Tag Archives: tension

I Was One of Miss Snark’s Victims

And yet, I don’t feel victimized.

Recently I submitted 250 tension-filled words from my work-in-progress to Miss Snark’s First Victim blog. Here are the comments I received:

Just_Me said…

I’m not madly in love with the black lightening bolts. Can the MC see auras? Is this physical? Or is this just his description of her?

I do love the motion you project, and I hate Big Al. Hope he burns. A kid shouldn’t flinch from their parent.

Blogger AC said…

I don’t really understand the black lightning bolts either. Maybe it makes more sense in the context of the story. But I love how Aggie is constantly moving in the scene.

I thought the everyday conversation between the mom and dad take away from the forward motion a bit; everything else is so good, and then you have to stop and read through some mundane chitchat before you can get going again. Maybe there’s a way to minimize it?

Anonymous Ashleen O’Gaea said…

I liked the effect of the juxtaposition between the MC’s knowing that Aggie didn’t run into a door and the effort to maintain the appearance of normal life. That rings very true. And I liked the last sentence a lot.

Blogger Sissy said…

Lots of good tension in this one! I’m wondering, though, if Dad is the abuser. Does anyone else realize this in the family? Or am I reading things into this that simply are not there?

Blogger Authoress said…

There is tension, but I think the dialogue needs to be trimmed down, tightened. (For example, Mom’s lines when she sees that Dad is home already. They need to be crisper, shorter.)

The black lightning bolts were hard to get my head around until I paid attention to the fact that the character is a synesthete. I imagine that, in the context of the novel, the reader gets used to the way he perceives things with color.

The closing sentence is strong.

Anonymous Lo said…

Good tension, just not loving the lightening bolts. Revisiting the image at the end of the chapter doesn’t add anything, rather it seems repetitive.

[Becky here. This is the funny thing about critiques. What works for one person (“the closing sentence is strong”) won’t work for the next (“rather it seems repetitive”). You can get all the feedback in the world, but ultimately the writer has to decide.]

Blogger Luc2 said…

The lead in really is necessary here. I’m not sure if the chitchat between the parents detracts from the tension, or actually underlines it by contrast.

I wonder if her dad gave her the black eye.

[Becky here. I love this comment … “I’m not sure if the chitchat between the parents detracts from the tension, or actually underlines it by contrast.” I love it when people ”˜get it’! The correct answer, folks? Ding, ding, ding … “underlines it by contrast.” Thanks for playing!]

Blogger Karen Duvall said…

The black lightning bolts are kind of odd, mainly because lighting isn’t black, so the combination is off-putting. If this is some magical thing she does, try to think of a different way to describe it.

There may be too much pedestrian action here that dilutes the tension you attempt to build. The girl is angry, the POV character is confused, and the parents are oblivious. That’s a lot of diverse emotion among 4 characters for one page of text. I’m not sure it works.

Mary said…

I made sure to look up synesthete before reading the excerpt, so wasn’t confused.

Good tension here, and a unique MC. It leaves the question open whether Dad is the abuser or someone else. Great job showing the signs of abuse rather than telling. I could probably learn something from that.

[Becky here. This comment feels like a gentle pat on my head. So often writers are told ”˜show, don’t tell’ that when we do it right, it’s like a gold star on our homework!]

Anonymous blodwyn said…

Good tension, esp. with the abuse and the questions about who did what and who is lying, and the suspiciousness. I also liked how her Dad, being in a good mood, suddenly acts like everything is fine again and seems oblivious to her fear.

Minor nit: I don’t think you should switch from “Dad” to “Al” in the dialog tag, it’s almost a POV switch.

[Becky here. This is one of those 250-word constraint problems. My main character doesn’t like the way the word “dad” looks so he calls his dad “Al” instead. It’s not a POV switch, but it’s been a ridiculously complicated little quirk.]

Blogger Lori said…

Are these lightning bolts actually physical, or is it a metaphor for anger? If it’s the latter, I don’t think it’s working very effectively just yet.

I also felt some of the dialogue was overdone, i.e. too formal or forced. Try reading some of these lines aloud (or get others to do it for you) and see how they sound to you.

[Becky here. I’ve realized I need to do some surgery on the first chapter, for various boring reasons unrelated to this tension discussion. The passage you read is the very end of chapter one. My next step after the revision is to, ugh, read the whole freakin thing out loud. I know deep down in the marrow of my bones that it’s an excellent exercise. The thought of doing it, though, seems horrifyingly time-consuming. And weird to think of my voice echoing around the house. However, I do talk to myself on occasion, so maybe it will feel natural.]

Blogger danceluvr said…

Good tight, active writing.

I like how you slip in Dash’s condition (black lightning bolts): seeing sounds.

While this is a tense moment, my impression is more of Dash’s frustration and worry and maybe curiosity than tension.

Of course, you’re saying that Al had hit Dash’s sister.

I’d read this further.

Blogger Trish said…

I thought that this one was great. Very tense, realistic and different. I actually loved the black lightning bolts.

Anonymous fairchild said…

Lightning bolts threw me off but by the end sentence I suspect he actually can see voices. In that case why isn’t this labelled YA Fantasy or something?

Anyways, I could definitely feel the tension between Aggie and her dad, and Dash and the complicated situation.

*****

So, those were the comments I received about my 250 tension-filled words. I found it a really interesting, valuable experience.

Miss Snark blogged about the 250 word limit, as she found it a bit confining for her entry. (Yes, she submits her work and comments, too!)

Here’s what I told her:

This was my first time playing in this sandbox and I found it fun and educational. I was post #5 … the one with the synesthesia.

Since I was a clean slate, I didn’t really know what to expect but accepted the comments about my MC actually seeing the emotions in his sister’s voice as being odd or off-putting or weird because I knew that in the 250 words, it couldn’t possibly be explained properly. Synesthesia is a real phenomenon for lots of real people but it’s not widely known.

But the comments also proved that I better make his synesthesia very clear and accessible to the reader.

I say keep the 250 word limit, too. And thanks, Miss Snark … yours is a fabutastic blog!

You can read all the other comments as well as her decision about allowing longer submissions AND her next critique category.

I highly recommend Miss Snark’s blog to any writer. Useful AND fun!

What did you ”” writers and non-writers ”” think of this process?

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?