Wednesday, August 27, 2008

#22 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Only Skin Deep

GENRE: Mystery

With a light knock at the door, Nurse Vivian Sendek peeked her head into the examination room. “Pardon the interruption, Dr. Planck. There’s a detective here to see you.”

“I have an opening right after Mrs. Downing here.”

“I’ll let him know.” Nurse Sendek lowered her voice. “From the look of that thing on his face, he’s needs some real help.”

She quietly closed the door.

“Once again, Mrs. Downing, I'm sorry, but this growth is not cancerous. I’ve seen plenty of skin cancers and this just isn’t it.”

“What are you writing there?” Mrs. Downing pawed at her chart. “Don't you dare write on there that I have a wart. Where's that other dermatologist? Get him in here so that he can take a look. He'll tell you I have cancer. It runs in my family.”

Mrs. Downing clutched her purse close to her chest, her periwinkle hair nearly falling loose from the curlers.

“Mrs. Downing, this isn't cancer. It's just a plain old wart. Nothing to cause concern.” Dr. Planck jotted some notes onto her chart. “We have several possibilities of treatment.”

Mrs. Downing huffed.

There was another knock at the door, but instead of Nurse Sendek, a short, thick man in a dark suit pushed his way inside the cramped examination room. Nurse Sendek followed on his heels, reprimanding him.

Looking at the man’s face, Planck understood what the nurse meant about the detective needing help: a flame-red rash covered the entire right side of his face.


  1. I'm not sure whether this is supposed to be humoroous or not. Poor old lady actually WANTS it to be cancer because the idea of a wart is more repugnant. hee hee but for a detective - or any person for that matter to burst into an examination room when a patient is in there seems plain wrong. I realise the nurse is remonstrating with him and maybe you go on to deal with this but if I was the doctor, I'd throw him straight out- rash or not.

  2. Mrs. Downing is mildly amusing, but that would be the only thing that may compel me to read on. But a cop with rash at a dermatologists office is not enough of a hook. Sorry.

  3. Not hooked either. The opening dialogue doesn't grab me. Sorry.

  4. I'm assuming the "rash" really has nothing to do with the visit to the Dr, or the nurse would never know he was a detective.
    However, I don't think I'd read far enough to find out.

  5. Maybe- The characters are engaging. The writing is good. But the rash is a bit anticlimactic. Maybe, if the back of the book were very good or someone shoots the cop in the next 3 paragraphs, or if the book promised a plague... otherwise pass.

  6. “Don't you dare write on there that I have a wart. Where's that other dermatologist

    AMUSED. You wouldn't believe how often I've THOUGHT this when it comes to some of the lumps and warts that my old dog gets.

    I think I'd read a little more, but I think you could use a little more mental imput from Dr. Planck. Sort of like what you have in the last paragraph. Tell us what he thought about Mrs. Downing and her cancerous warts. :)

  7. I'm curious enough about what is going to to keep reading. I wasn't expecting the detective to just have a rash, but I would assume there is probably something more going on and would keep going to find out :)

  8. Sorry, it didn't grab me. Altho, I did like the doc's encounter w/ Mrs. Downing.
    Good luck

  9. It's a tentative for me. Mrs. Downing is well written, as is the rest of the section, but a detective with a rash on his face isn't a big hook for me. So he's got skin problems. To me, that doesn't feel like a strong enough plot to center a novel on.

  10. Sorry didn't grab me although the first para is good.

    My biggest issue with this opening is that you didn't properly establish a POV. The last para and "Dr. Planck jotted some notes onto her chart." are the only real indicators. For the rest of the page, the POV character is almost absent, with the nurse and Mrs Downing acting like sonar waves bouncing off his presence without actually revealing him.

    The scene with Mrs Downing is amusing, but too long and you puncture your own humour by over-working the joke. You basically put the punchline first with "Don't you dare write on there that I have a wart. Where's that other dermatologist? "

    So “Mrs. Downing, this isn't cancer. It's just a plain old wart. Nothing to cause concern.” is redundant IMO because it just repeats the joke.

    Removing that, would give you a bit more space to concentrate on the real action of this chapter.

    I also think that it's a good setup since it reflects the overall theme of the story (I'm assuming based on the title), it's funny, and it's immediate.

    Anyway, just my 2cents for what it's worth.

    Good luck.

  11. I would read on. Loved the lady who would rather have cancer then a wart. Funny! Also am interested in why the dectective wants to see the Dr.

  12. The writing on this is just not quite there. I like the idea of establishing that the detective has a birthmark or rash on his face, but I don’t think the nurse would comment on it the way that she does. The blue haired lady in curlers is also a bit contrived, but amusing in its own way. It may provide more bang for the buck if the detective were to enter the office and the doctor to comment on his face before realizing he is not here for his face, that provides great tension and comedic support to the narrative as the doctor attempts to recover his embarrassment AND be questioned by a detective. I would definitely read on, but I would have already made a note that the opening needs to be reworked.

  13. I'm not hooked, but I'd delve more into it to find out if it could grab me.
    I don't feel anything for these characters yet, but like I said, further in, I might.

  14. This is a good start for a mystery.

    I think you could improve it by putting more tension into the scene.

    You might cut most of Mrs. Downing and just have the detective barge in. Have the doctor object, etc.

    I would read a little more.

  15. As a physician, I can speak to Secret's concerns regarding the nurse's remark.

    That is not the sort of thing a nurse would say, especially not in front of another patient.

    And a flame-red rash on the face is really not all that concerning, medically speaking. If there was a skin problem combined with involvement of the mucous membranes/eyes etc. or a petechial rash (one that doesn't blanch when you press down on the skin) or skin peeling off in sheets like a staph scalded skin type picture, the nurse might get concerned because these are potential emergency situations.

    If the nurse was really concerned about the patient, she would probably call the physician aside to let him know. If it was anything NOT a true emergency, she might say something like, "I'm not sure what the problem is, but he seems pretty uncomfortable."

    More likely, just a rash on the face would barely raise the nurse's interest at all... she works in a dermatology office after all and no doubt sees thousands of similar cases a year.

    So she might just say something like, "There's a detective outside to see you. He won't say why, but I bet you'll be able to guess when you see him."

  16. Sorry, but this is a miss for me.

    There was zero sense of urgency -- nothing, including the question of "Who is the detective?" -- compels me to turn the page.

    Part of the problem is simply procedural. I don't know any doctor offices that have nurses barge into treatment rooms to announce new patients, nor would they mention the person's affliction. It just wouldn't happen unless the nurse is extraordinarily unprofessional -- which could be a fun quirk.

    At this point though, I just am not interested in finding out more about the doctor or the detective.

  17. Not hooked.

    I didn't get what the conflict was (or from what the conflict/mystery could possibly stem), and the characters felt a little wooden.

    The detective (I'm assuming the mystery stuff will stem from him) felt like an afterthought.

    I think you could skip the Nurses intro of him, start with Mrs. Downing to establish the Doctors personality (keep it short though), and then just have the detective burst in (and give him some lines--state his business there.)

  18. I would read on for at least another page or two because I DO want to know whether the detective is there regarding the rash or something else.

    I'm assuming that the cancer/wart is indicative of your voice (if not, please know that reading this, I'm expecting an amusing read).

  19. Since it doesn't seem reasonable for a detective to "break" into an examination room when someone is there, I am mildly curious as to the reason. I would have somehow worked that in before describing his rash, or maybe the doctor could notice his rash and not hear what was being said, or the patient could protest the intrusion and be waived off by the doctor who may know why the detective is there, there are any number of things that could make me read on but it would need a few changes first.