Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Secret Agent #13

TITLE: Empathy
GENRE: YA Paranormal

“Long night?”

The nurse in standard blue scrubs gives the disheveled man a sympathetic smile. She’s seen his particular expression before – exhausted, relieved, and not a little shell-shocked. His hair looks as though it’s been permanently mown down by an anxious hand.

“Yeah, it was.” The man is staring through a large glass window at a row of bassinets. He turns to the nurse and smiles back.

“My daughter.” He points a finger at the pane, indicating the third newborn from the left.

“Your first?”

“Actually, I have son, but... first time, uh, participating. You know?” He turns back to the window.

“She’s a beauty,” the nurse says, out of habit. Upon examining the pink face, she realizes the conventional compliment is actually true. The infant’s eyes are open. Unusual this early – and under the bright nursery lights – but not unheard of. Her tiny head is turned toward the bassinet next to her.
“She keeps looking over that way,” the man says.

The nurse glances at the adjacent bundle. A baby boy. Then she examines the face above the blue blanket more closely. “That little one seems to be looking right back,” she says. Now that is unusual.
“I’ve never seen such a thing,” she murmurs.

The nurse and the man stand before the glass in silence, as the baby girl reaches a tiny hand toward the boy. Her mouth opens in a soft, bleating call.

The boy mirrors her movement, stretching out his fingers.

Through the transparent bassinets, two pairs of blue eyes lock.


  1. It started a little slow, but by the end I was hooked. So many questions running through my mind right now. Great job!

  2. I really liked this, but I'm also wondering if we're about to jump sixteen or so years into the future to see this two who've literally known each other since birth. I don't think that's a bad thing, necessarily, I'm just wondering.

    One little nit: when I hear the word "bassinet," I picture one of those all white things that look like they're woven. But if these babies aren't just turned toward each other but are actually looking at each other, you must mean the clear plastic beds that hospitals use for newborns. I had to adjust my mental picture when I realized that. It's an easy problem to fix. Either use a different word for it or use a couple of words to describe it ("clear plastic bassinet" would work).

    I enjoyed this a lot. Good luck with it.

  3. Totally laughed out loud at the "First time participating" comment. Intriguing!

  4. i'm hooked--love the hair mowed down by an anxious hand. it's a little hard to follow what's happening with the children...i had to reread to realize that the boy's in another bassinet.

  5. I'm wondering when this is set, because (in the UK anyway) it's completely unheard-of to have all the babies together like this. And 'bassinets' was unfamiliar to me, I think it needs to be clear that they are in transparent cots. Not sure how many teens would realise that babies don't usually focus on eachother - although mimicking adults is completely normal.

  6. I got the sense that the story will be about the two kids, rather than the nurse or the man, and wondered if this is a prologue. If it is, I think it works. If it's not, I think we need some kind of hint at a problem.

    I didn't have an issue with the bassinets. You do say they're transparent.

  7. I'm laughing because my parents actually were in the same hospital nursery at the same time, and we always joke about this.

    I'd keep reading. (Although I'll admit that when I stop and really dwell on the thought of babies being attracted to each other, it kind of creeps me out.) I didn't have any confusion issues with the bassinet or babies being together. That's standard practice in the US.

  8. I'd also like to know when this is set. Because it's becoming more common for infants to not be kept in the nursery at all, but for them to stay in the room with the mom. It was supposed to promote mother-infant bonding and make it easier for breastfeeding moms.

    My babies were born in Minnesota in 2009 and 2011, and I don't know when the switch was made from keeping babies in the nursery together to keeping them in the mother's room. But if this story's about the kids and this is their birth that would've been 13 to 17 years ago (assuming they're teens in 2011 or so), them being in the nursery together could work. You'd just need to consider the kid's ages when the story takes place and what year they would've been born.

    I didn't have an issue with them being called bassinets, but that could just be the US term for them. And the same things are used today still.

    Maybe I'm the only one who didn't have an issue with the babies looking at each other. Mine have always been interested and the things and people around them. And since my second son was born, he's been more interested in his big brother than any adult, unless it's time to eat. So the part with the babies looking at each other was more an "aww, cute" for me than a "that's weird" or "babies wouldn't do that, there must be something Paranormal going on."

  9. I meant to add that I think it'd be better it the first two paragraphs were switched so the first line of dialogue had some context with it rather than hanging out there.

  10. Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! I think I'm going to start a blog on "what do babies do?" and "what are those thinga-ma-giggies you put them in?"

    To answer a few questions (which may also prompt me to revise):

    - Yes it's the U.S.
    - It's 1992 (I actually have a header indicating that, but I think headers aren't allowed in the contest)
    - The paranormal element is not intended to be fully explained (yet) but the idea of newborns - like, new-new, a few hours old - being able to 'focus' is unusual. That's what the nurse was responding to.
    - The babies were not attracted to each other in a romantic way - which, um, yeah. Would be creepy. The reason is explained soon.
    - For you clever readers who thought this might be prologue, you're right. (I detest the word "prologue" because of all the bad rap it gets.) Chapter 1 is present day with teenagers.

    THANK YOU again. So, so great to have feedback from other authors.

  11. I tend to like prologues that are short and sweet, so this works for me. The information presented doesn't have to seem relevant right away. I actually sort of like having a bit of mystery with a "now I get it" moment coming later. My impression was that these two babies were drawn to one another, and possibly in a romantic way. So if that's not the intention, make sure that's not what comes across.

  12. Now I know I’m in the minority here, but I hate destiny, especially in romances. So pre-destined baby lovers just creeps me out. (Although you say they're not destined to be lovers? Hm. Well definitely less creepy. :) ) Now if the story turned out to be focused on her dad and how he had to deal with his daughter being the pre-destined soul mate of some punk kid, that could get me to read more. Since it’s a YA, though, I assume this is a prologue and the book jumps forward to the two as teens working out their soul-mated-ness. Which is fine. Works for plenty of people. I’m just not one of them.