Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Name That Genre: Critique Round #4

TITLE: A Flick of the Switch
GENRE: Women's commercial fiction

I have to stand by while a baby dies.

It’s lunchtime and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is buzzing with activity. If I grab a bite in the cafeteria, some overly friendly staffer is sure to try to talk to me, the newcomer. Not like I could eat today anyway. I duck into the bathroom instead.

Thick shoes clop on linoleum outside the door.

The door opens. I slide into a stall and sit. There's not enough time to lift my feet before someone recognizes my cheap brown loafers.

“Emily, is that you?”

It's Rosy, my only friend here at the hospital. We worked together at Memorial Hospital across town for years.

“Yeah, it’s me.” I curse the fact that I wear the same ugly shoes every day.

“I've been looking for you," she says. “Did you see all the protesters out front?”

“Yeah. Took fifteen minutes to find a parking spot.”

I flush the clean toilet. I can’t hide forever.

Rosy follows me to the sink. “Honey, you look greener than your scrubs.” She touches the side of my cheek. “And these bags—you’re still not sleeping. Makeup?”

“In my locker.” I avoid meeting her eyes.

Rosy rifles through her purse and hands me some powder, which I dab around the darkened corners of my eyes. She touches my shoulder. “You know, you don't have to be in with Baby M. I can go instead.”

“No. I’ve cared for him every day he’s been alive, with barely a visit from his so-called mother.”


  1. Confused. I don't remember this from the first round.

  2. Pulled on my heartstrings with a dying baby. Great voice and I feel bad for your main character. She has a lot I like about her.

  3. This is intriguing. The baby is in intense care and it seems the MC is the only nurse watching over him. It seems that the connection with the baby is important, but you could have exploited it more. She is new and she is chosen to be the one in charge of the baby. Why? Did they choose her on purpose? Does she have something to prove? Will this impact her stay at the clinic? You could have made this a little bit more intense. But I liked the exchange in the bathroom. Good characterization.
    Well, good luck.

  4. I, too, am puzzled as I don't remember this entry from before. That said, you've got a gripping opening line. I thought the dialogue was well done -- showing us the familiarity between Emily and Rosy. At this point, I don't know if the Baby M story will be the focus of this tale or the catalyst for whatever happens next in Emily's life, but I'm intrigued!

  5. I don't remember this one either. As a former nurse, we would eat when we could and yes, there were times we went into the bathroom to cry but got it together pretty quickly for the other patients in our care. Who are the protesters and what are they protesting? If it's a nurse's strike, that's something that needs to be told to us. Good luck!

  6. Ouch. Tough opening line! The whole thing is pretty heart wrenching, and with the protesters and the terrible mother, it's promising a pretty gripping story. I'm assuming this is a baby on life support at the center of a big legal case or something.

    I don't quite get the shift from (is this a tag line?) the baby dying to it being lunchtime. The baby thing is so important that it's annoying when we immediately move to something so trivial. It feels a bit illogical because it says she has to stand by, but she's not "by"... she's in the bathroom. Maybe adding something like, "today" at the end of the tagline would help indicate that this isn't an immediate state happening to her right at the present moment, but something happening later that she's hiding from now.

    There are a few places in the dialog that feel a tad "As you know." For example: "And these bags—you're still not sleeping," and, "with barely a visit from his so-called mother." These aren't unimportant details, but they don't feel like things nurses both familiar with the case would actually say to each other... at least not in fiction.

  7. Like the others, I don't remember this one - I tried to comment on every entry.

    I think the opening line is grabbing, but you will need to get back to that very quickly. Perhaps a bit more idea of what she must do - and then send her to lunch.

  8. This seems like a very sympathetic situation and character. It felt like there was a bit of a disconnect between the first line and the second paragraph. It sounds like she's about to watch a baby die, but then she's in the bathroom. Maybe connect the two with her looking at the baby before she leaves, or something like that. I'm curious to know more about the protesters, and the baby's absent mother, so I'm intrigued!

  9. This entry replaced the one with the radiation canopy and the programmable bangs. What I can't figure out is why and what happened.

  10. Like many before me...don't remember this one. Did you do a rewrite? Anyhooo, very compelling opening. There is confusion, but hopefully it will be revealed in the next paragraphs (soon, so we don't put it down)..

  11. The opening line seems a teaser. It's there to get our attention, and it does, but the story doesn't follow from that like it should. The logic also doesn't work. She 'has' to stand by and watch this baby die, but she leaves almost immediately. So she obviously either didn't 'have' to, or she did but left anyway, which doesn't make me sympathetic to the MC.

    You could cut all the stuff about lunch since she's not interested in lunch and doesn't go there. Just say she ran to the bathroom, but tell us why. Why is she leaving this dying baby?

    The 'It's Rosy' parg is there for the reader. Try to get the info in through action, dialogue, description, but not by explaining to the reader.

    You might want to refocus the opening. What is the most important thing you want the reader to know? The baby's dying? There are protestors outside? She's has something horrible going on in her life? Whatever it is, make that your main focus and have everything else happen around that.