250 Words About Tension

I’ve been gone since Thursday morning to a writer’s retreat at a — I kid you not — monastery in the middle of Nowheresville, Nebraska. It was an entirely delightful experience in every way.

Well, in most every way. I’m overwhelmed now by an odd combination of crushing self-doubt and roller-coaster-arms-in-the-air-exhilaration. And, of course, there are the toppling piles of laundry and email to attend to.

So, I was tripping through my emails, both new and ‘saved till I get home’ and I found one directing me to Miss Snark’s blog. She is an anonymous writer devoted to helping new writers.

On her blog (which I’ve added to my sidebar), she runs these First Victim public, anonymous critiques. Today’s submission call was for 250 words about tension. She’ll start the critiques in a couple of days and I just got word that mine will be “Post 5.”

Having just returned from my Nebraska writer’s retreat, I thought I’d toss my manuscript in Miss Snark’s pot. I don’t know how many she comments on, but I love to get feedback on my writing so this is what I sent ….

Title: BLACK AND BLUE
Genre: Young Adult

Brief set-up: Sixteen-year-old synesthete DASH is unconvinced his older sister AGGIE is telling the truth about her black eye.

I grabbed her arm. “Aggie, I know you didn’t run into a door. Just tell me—“

“Let go of me! Dad’s coming!” Black lightning bolts shot through her voice.

She twisted out of my grasp and fled toward the stairs. As she passed Dad, he raised a hand to high five her but she flinched and clutched her jacket tighter.

Dad noticed me and offered the same high five Aggie had refused. “Guess who landed a big new customer today? That’s right. Big Al. Uh huh. Doesn’t make up for the twenty customers we lost last month, but it’s a start, eh?”

I slapped his hand and he continued into Mom’s office where I heard her say, “Al! You’re home already? Gosh, look at the time … dinner’s not even close to being ready! How was your day?”

“Better than Aggie’s, I take it.”

“She hurt herself again. Ran into a door. She’ll be fine,” Mom said to him.

“She should be more careful,” Al said.

“I know. I told her the same thing.”

Aggie slammed her bedroom door and my head swam. I returned to the kitchen and scooped the onion peels and celery bits out of the sink. I held my breath while I dumped them into the putrid compost can under the sink and wondered why Aggie’s voice added the black lightning bolts. It happened as soon as she heard Dad open the garage door.

Her voice only looked that way when she was scared.

Miss Snark says she wants some palpable tension that forces her to beg for more of the story. So, what do YOU think? Do you feel the tension? Are you begging for more? Why or why not?

0 thoughts on “250 Words About Tension

  1. mary

    I want more–and I’ve already *heard* a little bit more, back on Saturday night.

    I really love the idea of giving the character synesthesia (I probably just massacred the spelling) and mixing that in with the question of what’s happening with the sister. The fact that the parents aren’t overly concerned, but the brother knows something more is up, ratchets up the tension.

    Reply
  2. beckycc

    Mary, you spelled it right. I have to work on the parents some more, to make sure they’re not completely awful people. (They’re not really – just busy with their own lives.)

    Donna, Dash absolutely sees the emotion in people’s voices. And it’s important to the story so it better not be overkill!

    I’m headed to Miss Snark’s blog to see if she has any comments about mine yet.

    Reply

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