Here are the first 13 lines of my 5,000 word short story, "Avatar Holmes." It's my attempt at a paranormal twist on a detective story.
Dr. Ian Holmes slumped against the hospital room door. Questions of life and death had always been part of the job, yet today's question went well beyond his medical or theological experience. He didn't know if he could face it again, and yet he had a duty to perform. He had sworn an oath to heal the sick and he wasn't about to betray that trust. Letting out a deep breath, Dr. Holmes braced himself and walked back into the theological maelstrom. A woman sat by the patient's bed. Good. The nurses had finally found the patient's sister. “What’s the verdict, doctor?” she asked. Dr. Holmes ignored the question as long as he could. He didn't like bad news, especially bad news he didn’t trust.
Posts: 9 | Registered: Sep 2014
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I would definitely keep reading. My only gripe is the title and central character. Why not just be original and come up with your own detective? A derivative version of Sherlock Holmes is a pretty big turnoff for me, though other readers may dig it.
But yeah, besides that, nice, clean writing. An engaging opening that doesn't feel rushed while at the same time having an engaging hook. If you're looking to swap a piece of writing of similar length for critiques, I'm be interested.
Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011
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I think this is a very solid first 13 lines. I enjoy the look inside the doctor's head, even though I don't know yet what theological question he is struggling with. Your writing flows really well: it isn't overcomplicated or chock full of new ideas to learn, as many first 13 lines of scifi stories are. It was easy and interesting to read. Nicely done.
This is 100% nit-picking, but I don't like the use of the word "trust" twice in such quick succession. It's not a big deal, but the second time I hear the word, it rings a bell in my head and throws off the flow a bit. My recommendation would be to change the first usage to something else, like "oath" or "promise" or "vow" or something similar. I love the line "He didn't like bad news, especially bad news he didn't trust" and would really like to learn what he means by that.
I agree with Denevius: I would give the title character a different name, unless his Holmes surname is in some way necessary for the story.
Overall, I'm very intrigued by this. I would definitely like to keep reading. If you're interested in trading stories for critiques, let me know! (I have a fantasy short story of about 3,600 words.)
Posts: 27 | Registered: Feb 2014
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A strength of the fragment is its major premise given by the title "Avatar Holmes." An avatar is an incarnation in the real world of a natural or spiritual or paranormal force or an imitation being of a real person or object. The avatar Holmes is the patient on the hospital bed, presumably.
A major shortfall for me, besides too much of the scene is summarized and explained through tell lecture where reality imitation show is warranted, is the central issue of the fragment is evaded. The central issue surprise that has greatest "hook" potential is artlessly delayed for later revelation. The surprise scene moment of consequence is Dr. Ian Holmes' first contact with the avatar Holmes.
The "theological questions" and "maelstrom" aftermath of the first encounter is the "summary" part to conventional scene first and then summary second sequence. This fragment "tells" readers the issue's idea though evades the scene issue by red herring motif and coy withholding as a substitute for genuine scene development readers can interpret themselves without being told the central issue.
I actually like the title and the Sherlock Holmes connection. I found it intriguing.
I was not a big fan of you introducing a major theological quandary without telling me what it was. I would prefer to be told up front.
I'll exchange crits with you too, if you want. I wasn't going to take on any new crits right now, but this one has caught my interest. My WIP is also about 5,000 words.
Posts: 1528 | Registered: Dec 2003
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The whole point here is to try to find ways to make it better. If all I need is to feel good about something that I’ve written, I show it to my friends who inevitably tell me that they love it. They do this not to be dishonest, but because they love me. I’m okay with that. When I need a little more truth, I come here even though it stings sometimes. We should always be kind in the expression of our critiques, but if they are not specific then they are not helpful.
With that in mind, let me try to be helpful. There were things I liked here and things that I did not.
You have some elements here that are worth building on. The first is the name, Avatar Holmes, it is the first hook and the reason that I was reading your intro. If someone doesn’t especially care for all things Sherlock, they are unlikely to pick this up in the first place, but it presents an intriguing twist to a classic theme. One that will have to be lived up to or fall flat, and yet ambition can be good if it drives you to excellence. And I like the moral quandary that you are attempting to present, although so far you have only stated that one exists.
As to things that I think can be improved. Please remember that I wouldn’t be spending my time on this if I didn’t think it was worth it. I am only commenting on the words presented, and not on you personally though I realize that it can feel that way.
The prose can be tightened up. The very first sentence made me stumble just a touch. “Dr. Ian Holmes slumped against the hospital room door.” The word slumped is wonderfully descriptive, and the first half of the sentence is almost lyrical “Dr. Ian Holmes slumped against…” but “the hospital room door” is too prosaic to match it well. You also have him walking away a few sentences later so he hasn’t slumped to the floor. I might suggest using the word “sagged” instead since it has the same overtone of weariness while still having him on his feet. And I know that you want to establish setting, but you’ve don’t that partially by calling him a doctor. In the next sentence the word question is used twice, and is used yet a third time in just these first 13 lines. The word theological is also used twice. These are both long words taking up valuable real estate in your first 13. The second, third, and fourth sentences are all used to display his reluctance, they can be condensed.
I know this isn’t the usual way, but here is kind of what I mean:
Dr. Ian Holmes sagged against the door to room 314. Hospitals were always home to questions about life and death, but today went far beyond even his experience medical or otherwise. He didn’t want to face it, them, again. Yet duty and his sworn oath as a healer would always drive him. Letting out a deep breath, Dr. Holmes braced himself and walked back into a theological maelstrom. A woman sat by the patient’s bed. Good. They’d found the sister. “What’s the verdict, doctor?” she asked. Dr. Holmes ignored the question as long as he could. He didn’t like delivering bad news, especially when he wasn’t at all certain.
Posts: 455 | Registered: Aug 2008
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I felt that the implied promise of the title was not fulfilled in the prose. I also think there are missed opportunities to show the doctor's reluctance rather than simply stating it. A possible technique would be to give him something he can't do until after getting the delivery of bad news over with. That might give the character some roundness while also illustrating his reluctance. The question of what the theological maelstrom is is not resolved and seems withheld too bluntly. I'd rather see it left out of the first 13 and displayed naturally in the delivery.
As is, I can't see myself drawn in past this point. The question isn't intriguing enough for me. The "theological maelstrom" is mentioned and never explored here. Maybe getting into that faster would be a better place to start.
Posts: 816 | Registered: May 2009
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