“I don’t know.”

   “You’re lying.”

   There was pause. Cliff Boner slammed his palms against the table and looked at Colander in the eye. He stared at him long and hard. The other man was seated, chained down with tight handcuffs. His skin itched and his fingers twitched.

   “Tell me.”

   “I told you I don’t know.”

   There was pain. Colander’s head snapped to the side. He bit down on his tongue and turned his head to face Boner. His eye hurt and his cheek was swollen. The man hit hard.

   “Don’t lie to me. You were in the getaway car. You were directly affiliated with his men. We have witnesses. You have nothing.”

   Colander raised his chin. He narrowed his eyes at the man above, his lips flattening out into a thin line.

   “They dragged me into the car. I’m just a driver. They hired me. I needed the work, but I didn’t know that they were criminals. I’m not lying-“

   “Of course you are!” Boner cut him off. He was seething. “The fact that we caught you is enough. Cut the crap, Colander. We don’t need your lies. You’re just making this harder.”

   Colander frowned. He wondered what was right to say. He wondered what Boner wanted him to say. He wondered.

   “I’m not lying.”

   It was the wrong thing to say.

   There was a flash of sudden darkness as Boner’s body hunched over him. His figure blocked out the light from the bulbs above. Boner’s hand gripped Colander’s arm and they struggled, the table proving no use as a barrier. Something slammed into Colander’s side. He winced as surges of electricity shot through him, shocking his nerves and hurting his head.

   He bit down on his lips, hard, and muffled his own scream. A single chaotic noise erupted from his throat but died on his sore lips. Bitter vomit rose and he swallowed it down painfully.

   “This is what happens when you lie.”

   This is what happens when I don’t say what you don’t want to hear, Colander thought. He took in a deep breath and tried to jerk away. His hands were still restrained. The handcuffs dug deep into his skin.

   “…They were targeting the media headquarters,” said Colander. His voice was raspy.

   Boner grinned.

   “That’s more like it.” He sat down.

   Colander spoke silently, his voice calm and raspy, his eyes downcast, and the handcuffs heavy on his irritated skin.

 

Instructor Response

Good work, very nicely done. You created a clear happening with emotions flowing (so special to fiction). Dialogue is excellent. Pacing perfect.

 

Below are inserted comments. Much of it is related to style and is intended mostly to make you aware of alternatives that might make little changes in the readers’ readings of the passage so that there is no chance of their being ejected from the fictional dream setting you’ve created. 

“I don’t know.”

   “You’re lying.”

   There was pause. Cliff Boner slammed his palms against the table and looked at Colander in the eye. He stared at him long and hard. The other man was seated, chained down with tight handcuffs. His skin itched and his fingers twitched.

   “Tell me.”

   “I told you I don’t know.”

   There was pain. Colander’s head snapped to the side. He bit down on his tongue and turned his head to face Boner. His eye hurt and his cheek was swollen. The man hit hard.

   “Don’t lie to me. You were in the getaway car. You were directly affiliated with his men. We have witnesses. You have nothing.”

   Colander raised his chin. He narrowed his eyes at the man above, his lips flattening out into a thin line.

   “They dragged me into the car. I’m just a driver. They hired me. I needed the work, but I didn’t know that they were criminals. I’m not lying-“

   “Of course you are!” Boner cut him off.  He was seething. “The fact that we caught you is enough. Cut the crap, Colander. We don’t need your lies. You’re just making this harder.”

   Colander frowned. He wondered what was right to say. He wondered what Boner wanted him to say. He wondered.

   “I’m not lying.”

   It was the wrong thing to say.  This narrator comment–you might argue it’s an example of free indirect style where the speaker could be the character but also others. Might not be necessary here. You’ve got the scene moving, and some readers might pause for a second and think, who’s this speaking? I thought we were in Colander’s head. Something to consider for style refinement.)

   There was a flash (Word choice? A flash of darkness is hard to visualize. You might use the idea of shadow or light extinguished to fit the action. It’s a subtle effect, but a wrong word can stop the flow momentarily. Again, a judgment call.)  of sudden darkness as Boner’s body hunched over him. His figure blocked out the light from the bulbs above.  This is a repetition of the darkness idea. Maybe incorporate this into the first sentence and if you need something here for pacing, think of something else that is occurring, something with action . . . not static. Boner’s hand gripped Colander’s arm and they struggled, the table proving no use as a barrier. Something slammed into Colander’s side. He winced This is a slight POV shift (something that seems to be observed outside his consciousness rather than felt by him), which is totally acceptable, but might be restructured, that is his wincing, so that we know the reaction still in his point of view and not outside. Although seemingly minor, at your level of writing, these small points are important for even more perfection.  as surges of electricity shot through him, shocking his nerves and hurting his head.

   He bit down on his lips, hard, and muffled his own scream. I’d try ellipses here, for pacing. (Like this: He bit down on his lips . . . hard . . . and muffled his own scream.) A single chaotic noise erupted from his throat but died on his sore lips. Bitter vomit rose and he swallowed it down painfully.

   “This is what happens when you lie.” This needs attribution. Who is speaking? Make it absolutely clear for the reader.

   This is what happens when I don’t say what you don’t want to hear, Colander thought.  This is personal preference, but I like thoughts in italics. I changed it to show you what I mean.  He took in a deep breath and tried to jerk away. His hands were still restrained. The handcuffs dug deep into his skin.

   “…They were targeting the media headquarters,” said Colander. His voice was raspy.

   Boner grinned.

   “That’s more like it.” He sat down.

   Colander spoke silently, his voice calm and raspy, his eyes downcast, and the handcuffs heavy on his irritated skin.

I hope this is helpful. Great work, and thanks for submitting. Best regards, WHC

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