Thursday, July 05, 2007
Suspense Technique #3, Peril, and the winner is...
The 3rd suspense technique was PERIL. I was looking for authors to put their protagonists in danger, and not just the obvious "there's a piano suspended overhead" kind either. Some peril can be implicit. Some peril can play on your imagination and make you all the more frightful because of what you don't know.
The winner this time scared the bejeebers out of me. Way to not completely give away what the danger was, NICK, but your protagonist was definitely in some deep weeds.
Here's Nick's winning entry:
It was twilight, and the sunset sent red and pink rays dancing gracefully over the tops of the immense trees that made up the Great Forest. A lone boy was picking his way through the underbrush. He shivered. It had been a cold day, too cold for the middle of summer. He wore a patched and faded green tunic, brown leggings, and matching boots. The boy's name was Zech, and he was on a mission.
Zech was an unusual boy. Strange occurrences weren't uncommon around him. He had powers, unusual powers. He could do things no other mortal could. He could control weather, change objects' color, and move things without touching them. This is why most people, being superstitious, avoided him as much as they could. All of his life he had been mocked, laughed at, and made fun of.He longed for someone to understand, to be a friend. But no one would.
There was a brotherhood, one of thieves, swindlers, and assasins. Everyone knew of it, but none spoke of it. Even the guards ignored its existence. No one knew who led it, but it was said to be a shadow, quiet as a cat, and quick as lightning. Zech needed some friends, and he knew he would find them there. But how? The answer had come that morning, in the form of a note.
The note had been pressed into his hand by another boy, by the name of Troy. It had instructed him to be in the center of the Great Forest at midnight, and he intended to do just that.
He always had felt a little uneasy in the Forest. Maybe it was the how the forest seemed devoid of life, no light could reach through the thick canopy of leaves above. Or maybe it was the way his footsteps seemed to echo off of the bare tree trunks, filling his ears until he was sure even deaf Aggoroth, the town priest, could hear it. But for some reason or another, this time was different. This time, he didn't just feel uneasy, this time, he was scared.
With the note clutched in his fist, he blundered through the shrubs, thorns clutching at his skin and clothes. He fought on and finally reached the path through the forest. This would at least lead him close to the center. As he walked on, his spine began to tingle. A sense of dread washed over him like a surging wave of ice cold water. Someone's watching me!, He thought. He dove into a bush and sat there watching, waiting. But nothing happened, nothing attacked him. Finally, he reached the point where he must leave the path. Looking furtively behind him, he slipped into the trees.
Zech's feeling of dread slowly grew as he walked through the forest. The trees were only a few feet apart and it was night now, so he could barely see his hand in front of his face. All of his senses were on alert now, every muscle tense and ready to run at the slightest noise. The only noise he could hear was the pounding of his heart and his own breathing. He heard a low whistling high in the treetops. Suddenly, a strong wind whipped through the trees and yanked him off his feet, slamming him into the ground. A blinding light seared his eyes as he struggeled to stand. He saw an angel, clothed in white, standing before him.
"Zech, chosen one, favored by the gods, turn back, or all may be lost. Turn back!" And then she vanished.
That must have been my imagination, Zech thought. Or was it? Suddenly he wasn't so sure about this idea after all. Still, his desire for friendship soon won out over his caution, and he ventured on.
He reached the center of the forest. I made it, he thought. That angel was wrong, I'm fine, and I'm finally going to have some friends. Zech walked over to a tree and rested against it to wait for someone to meet him.
A half hour passed and nothing happened. The sense of dread slowly stole over him, like a tiger stalking its prey. Maybe that angel was right, he thought. I shouldn't be here. Suddenly, the darkness intensified and seemed to press in around him. He heard whispering, as if carried on the wind. There was a rustling in the bushes. Something big, something menacing, rose up slowly in front of him. He cowered against the tree. The prescence stalked purposefully towards him, and the whispering stopped. He opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out.
Wayne's critique: I love how the suspense builds from the slip of paper being passed to Zech, through the sounds echoing, to the angel's warning (note: if an angel warns you to move along, do it...NOW) to the ah, I'm safe moment at the end, and the uh oh, maybe I thought I was safe too soon...Yipe! Nick you made some great choices about what to tell us and what not to tell us. I was right there with Zech wondering what was coming to get me. Suggestion: Don't give us Zach's biography. Don't tell us what his powers are. Show us. I suspect, in a longer story you would. But the way you've done it here puts the brakes on the mood you are trying to build. Otherwise--awesome stuff. Email me your mailing address, and I'll send you a signed copy of either The Door Within or Wyrm Lord Lost Chapters.
Pixy: Wow, if yours hadn't already been published, you'd have given Nick a serious run for the top spot. You have a bit of Tolkien's Children of Hurin in this. What I mean is, you put the reader in that delightfully horrible "No, no, don't do it! Please, don't do it!" position. It's gut-wrenching--and powerful. She was just teetering on the edge of oblivion and the poor love interest was desperately trying to get her to safety. You should take that scene and put it into the book manuscript somewhere--wow, I'd send that in a proposal package in a heartbeat.
SarmJorn: Sweet unknown stalker!
Scribe: Things that nest there--really creeped me out.
Amy: molten death--ouch!
JC: You get the OH, CRUD!! Award--you just knew the avalanche was coming.
Eve: Still love the dragonship concept--now that's wild!
Pais: Newcomer Award--your peril was very much a test of faith--a great concept for peril.
Well done all!
I'll post #4 winners after the Tour!