Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drop the Needle: EXPLOSIONS! #8

TITLE: Bright City, Grey City
GENRE: YA Dystopian

16-year-old Nonni lives in future LA, in a sector of the city policed by the FEC Corporation. On her way home, she witnesses an altercation between corporate security and a young man named Santos, who fires gunshots from the window of his three-story apartment building, resisting arrest.

The sleek, dark belly of the helo glides over my head. Engines silent, I hear only the wop-wop-wop of its blades. It stops above Santos’s building, hovering like a giant black bumble bee. The lurid colors of the FEC Corp logo gleam on its side. Three more people run out and are taken into custody by the trappers. Not Santos. Please come out, I think to myself.

A column of bright light flashes down on the building from the helo, encircling it in a nimbus of white. Gawkers closest to the scene rush backwards, panicking. Though I’m a good distance away, I involuntarily step back. I want to scream for Santos to run. But Santos knows what’s coming. If he surrenders, he’ll go to corp prison. I guess he’d rather die.

A concussion rents the air and I feel the suction in my eardrums. I duck down and cover my ears. The building erupts in a burst of light, so bright it dazzles me through my eyelids. A deep-throated boom vibrates in my chest and an expulsion of air, carrying specs of dust and debris, rams me hard. I hear breaking glass, cracking concrete, splintering wood. When I dare to look, the building where Santos and his family lived is now a tall column of livid red flame. Black smoke billows into the air. No other structure is damaged, because the nimbus of light contained the explosion, but Santos and anyone else inside his building are nothing but charred bones.


  1. I love the description of the wop-wop-wop of the helo blades, as well as the description of the explosion itself.

    I'd like to see a little more of the character's personality here, if possible. We get "Please come out, I think to myself," and I think that could be stronger.

    We don't see her thoughts after the explosion - I imagine she's pretty stunned - so I'm hoping the next paragraph includes her feelings and reactions to what has happened.

    "Concussion" threw me off. I was thinking of a head injury.

    The writing is very strong, especially the description, with the "lurid colors of the FEC logo gleam on its side," and "tall column of livid red flame." Lots of great lines here!

  2. Great description, your word choices create a very strong picture. There are a few I'd reconsider because they stopped me - concussion, dazzles - I was taken out trying to find their context. My only criticism is I would integrate more of the character's thoughts in this piece. Especially at the end. "No other structure is damaged" - from here on give us why she knows this and how it affects her. I think when you integrate the narrator more, this section will really pop. Great job.

  3. Good explosion scene! Well-written. I particularly liked "The building erupts in a burst of light, so bright it dazzles me through my eyelids." And the nimbus thing.

    The set-up was a bit confusing. It makes sense that Santos might hide out in the building after the altercation, but as written, it sounds like they were hollering/shooting back and forth between the street and the 3rd story window. Maybe they were.

    I'd attach "engines silent" to "the helo glides over my head." As is, "Engines silent" refers to the "I". Unless you put a "the" in front.

    Could "giant black bumble bee" be "giant black killer bee"? Bumblebees are so picture book cute.

    Could put "Please come out, I think to myself" in a stand-alone paragraph.

    "rush backwards" evokes an awkward image of people facing forward but running backwards. (Not easy to do.)

    "I want to scream for Santos to run." Maybe "get away" since he's inside a building on the third floor?

    "...anyone else inside his building..." WAS there anyone else? Do the security people give any kind of warning before they blow a building up? (You probably
    already explained this previously in the book.)

  4. Well done! This is full of action and fast paced. Love it!

    I wondered if I read this if she knew Santos already, because she's talking very familiarly about him, so that's just a note.

    The wop-wop stuff is fantastic. You're covering all the senses and I'm totally engaged.

    Just a note, you've got "specs" where you wanted "specks". Happens.

    I have no technical justification for this, but in the very last sentence, "anyone else" feels distancing to me. I was expecting "everyone else" which feels more personal. #shrug

    Great scene. Really.

    Good luck!

  5. Wow, this is awesome! Great details, great build to the explosion. Love the ship, the sounds, the physicality of the description. You can really feel the power of the corp and its machines. Also love her pleading for Santos--it's really sad. A few suggestions--what are the lurid colors exactly? Wanted to see them. Rents should be "rends". I think you can just say "dazzles" instead of "dazzles me". Love the livid red flame. Really nice writing!

  6. Dang, this is great! I've only got nitpicks here:

    1) "Not Santos. Please come out, I think to myself." Something about this line feels weak to me. Maybe you could cut the first sentence and then (in italics, so you don't have to add "I think" to it) something like: "Come out, Santos. Please."

    2) I think you want "concussive blast" rather than concussion, but double check.

    3) "deep-throated boom" felt like it could be stronger to me, but I'm not sure how.

    Like I said: nitpicks. Basically this is great :-)

  7. i love the title! it feels modern and on-trend but not annoying. also love some of the really nice imagery, like charred bones. it sits with the reader really well.

  8. I liked the suggestion of making it a killer bee, rather than a bumble bee, because killer bee fits the situation better, and instead of lurid colors, perhaps say what the colors are - lurid red and green or whatever. You might also put "engines silent' at the end of the first sentence and put the Wop, wop wop in italics.

    I'd put the Please come out on it's own line and in italics, and cut the "I think to myself." If she thinks it, it's obviously to herself.

    The bright light seems to be more than a light, what with everyone backing away, and she seems to know it, so perhaps say what it really is, or hint at what it is, to create a more ominous feeling

    Perhaps change "But Santos knows" to 'But HE knows' since you just named him in the previous sentence.

    Rents should be rends
    Perhaps dazzles, rather than dazzles me
    specks instead of specs

    I hear breaking glass, cracking concrete, splintering wood - this is passive. make it active - Glass breaks, concrete cracks, wood splinters.

    You could also shorten sentences in the last parg to make it feel more stark and dangerous. eliminate anything extraneous. For instance - When I dare to look, the building where Santos and his family lived is now a tall column of livid red flame Cut the whole front end of the sentence. The building is now a tall (change tall to something that shows the destruction) column of livid red flame.

  9. Very nice! You did a great job of using internal monologue to create tension in this scene. The action was described clearly throughout, but I really loved the final paragraph. You found strong, precise words to convey what was happening.

    Now, a few nits:

    "Engines silent, I hear..." is a misplaced modifier

    "The lurid colors of the FEC Corp logo" - good description, but it would be even better if you named the colors

    In the first sentence of para 2, there is a little ambiguity as to what "it" refers to. You could fix this with minor rewording: A column of bright light flashes down from the helo, encircling the building in a nimbus of white. (Great word, "nimbus")

    In para 3, I believe you meant "rends," not "rents."

    "I feel suction in my eardrums" - could be more specific about how that feels

    You might break up the sentence that starts "A deep-throated boom," because the boom and the expulsion are really two separate things.

    Really, I'm just picking at minor details here, because this is so good already.

  10. OMG, this is awesome!!! I know, not critique lingo, but I LOVE this and I am no cheerleader (just look at my other comments). But I have to be honest. I LOVE THIS! Everything about it. Perfect execution - pun intended. I don't read this genre, but I am reading this book when it comes out. Great voice. Great timing. Great description. Just great.

  11. I might say "The gawkers closest to the scene..." The phrasing tripped me up a bit.

    Is there any way to rephrase or add to "I guess he'd rather die"? I realize she wants him out, but what are her physical reactions to this? Her emotions? At this point (though it's probably clear in the full story) I'm not sure what her relationship to Santos is-- brother, friend, boyfriend...etc.

    Do you mean "rends" the air? Wasn't sure.

    Maybe do a slight rephrase for "breaking glass, cracking concrete, splintering wood." The repetition felt distracting.

    I like the ending, but again, I want to have more of a sense of what she's feeling? Horrified? Does she have a desire to go after him?

    I'm drawn in by what's happening, and the overall description of events works well-- I have a clear picture in my head. Good luck with it. :-)

  12. Another fan of the wop-wop-wop. The first para places the reader squarely in the scene. I’m not sure if this is right, but I want to read the trappers as a proper noun- the Trappers (picturing uniformed dudes -wearing dark helmets with visors, sporting leather body suits).
    Gawkers closest to the scene rush backwards, panicking. – the rushing backwards conveys panic. Maybe replace panicking with more detail. Someone gets trampled?
    I think you can rephrase this so you remain in Nonni’s POV: But Santos knows what’s coming.
    The last para could use tightening, to give the explosion a more explosive pace.
    Good stuff- good luck with it.

  13. = ) Nits!

    I feel like bumble bee really isn't the most ominous comparison you could have made. She's all scared and "whoa" and then--bumble bee?

    Also, "I think to myself." Maybe just I think. This might be just me, but I think we all think to ourselves--isn't that a little redundant? Who else are we thinking to? God? Perhaps.

    I love the actual description of the explosion itself. It's super-super ominous with its aftermath: beautiful!

    I think my only general advice would be the weakness of your protag. She's just kind of standing here watching, not doing anything. She wants to scream, but she doesn't. She doesn't even scream when the explosion goes off, which surprises me, and if she cares about this Santos person I'd expect at least a tightening in her chest or hacking sob or clenched teeth or gaping jaw when she thinks about those charred bones. Just something to think about!