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Author Topic: New Clients
snapper
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Posting a new opening of a 7000 word piece. I don't feel grabbed, what do you think?


Doctor Jean Kenzy gave her office one last look. She wanted it to be perfect for her new clients. Jean rarely did marriage counseling sessions but Joe Duchey wouldn’t take no for an answer. He sounded so desperate, as if she were the only one that could help him. Something about that voice seemed so familiar, so alluring, and yet so needy.
Jean pressed on the seams of her red, knee length dress. Without thinking, she undid the top button, unveiling an unprofessional amount of cleavage.
Why did I just do that? Her hand drifted back up to refasten the button, but hesitated. It’s not that bad. A small part of her asked why she needed to impress this shumuck. Another part wanted this man to know how much of a success she had become.

new 13 lines below

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited February 24, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited February 24, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited February 27, 2008).]


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debhoag
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couple of observations, maybe something in here will help.

Doctors, even doctors of psychology, often refer to their clients as patients.

It's not clear whether she knows this guy or not. If she does, that might explain why his desperation is appealing to her.

If she doesn't know him, any female marriage/couples counselor worth her salt would run the other way - it sounds like a fixation, and she would be leery of this kind of transference from a stranger.

Even if she did know him, attempting to flaunt cleavage in a conjoint session the first time she sees him and his significant other, she'd have to be way, way off the deep end. Therapists are trained to self-analyze these sorts of impulses, and acting seductive/feeling seductive toward a client to this degree - where the impulse is unmanageable - would put her right back on her own shrink's couch in about half a heartbeat.

If she knows him and has conflicted feelings about him, there is a strong ethical guideline that licensed therapists would be loath to violate - you are not supposed to have dual relationships with clients.

So I would say, maybe, either paint her a lot crazier and more desperate, or give her some other rationale for agreeing to see this guy.

Maybe that's where your issue is - she's not acting in keeping with a 'normal' therapist, but you haven't got enough motive in there to show that why she is acting this way.

Does that help?


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snapper
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More than you can know, Deb. The questions you raised is an intricate part of the plot.
Does she know him?
The answer is no, but yes.
So, yes she is crazy but that isn't clear to her, and she is the MC of this story.
You come up with a great point on clients vs patient. I'm going to change it. Thanks

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skadder
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Although as a psychiatric nurse I can say that we moved away from calling people patients and call them clients now. This is because to call them patients was deemed to put them in a subservient role. A client is more like a customer, someone who uses a service that you as professional offer. It's empowering for the 'patient'.

I do understand that fiction must sometimes adopt the reality that is expected by a reader or it won't ring true to the reader.

[This message has been edited by skadder (edited February 24, 2008).]


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debhoag
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the wonders of managed health care. Some of us still use the word patient, though.
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skadder
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Yeah, I prefer patient myself...
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ArachneWeave
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Well, it definitely states the problem of the story, so that's a grabber. Whether it's something I want to read (about an illicit relationship? a marriage on the rocks)...I'd have to say no, but that's my preference. If there was some element of the otherworldly or even bizarre (since I like unusual non-fiction as well as fantasy) in the lead-in I'd go on.

But if what I'm catching about the story to come is accurate, then you've done a good job crafting an opening that gets to the issue, and your audience (just not me) will know to read it.


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snapper
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Thanks AW,

The type of genre you said you like to read is what I attempted to write. The problem with doing the first 13 is I use that to introduce my MC (I noticed most of the other writers do the same). I believe what you look for I wrote in next few hundred words.


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akeenedesign
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Well done, snapper. Once Jean started undoing buttons, I was completely hooked on the story, 100%.

Unfortunately, everything before that was difficult to get through. These are the things I noticed...

The first sentence prepared me for the doctor to leave her office for a long time, or maybe leave her job entirely. It was jarring to realize she was just being tidy. And wanting her office perfect for new clients isn't that interesting. It's a dull hook, these first two sentences.

There is some repeated information. "Joe Duchey wouldn't take no for an answer." From that statement, I already get that he's desperate for this particular doctor, so the sentence after is meaningless. (PS. In my head, I read Duchey as "Douchey" so you might consider changing it)

As I re-read it, I'm starting to get confused as to how she knows Joe, but not in a mysterious "who's that guy" kind of way... more like a "oh, I thought he was known to her but now he seems unknown".

The last sentence suggests that she knows exactly who he is, and she wants to show him the change she's made since he last saw her even if she doesn't know why (although "this man" makes it oddly impersonal). The way Joe is introduced also makes him sound like Jean knows him, as does the fact that she already thinks of him as a schmuck. But the sentence fragment "Something about that voice" makes me think that he is a complete stranger. As a reader, I want that sentence to tell me that Jean talking to Joe over the phone is familiar and motivating.

If you could begin with this, you will have a much stronger hook: "Jean pressed on the seams of her red, knee length dress. Without thinking, she undid the top button, unveiling an unprofessional amount of cleavage." And then go into her inner struggle about it.

Hope that's helpful! Best of luck =)


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Wildstar
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First, I apologize if any of this repeats what has already been said. I read the other post after I give my 2 cents so that the others comments don’t influence mine. The others are probably better anyway.

To me the first sentence hooked me because I thought she was looking at her office for the last time as if she was fired or was leaving. Then the next sentence unhooked me. Clients threw me; I think patients would be more appropriate. Also since she isn’t leaving it might be better to tie-in the first sentence with this one.

Like this:

Doctor Jean Kenzy gave her office one last look, wanting it to be perfect for her new clients.

One other part confused me:

“Something about that voice seemed so familiar, so alluring, and yet so needy”

This sentence makes it questionable weather or not she knows Joe, unless it seems familiar because she was in the same position before in her life but that doesn’t seem to flow with the rest of the story.

It seems to me by the rest of the opening that this is a guy from her past that use to be better than her or make her feel that way. Someone that was unattainable for her. He now has come to her for help in his marriage but she is confused by her desire or former desire for him and that of her professional duty. She wants everything to be perfect from her office, her looks, to her job. She still subconsciously wants to impress him and she catches this, self analysis to come, but it is important for her to overcome her past which speaks to her own issues.

I’m sure that will be answered in the rest of the story but those two parts confused me.

[This message has been edited by Wildstar (edited February 26, 2008).]


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snapper
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You guys are GREAT!

A lot of the questions you raised about how my doctor knows but doesn't know this man is just the type mystery that I want the reader to feel. Trying to do that and not turn the reader off is a balancing act.
Based on you crits, I am posting a new 13 lines. Is this an improvement?

Doctor Jean Kenzy pressed on the seams of her red, knee length dress. Without thinking, she undid the top button, unveiling an unprofessional amount of cleavage.
Why did I just do that? Her hand drifted back up to refasten the button, but hesitated. It’s not that bad. A small part of her asked why she needed to impress this shumuck. Another part wanted this man to know how much of a success she had become.
Jean rarely did marriage counseling sessions but Joe Duchey wouldn’t take no for an answer. He sounded so desperate, as if she were the only one that could help him. Something about that voice seemed so familiar, so alluring, and yet so needy.
She went to her desk and opened the bottom drawer. Three

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited February 27, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited February 27, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited February 28, 2008).]


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Wordmerchant
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I am having a hard time justifying the doctor's reaction to Something about that voice seemed so familiar, so alluring, and yet so needy.

Her turmoil A small part of her asked why she needed to impress this shumuck. Another part wanted this man to know how much of a success she had become. seems to be more extreme than the stimulus that produces it. The 'wanting him to know of her success' implies to me a more certain knowledge of a past between the two than you indicate. It feels as if she knows things you are not revealing to the reader. The fact that she considers him a 'schmuck' also implies some foreknowledge, of a negative sort, on her part.

To ascribe that strenuous a reaction to a vague concept of a voice doesn't ring true for me.


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akeenedesign
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I agree with Wordmerchant - it seems like you're hiding information that your character knows, just for the sake of keeping it secret from the reader, which is frustrating.

I also feel like the description of Joe takes away from the great introduction. He's a schmuck, then he's a schmuck she wants to impress, then he's a desperate schmuck she wants to impress, then he's a familiar, alluring, needy, desperate schmuck she wants to impress...

If you want him to remain mysterious, call him a schmuck and leave him there. We can already tell that she doesn't REALLY believe he is, deep down, because she leaves the button open.

You also have some of her thoughts italicized, followed by narrative about her thoughts. Keep with one voice for her inner dialogue and it'll sound more together.

Maybe it goes something like this:

-- Without thinking, she undid the top button, unveiling an unprofessional amount of cleavage.
Why did I just do that? I don't need to impress this schmuck. Her hand drifted back up to refasten the button, but hesitated. It’s not that bad. --

Overall, I feel like you're dangling too many "She wants to impress Joe but you don't know why yet" bits in front of us. But I do like it much better with the new opening!


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TheOnceandFutureMe
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You are withholding information that your character knows. Your job as writer is to be a conduit between your character and your reader. Yes, I want to feel tension, but I want to feel it through the story. I don't want to feel tension about when the writer is going to tell me what his/her POV character knows. It doesn't matter how well you do it, it's still a device.

I imagine that whatever reason you are withholding here would be a pretty good hook in itself. (ie, if she is secretly attracted to this guy despite knowing he is a murderer, I would want to read that conversation.)


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snapper
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Okay,
everything you guys have said is valid however what my MC is experiencing is deja vu at least that is the best way I can describe it. So I guess that is what I am trying to show. All the information that she knows (at least what I can put in the first 13 lines) is what you see. How these two effect her becomes a mystery for the reader.
Is this beginning the correct approach? I can't say why she feels that way about Joe because she really doesn't know at this point.
Any comments would be helpful. Readers too, if anyone is interested.

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akeenedesign
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Deja vu! That makes much more sense than just withholding info, but you might be unintentionally making it seem like she knows him for sure.

Saying she wants him to "see how successful she's become" makes it sound like she definitely used to know him when she was not yet a success. Mentally calling him a schmuck does the same thing.

Deja vu is a powerful experience when it happens, and it needs to be acknowledged as VERY strange and IMPOSSIBLY familiar. If it's not acknowledged, it's not really seen as deja vu, it's seen as a clue.

Hopefully that makes sense?


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annepin
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Hm... having read the entire piece, I have a different perspective. I think the fact that these readers are having these very questions means you're on the right track, and I think you risk overworking the beginning.

Maybe what's missing here is a sense of how weird it is for her to feel this way. Though even that, in my opinion, is treading the line of losing some of the nuance of the story.

This leads to a bigger thought... which maybe I should bring up in Open Discussions. SOmetimes I think we're way too afraid of confusion. I read a lot of pieces, books and stories, where I am confused, and where the writer is withholding information. As a writer, I sometimes find it annoying, but that's because I've become hyper sensitive to it. I've talked to non-writers who read the same stuff, and they thought it was exciting. Small sample size, but still, something to consider.

<shrugs> Just wanted to throw that out there as something to consider.


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akeenedesign
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I think you should bring it up, annepin... sometimes the "rules" are there so that we can deliberately break them when the occasion calls for it. Of course, they have to be broken appropriately in order for them to be effective. If the rules are slightly bent, but not completely broken, it might look like the writer is making mistakes rather than being deliberate.
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Wordmerchant
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The more I thought about this, the more clear I became on what exactly bothered me about it. Her responses to her own question just do not seem visceral enough.

Trained therapist or not, she remains a human being with her own set of reactive behaviors, not subject to rationality. Her responses feel too much filtered through her clinical, analytical skills, and less personal and instinctive.

It feels as if the step between her 'gut reaction' to the phone call and her self-analytical response is missing.


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