Pace Pride

Gah dang it! Veronica totally stole my thunder this week. I AM most proud of in my scene pacing.

I hate being bored. I'd much rather be stressed until my eyes bug than not knowing what to do with myself. Even my vacations are exhausting. On a trip to Costa Rica, our scuba diving boat dropped us at the beach for a surface break between dives. My wife sprawled out on the sand for the half-an-hour. As we got back on the boat she said, "That was worth the $90 for the dive."

This translates into my writing. Often I force myself to lay off the gas for a beat just to let people catch their breath (more accurately, I try to switch the sources of tension from action to suspense, from live'n'death to romantic, etc.).

I'd like to share a snippet with you. Allow me to set the stage:

This scene comes at the end of Chapter 2 of my Science Fiction thriller, Shriekers (currently out on query to agents). These five teens are on a mankind's first interstellar journey. They were awoken from stasis by the ship's computer, Sheli, for their annual exam. Just before going back into suspended animation, the ship mysteriously dives into a self-destruct sequence. Where the following beat begins, the teens have rushed to the Bridge to disconnect Sheli and stop the countdown.

Geoff heads toward the captain’s chair in the dead center of the Bridge. On the end of the thick armrest, Jill fiddles with something that could be half of an alien clamshell. The thing is about twenty centimeters across and made of smooth, black glass. A hologram of Sheli’s face floats in the center.
“Self-destruct in five minutes, thirty seconds.”
I peer over Geoff’s shoulder. He swats Jill’s hands from the place where the captain’s chair mates to Sheli’s clamshell. Gently, he detaches Sheli and slides her off the armrest, though there are several cords in a bundle still connecting them. He focuses on a single cord with a boxy connector in the middle. Kendra and Patrick press against my back, trying to get a good view of Geoff’s chubby fingers pressing down all those little levers. He tries to pull the cord apart. It stays latched.
“C’mon!” Jill says.
“Stupid…thing.” He tries again.
“Can I try?” I grab the connector from Geoff and follow his directions perfectly, but it stays together when I yank on it. I pull harder. The damn thing won’t move. “Something’s wrong.”
I look at Geoff. He goes pale.
“I didn’t see it before.” He points to a black cuff on the connector with little yellow lights. “It’s locked.”
“How do we get it off?” I ask.
Jill and Kendra erupt with more questions. Patrick gets paler.
Trembling so much he barely gets a grip on the lock, Geoff’s fingers dance around it. They do it again.
“How do we get it off?!” I grab Geoff’s shoulders and force him to face me, but his glowing blue eyes won’t make contact. He shakes his head.
I freeze. I can’t breath. I’m going to puke. 
“Self-destruct in five minutes.”
“Can we break it?” I grab the connector and slam it on the chair’s armrest. Nothing. I do it again. And again. The thing looks brand new.
“Get something heavier.” Kendra and I leap to another chair, grabbing it on both sides. Patrick joins, but the chair stays bolted to the floor no matter how hard we rock it.
I run my hands along the cords running between the Sheli and the captain’s chair. “Try cutting her cord. Find something sharp.”
“Self-destruct in four minutes, thirty seconds.”
Kendra pounds on the glass projecting Sheli with her small hands. Her feathery hair jolts with each strike.
“That’s tri-Quartz glass, you’ll never shatter it,” Geoff says. 
“I got it!” Jill shoves Kendra out of the way and bolts for the door so fast I can’t ask her where she’s going.
Geoff toys with Sheli more with a shocked Patrick watching. I rush around the Bridge for something--anything--to help, but there’s nothing. Kendra follows. There’s not much besides chairs and holo-screens. It’s all secured, too big, or unbreakable. My mind fogs. Finally, huffing, I stand with the others.
“Self-destruct in four minutes.”
“Oh God,” Kendra whispers.
Patrick breaks, sobbing like a toddler.
“What else can we do?” I scan the Bridge again, pointlessly.
Geoff presses the connector’s levers again and again.
“Self-destruct in three minutes, thirty seconds.”
“Move!” Jill runs across the Bridge.
She clutches a long stick and runs right for Geoff and I, her arms high above its head. She screeches. Something on the end of the stick glints in the light. It looks sharp.
An ax. It’s an ax.
I throw all my weight to the side, pulling Geoff with me. We fall, tumbling to the soft carpet. My eyes never leave the ax. Jill swings it. The blade hits the connector. A shower of sparks lights everything in a flare.
“Self-destruct in three minnuuuu…” Sheli’s voice drops lower, garbles, and trails off.
The hologram vanishes. The red lights die. Starlight bathes the Bridge.
I suck in a deep breath and wait. 

And that's the chapter break.'ll get to (want to) read more. 


Finally! Some Bret story! I found myself reading faster and faster ...

On an unrelated note, I've noticed the word "peer" in just about everything I read these days, and I've started mentally changing it to "pee," because I'm still a junior high student, apparently.

So: "I pee over Geoff’s shoulder."

Hee hee.

Peeing of Geoff's shoulder is a good example of how a character's actions can change the scene's mood entirely. Funny stuff.

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