What follows is the start of a 2700 word near-future science fiction story. I'm grateful for all comments, and would be happy to send the story to anyone who wants to read it.
A cop drove me to the emergency room and led me to a little cubicle that was walled off by curtains. As we got nearer, I could hear a woman’s voice saying, “Squeeze my hand please. Squeeze my hand.” Inside the space, Jocelyn lay on the bed, her eyes closed, unmoving. Bandages covered her head above the eyes. I went to her side and called her name. “Jocelyn, Jocelyn.” No response. The woman who was kneeling by the bed stood up. “Mr. Tierney, I’m Doctor Amelia Trask, Head of Neurosurgery. We’re going to take your wife for an MRI.” She wouldn’t answer any of my questions, just saying she’d know more after the MRI. Two orderlies wheeled in a gurney and moved Jocelyn to it. They wheeled her down the corridor as Doctor
I like that we are jumping right into the action here, and the writing is clean, but I do have some concern about what's being shared. We're in a first person POV, so we should be getting the scene filtered through the narrator's eyes. This is his wife, but the only real thought that we see is that he assumes she must have been buying milk.
I would expect someone in a traumatic situation like this to be having some sort of emotional reaction to the event. Even if that reaction is to feel numb, for me, I need to know that, because otherwise, I'm distracted by wondering why he isn't showing any response.
I second the point about emotional distance.
The writing was matter-of-fact but set the scene well. My one other question involves a point of confusion about the doctor. Why is she kneeling? A woman kneeling by a hospital bed makes me think mother/sister/best friend/etc. Someone who knows the patient well enough to be incapacitated by the patient's injuries. Typically a doctor would be able to maintain their professionalism in this setting. It's not a huge point, but one that did make me stop and say, huh?
Posts: 21 | Registered: May 2015
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Yes, it's cinematic, and 3rd person deep penetration would work better, I'm sure.
I also would like the _order_ that things are revealed altered so that by the time I read something, I understand why it matters. MC knows full well why he's going to the ER -- his wife's hurt -- but we find out in the 9th sentence.
You could make use of OSC's principle that the first paragraph is free: tell us whatever background we need to know, then get into the action. But you may not need it if you start with MC's thoughts/feelings.
Posts: 28 | Registered: May 2015
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A police man drives Tierney to an emergency room to see his head-injured wife.
The prospects of a near-future science fiction about, what, intrigue me, though that feature is missed for the fragment.
I see several opportunities for signals, cues, clues, hints of the near-future milieu introduction. Possibilities for the police person to be equipped with futuristic gear, like a body cam, the feed accessible by Tierney, public feed, in other words, and a running dialogue with a dispatcher; the emergency room setting could be futuristic instead of routine; the doctor and orderlies similarly equipped with futuristic gear; the gurney a robotic vehicle, otherwise brand named, say, an Asimo stretcher cot.
Those from what's given; other possibilities for imagined near-future hospital tech abound. For instance, telepresence medical staff, the human touch from a remote sensory array. A doc-in-a-box urgent care clinic setup expanded to a trauma center with high-tech gadgetry and in-patient services.
I'm put off by how cold and distant Tierney is. He's a matter-of-fact reporter that is in an extreme emotional crisis.
Doctors do not kneel bedside. Medical cots are built for standing height bedside care.
Partitioned ER areas are curtained, though "walled" and "cubicle" are terms for rigid partitions.
Generally, the language leaves me unenthused: correlation conjunction "as" used as a coordination conjunction to join disparate ideas and non-simultaneous events. Likewise, contrast conjunction "but" used to connect separate ideas. Also, unnecessary and numerous present participle verbs. This one, "we're going to take" includes an unnecessary infinitive verb too.
When a professional title, doctor, precedes a person's name, the title is abbreviated: Dr. Ameila Trask, or when just the title represents a definite person, nominative, spelled out and capped: Doctor, and when used in an indefinite context (nonnominative) doctor is uncapped, //the doctor// or //a doctor.//
Though the scene's situation is far from routine for Tierney and readers generally; that is, a medical trauma, this scene is matter-of-fact routine and unengaging for me. I would not read on.
Posts: 5160 | Registered: Jun 2008
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So, it's an emergency ward in a hospital and a trauma victim is going for an MRI. A relative has arrived and no one will tell him what's happened. So what, why should I care?
I don't know anything about any of these people or the situation except the narrator seems essentially unmoved, even distant, despite standing at the side of the patients bed and saying her name twice.
That's what I know. Now, you've got 2700 words, you'd better get a move on and entice me in but--so sorry--it's too late and I've left.
Thank you all for your comments. My rewrite is below. What do you think of it?
Maybe they were wrong. Maybe it wasn’t Jocelyn. Maybe her injuries weren’t that bad. I rode a share car to the hospital, where a robo-aide led me to a small space separated by curtains from the rest of the emergency room. Jocelyn lay on the bed, her eyes closed, unmoving. Bandages covered her head above the eyes. A woman standing by the bed said, “Squeeze my hand please. Squeeze my hand.” I went to my wife’s side and called her name. “Jocelyn, Jocelyn.” No response. Denial was over; now all I had was fear. The woman looked over at me. “Mr. Tierney, I’m Dr. Amelia Trask, Head of Neurosurgery. We’ll take your wife for an MRI.” She wouldn’t answer any of my questions, just saying she’d know more after the MRI. Until then, I shouldn’t think, not think of
It's still very impersonal. Past the "Maybes," we get a description of the physical scene. Actually, we get a mention of a share car and a robo-aide first, which really do nothing for me unless that ride and that mechanical escort are going to be important later. But, as we don't linger and no telling details are given, I'm not holding out hope on that front.
My recommendation: don't tell me what a camera would pick up if it were placed in the room. Instead, tell me what your view point character experiences. That's not a woman name Jocelyn laying in a bed, covered in bandages. That's his... soulmate? Her peaceful, angelic face now a mirror of death? Meal ticket? That's his mortgage on the oceanview home defaulting. Not only does this get me into the guy's head, it tells me more about the stakes and maybe even opens the door for this guy to be something more than a bystander (which, unless you're a surgeon, is all you will be in these circumstances, and why I'm not interested in reading further).
Posts: 388 | Registered: Jan 2010
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Why have you chosen to start with the injured Jocelyn, and not the cause of the injury, or the aftermath of the injury? An antiseptic hospital setting and a clinical description of the POV character's actions isn't much of anything at all.
I think that you nailed the inciting moment and it was quick to interest me. I might go for deeper POV and squeeze a little more emotion into it. The opening you presented spans a good deal of time in a few lines and feels summarized. I would rather feel what he feels and sees what he sees and slow it down. Feels like the paragraph could just be about his reluctance and fear and anxiety that is keeping him from opening the door to the cop car as he looks at the lights of the ER where he knows his wife is.
Posts: 1864 | Registered: Jan 2008
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