Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Drop the Needle: Anger #1

GENRE: Literary Science Fiction

Raised as an orphan by an elderly midwife, Jem is ostracized by almost everyone in his village. One of the women in his adopted mother's household, Nadka, is particularly cruel to him, and he's just run into her after returning from his regular errand of fetching eggs.

As soon as she took the crate she saw the broken eggs. She lunged at Jem and slapped him. He’d started to duck and pull back, but she was quicker. The palm and fingers of her small square hand landed hard on his cheek. He winced and stepped back, brushing the earthen wall behind him.

“Goplak didn’t send you off with broken eggs, I’m sure! You incompetent oaf! You can’t even do a simple errand. You’re good for nothing--nothing! Do you hear me?” She came closer, glaring furiously up into his face-- up because he was at least a head taller than she was now. But that detail didn’t seem to intimidate her in the least; she treated him just as she had when he was five years old.

He regarded her with a sulky stare. “Nadka, it wasn’t my fault. There were these wolves-- two of them! They were right outside the door, and I--I ran into them and they . . .”

“I don’t care! They didn’t eat you up, did they? You’re here and you haven’t a mark on you, and you bring me broken eggs! That’s all I see.”

Knowing he was pushing his luck, but feeling the need to push back against her assault, he rolled his eyes and made a face. “How do you know I haven’t a mark on me? You haven’t looked at me. They could have torn one of my arms off and you wouldn’t notice.”

Like a piece of driftwood smoking and hissing on the fire that suddenly bursts into a shower of sparks, Nadka exploded. “Don’t you get sassy with me, you demon! I don’t care how big you are! I’m not afraid of you and I’ll beat you till you bleed!”

Jem leaned back as far as he could, his left shoulder blade pressing hard against the edge of the narrow wooden steps that led down from the outside door, and groaned inwardly. Yes, he’d asked for this--but admitting that didn’t make it any easier to endure.


  1. This was a very quick and easy read, and their anger toward each other is nice and clear without being melodramatic. My main concern is that it doesn't feel like this egg incident has major repercussions or is driving a conflict forward. Of course, this is only 400 words, so it may just not be reflected here.

    Also, I'd be careful about using too many exclamation points -- the reader can tell that they're angry and probably screaming without the exclamation points. A couple very carefully placed ones would probably have more impact.

  2. I feel the anger and how one character is upset with the other, but this scene feels like it's almost trying too hard.

    Not all the exclamation points are necessary. And when every sentence spoken by the one character ends with them, they border on comical. They're not, but the character comes across as hysterical, like I can't take her seriously. I thnk if some of the exclamation points were taken out so the sentences stood on their own, the few sentences left with exclamation points would have a stronger impact on the reader.

    Also, in the first paragraph I had to reread the sentences just to figure out what the action was. The biggest thing to keep in mind for action, especially fighting, is to focus on what comes first. Keep things in chronological order.

  3. Good scene overall! I felt Nadka's anger. I agree about the exclamations, though.

    Small comments:

    2nd paragraph: Don't think you need furiously. Glaring suffices.

    3rd: A dash indicates dialogue is interrupted. An ellipse means he trailed off.

    I like the driftwood simile, but it was too long. Could just say: Like burning driftwood that suddenly bursts into sparks...

    Was a little confused by the last paragraph. He was leaning against a wall earlier. No mention of steps. I'm sure you've described things already but my first thought was of steps leading down from the room, so I wondered how he could lean on them.

    The last line seems to contradict his need to push back. Groaning inwardly indicates passivity.

  4. I thought this was all Nadka. Is seems Jem is the MC, but he has very little reaction to what's going on. Is he weak and passive? That's how he comes across in this scene. You could make this stronger by showing it from his point of view.

    This could also be cut considerably. You're telling us what happened instead of letting your characters act, which slows this down. Jem is slapped in sentence 2. He doesn't feel it until sentence 5, and he should react immediately. Cut out the explanations and stick with action.