Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #6

TITLE: The Drumming Song
GENRE: YA speculative romance

The drumbeat pulsed through my head, drowning out the tap-tap of the egg I’d been cracking on the edge of a wooden bowl. The eggshell crushed beneath my fingers.

I flung the shell and yolk into the sink and whirled around at the noise.

“Drea, I’m not the chef here, but I’m almost certain you need the egg when making an omelet.”

Guster spoke from the kitchen table, the faintest hint of interest in his voice. I frowned at the uncalled-for dig at my cooking prowess, but didn’t look his way.

The sliding glass doors to my left faced the miles of swooping high-grass meadows that overran this town. Dusk had subdued the pale grasses into sighs of color. A spread of infinite stars bedecked the sky. A crescent moon displayed a cocky smile.

There wasn’t a soul in sight. And sure as hell no drum.

The beat jarred through my head again. Demolished eggshell dug into my palm as I clenched my fist. It was . . . at first I couldn’t get over how distinct the drumming sounded, as if Guster was jamming out at our coffee-stained kitchen table.

But Guster would as soon pick up drumsticks as eat a chicken drumstick.

Ba-dum, ba-dum-uh-dum. Ba-dum, ba-dum-uh-dum.

My pulse raced alongside the rhythm. I almost felt my heartbeat align with the obnoxiously beautiful sounds.


Shh! Gus, where’s that noise coming from?” I was actually less concerned with where it was coming from, and more bewildered by my body’s reaction.


  1. I was a little confused with this entry. I can't follow what is happening. Maybe you can rewrite this and focus less on description and more on the story.

  2. I agree that this is a little confusing, but the idea of hearing a drumming sound that no one else seems to hear is intriguing. Maybe change the setting to a silent classroom where they are taking an important test so that it is very obvious that only she can hear the sound.

  3. I like the idea of the drum beat with no apparent source.
    She flung the shell into the sink already, so maybe "residual" egg shell?
    I think reversing the two drums would be the way to go-- rather eat a drumstick than pick up drumming.
    Love sighs of color and Guster's mild, but affectionate cynicism.

  4. I love the title and I definitely want to know more about the drumming sound...I think I would have preferred it if you started with giving us the description of the sounds and then skip straight to Drea asking Guster where the drumming sounds are coming from. But it sounds really interesting!

  5. I, too, like the idea of drumming only the MC can hear, but this starts out too much in the MC’s head (sorry about the pun) before we really have time to know and care about her.

    She whirled around at “the noise” but it’s not clear that it’s the drums, since it comes right after flinging the shell into the sink. And why wouldn’t she look at Guster, who was right there at the table? Who is Guster, anyway? Maybe identify him. My brother, Guster. My friend, Guster.

    Some phrasing was awkward. “Guster spoke from the kitchen table” sounds like he was on the table. Was the grass swooping, or the meadows? The dusk/stars/moon bit had some nice imagery but was a little too purple for me.

    Tighten. “It was . . . at first I couldn’t get over how distinct the drumming sounded …” could be “The drumming sounded distinct…”

    “I almost felt” means you really didn’t feel. Do you mean “It felt almost like…”

  6. I agree this was confusing. In parg 2, she whirls around at the noise. Is the noise the drumbeat or Guster speaking to her? And as asked above, why wouldn't she look at him?

    I also wondered where they are and who she's cooking for. Why is she cooking? Is this modern day or sometime in the past? Perhaps flesh it out more.

  7. The premise is interesting, and you have some very nice imagery, but like the other commenters, I wasn't grabbed. I've reread this several times trying to figure out why.

    I think the first problem is that Drea's actions don't feel natural. As several others have said, why doesn't she immediately turn to Gus and say, "where's that noise coming from?" That's what most people would do. The explanation about drumsticks left me wondering why Gus doesn't eat chicken, which is completely irrelevent to what's happening in the moment.

    There were a few other phrases that had me asking the wrong questions. Drea throws "the shell and the yolk" into the sink. Did she stop to separate the white? And as someone else pointed out, later she crushes an eggshell in her palm. Where did that come from? You describe meadows that "overran" the town. Does this mean the streets are covered in grass? Has the town been abandoned?

    That may come across as snarky, but truly all of those questions went through my mind as I was reading. I would encourage you to work with this some more. Try to make the action simple and direct. Focus your description on the drum and how it makes Drea feel, rather than on her surroundings. And if her behavior needs to be explained (like why she doesn't look at Gus), maybe that's a sign that the flow isn't quite right.

  8. I had to re-read the first line of dialogue and surrounding paragraphs to understand who was speaking. Don't shy away from dialogue tags. "Guster said" is an invisible yet powerful phrase that grounds us into the story.

    Although you've started to give us setting, I'm not certain who Drea is and what her relationship to Guster and the scene is.

    The prose is smooth and you've set-up and interesting conflict right from the beginning (drum beat in her head? Weird!).

  9. I'm getting hung up on who Guster is here. At first, I thought he was the source of the drumming. And the fact that we don't see him (and see everything else around the MC) makes me wonder if he too is only in her head. Try focusing your description of the scene on the most important elements, and it will be clearer.