Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Drop the Needle #17

GENRE: Science Fiction (Literary Crossover)

Jem has been secretly using his elderly guardian’s bow. On the previous day, the old man broke the weapon to keep Jem from using it again.

When Jem noticed that the bowstring the old man had been winding around his fingers yesterday was still on the platform beside him, he cleared his throat softly and pointed at it. “Could I have that--the bowstring?”

Avakab smiled faintly. He picked up the small coil of string and held it out toward Jem. “Of course. I don’t imagine I have any use for it.” He coughed and added, “I haven’t much use for anything now, have I?” The smile grew wider, as if he’d made a private joke.

Jem thanked him quietly and took the string.

After a silent moment, the old rebel’s expression grew thoughtful--perhaps even wistful--and he murmured, “I am sorry about the bow, young man. And I’m glad to think that someone else enjoyed it for a time.” He paused, then said very softly, “It gave me pleasure once, a long time ago. I wasn’t too bad of a shot with it. Though the knife was always my favorite. My special talent, I suppose.” His gaze went to the pale string Jem held almost tenderly in his fingers, the color of the little skein contrasting with the brown skin. “That would work well for string figures; I imagine you could cut a couple of lengths out of it.”

Cutting it hadn’t even occurred to Jem--right then the sentimental value of the bowstring seemed more important than any practical use for a length of string. But he was as touched as he was surprised when Avakab said, “I know you’re good at those.”


  1. From your description, I was expecting the old man to be mad at Jem and was pleasantly surprised by his tenderness. I was confused when the old man said he didn't have much use for anything. If that's explained somewhere else in the story, don't worry about it, but if not, you might want to clarify in this passage.

  2. I agree the leadin confused me. And if he broke it before, why would Jem just ask for it now?

    Otherwise I like this scene but just be careful of using too many adjectives (quietly, softly) and it could use some tightening up (e.g., why not just say "wistful." what does "thoughtful--perhaps even wistful" add?)

  3. I liked this, however I thought the 5th paragraph was a bit long. I wanted the old man to pause a bit or to have Jem interject a thought or nod his head or something.

    I guess that's a mistake I often make in my own writing, have people speak for too long. But maybe that's just the way Avakab is?

    Also, And maybe this is a funny comment, but I love your names. :) It's amazing how SF writers come up with these names that are just so perfect. When you said Avakab's name, it was just perfect. I could imagine him instantly. :)

  4. I'm not sure if I would be confused if I had read more of the story previous to this, but I had a hard time getting a feel for what sort of relationship these two have. It maybe be fine, it's just one of those excerpts that's hard to evaluate without more background. The prose flows nicely though.

  5. Out of context, this excerpt doesn't tell us much, but I can see you're a competent writer. You appear to like adverbs a bit too much and though adverbs certainly have their place, they indicate a weak verb. See if you can replace them with a stronger verb. A clearing of the throat is naturally soft, and smiled faintly could be described better. Thanked him quietly could be a whispered or muttered thanks. Said very softly is another one of those. Held almost tenderly would be better shown than told.

    I didn't get the relevance of "I know you're good at those" even though it surprised Jem to hear it.

    Best of luck with this. :)

  6. I thought this was a touching scene, and I like the fact that it isn't so much the gift of the string that matters most, but that Avakab knows Jem likes making string figures, something it seems Jem may have thought Avakab didn't know about.

    I do agree it could be tightened up, and you could lose the adverbs, but what struck me most was that in the blurb, Avakab destroys the bow because he doesn't want Jem using it. It seems such a spiteful thing for Avakab to do, and yet, in the submission, he comes across as kind and caring. I had expected Avacab to be a meaner person. But that's probably due to being dropped in the middle.

    You might allow Avacab to state his final line, and then show jem surprised and touched, rather than telling us. It would become a more powerful moment. encounter