I thought the beginning was a little flat. I did get the idea of the nothingness you described, but I felt like I was watching it from afar. I didn't feel involved until the end. Can you bring the tension and emotion from the end into the beginning? I think that would really strengthen things. But I am intrigued by the concept you have going here =)

  13. Hi! I got the emotion towards the middle and end. That was good, especially how you punctuated longer descriptions with "Nothing" and "Yula" and tears, so we could GET the "dead" feeling.


    The explosion itself, and its drama, is really dumbed down by "too much purple." Your second sentence, for example, would be much more powerful split into three sentences. Bam Bam Bam--shockwave, gondola pitching, papers and table flying, each three separate sentences. Your third sentence is a bit clunky with all the either/or. Make action sentences short. Choppy. Intense. We want to feel the explosion, and we'll feel it not by watching the crew grabbing hold, but by feeling the shock in the punctuation. Crew members flailed for hand-holds. Some swung from the controls. Some tumbled over the floor. But it's better if you can make it more specific, so Domino flailed around for a hand-hold. Arturo tumbled to the floor. Name names. We don't care much about the generalized "crew."

    So: shorter sentences, more specifics?