Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mini Are You Hooked #15

TITLE: The Man Who Did Too Much
GENRE: Mystery

Doctor Cannon was running late. She dashed in through the waiting room, but it empty.

"Is Gwen here yet?" she asked the receptionist.

"Not yet."

Gwen Littleton was always exactly on time for her therapy appointments, in spite of an apparent reluctance to come at all. Dr. Cannon frowned and went into her private office.

She almost didn't see the man in the perfectly pressed trench coat sitting quietly in the chair in the corner. She glanced back at the receptionist, who showed no sign that she knew he was there. But there he was, sitting where he would see her before she saw him. Neat, quiet, exuding
control like a goddamn spy. Exactly what you'd expect from Gwen's description, except Dr. Cannon had pictured him carrying a lance.

"You're George," she said.

"George Starling. Yes." Slight accent, vaguely British to go with the trench coat and the cool, lurking presence.

"Gwen sent you, didn't she?"



She slammed the door and threw her papers on the desk, then calmed herself and went to sit behind it. He sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and watched her.

"I can't talk to you about her," she told him.

"I'm aware of that."

"Then why are you here?"

"I believe Gwen was under the impression that I could talk to you instead.

"You can't take her therapy for her."

"It was that or cancel."


  1. Not bad...the "Damnit!" seem like an overreaction on the MC's part. I would think she might be a little more curious about his presence there. Also given that her patient was "Always there on time" I would think first question on her mind would be "What happen?"

    Just a thought.

  2. C.M. has good points, but I really did love this piece. It brought up so many questions in just these few brief words and I want to keep reading to have them answered. And the guy in the trench coat made me think of black and white movie mysteries. I would love to read more!

  3. I think the writing's smooth and competent except for the missing verb in the 2nd sentence. ("She dashed in through the waiting room, but it empty.") I wouldn't say I'm hooked since I don't have a specific reason to be alarmed that Gwen didn't show up for therapy. I know Dr. Cannon's alarmed, but I'm not, yet, and I know I'm supposed to be curious about what George might have to say, but again, nothing has yet piqued my curiousity. (Well, I guess there's the lance, but I'm still not compelled.)

    I wouldn't stop reading right here, but I'd need something to grab my interest pretty soon.

  4. I have to agree with C.M. on the "Damnit!" - I expected her to be more worried or curious than pissed off.

    I was also confused about the receptionist not mentioning that someone had come instead of the regular patient. Did he sneak in? That is enough to keep me reading at least a little longer.

  5. Thanks, these are exactly the sort of things I need to know!

    BTW: The "dammit" was supposed to be an indication that she knew exactly why Gwen wasn't there - she isn't concerned, she's frustrated. (I think I need to work on the bit about Gwen always being on time, even though she didn't want to come at all. It raises the wrong expectations. She's only exactly on time because of George.)

  6. (Oh, and Andria - thanks for noticing that it's a spy movie pastiche!)

  7. I cracked up that someone was going in her place for therapy - I thought that was great. I enjoyed this piece and quite nearly hooked. I would keep reading and would definitely be hooked if some more action takes place in the next 250 words.

  8. Definitely interested to see where this goes. An unexpected visitor - especially one who can easily go undetected - is always a great way to draw the reader in.

    My one hang up? I feel she too easily closes herself in a room with a stranger - even one she may have heard about through her patient. I, for one, would be freaked out if there was a stranger in my office - especially if my secretary didn't seem to be aware of it.

    Other than that, very intriguing start. I'd read more.

  9. I really like it - I'm hooked! Love the guy with the accent and the trench coat. :)

  10. I am hooked. I agree that the 'dammit' seemed a little over the top for the situation, but I am intrigued by the thought of Gwen sending someone she has obviously spoken about with her therapist to take the appointment.

  11. This is "hooky" for me because I love stories w/ a psychological element. I was left wanting to know more about Gwen's story.

    I did feel, reading it, as though I was too "apart" from the story. There was a distance there, and this kept me from really crawling into it. I think this can be fixed by getting into Dr. Cannon's head more. For example, she would not refer to the receptionist as "the receptionist," so it would read better, in my opinion if you said, "'Is Gwen here yet?' she asked Jane" (or whatever the receptonist's name is. I would also be more specific about how the receptionist "showed no sign that she knew he was there." Was the receptionist on the computer? Filling out papers? Was her expression bland? (Etc).

    Lastly, I have a problem with a therapist reacting so impulsively -saying "dammit," throwing papers, slamming door. I think you can show her annoyance / frustration in a moreunderstated way.

  12. A few things that I'd like to offer as my opinion. One particular thing that I don't like about certain author's style is the use of "she" or "he" when I have no idea who they are talking about.
    For instance your first line "Doctor Cannon was running late. She dashed in through the waiting room, but it empty." Who the heck is "she". Because it is my personal pet peeve with some authors, I already didn't want to read on. I have talked about this pet peeve with some friends that have read similar books and some don't notice but for me, it drives me nuts. Now understanding your genre is mystery and I am not a big fan of mystery so many who do like mystery would probably love it.

    My second notion was the use of "Dammit". It surprised me. It was unexpected. If that is what you were going for, cool.

    Great desciption of the man in the perfectly pressed trench coat. I was already picturing him in my mind.

    So not sure if I am hooked or not. I am interested perhaps by not hooked.

  13. Reread your second sentence out loud - hear the missing word?

    Your beginning is telling, not showing. here's how you could show:

    Annoyed to be late, Doctor Cannon dashed into the waiting room only to find it empty. "Is Gwen here yet?" she asked the receptionist.

    "Not yet."

    "That's odd." Doctor Cannon checked her watch again. 4:08. Despite her reluctance, Gwen Littleton was always on time for her therapy appointments. Dr. Cannon frowned. "I'll be in my office."

  14. Thanks again - good stuff here. (I love this blog.)

    If anyone actually is interested in reading further, I have a slightly earlier version of the whole first chapter I put up for some critique friends.

  15. This has good mystery elements, however the back and forth dialogue confused me somewhat and perhaps a therapist would be a little more controlled in her reactions(although maybe she has a good reason to be so reactive?)- I would read on to find out.
    Good job :)

  16. If this was published I would have put the book down after the second sentence snafu. While I usually don't mind a typo or two, one on the first line doesn't bode well for the rest of the novel.

    Giving you the benefit of the doubt however, the story is interesting enough that I would probably read on, although I feel that there should either be more tension in the scene (why isn't Gwen there?), or a few crumbs more context as to who George is, why dammit, etc. Give the reader enough crumbs to make them want to forget their diet and gorge on the deliciousness of your novel.

  17. I have to say I was totally hooked by the end. The parts that the above critters disliked were the same parts that hooked me in. I loved her reaction because it left me curious about her patient. I would continue to read.

  18. I like the idea of the smooth Brit taking Gwen's therapy for her - that's the highlight of this. But I can't say I'm hooked. A few things:

    "Doctor Cannon was running late." In her own POV, does she think of herself as "Doctor Cannon"? Unlikely. I don't think of myself in my head as "Miss Woodhull." Find another way to tell us she's a doctor. A "Not yet, Doctor" would do it.

    "She dashed in through the waiting room, but it empty."
    But it's not empty - the receptionist is there. Can you find another way to convey Gwen's not there?

    Also - referring to her own receptionist as "the receptionist" makes me think the Doc is a jerk. I've been a receptionist, and I have a name. :)

    ""Gwen sent you, didn't she?"

    The Doc knows Gwen sent him. She's told us this. This and the Dammit seem unnecessary. I agree with the others who say make asking about Gwen is a logical place to start.

  19. Not hooked. I stopped reading after two errors. First error is in your first line. Proof reading is key! Second error - the waiting room is empty, but there's someone there to talk to...I stopped reading there.

  20. Not quite hooked, I'm afraid, for various reasons. Using 'Doctor Cannon' to refer to your character, though we're in her point of view, distances the reader from her a lot. The missing word from the second line made me do a double-take, as well, and the voice seems inconsistent. You go from "in spite of an apparent reluctance" to "goddamn spy" with very little to provoke it, which didn't really mesh for me. To swear/shout at a stranger in her office also seems very unprofessional, and I don't quite get her frustration.

    I'm afraid I don't really get what's going with Gwen and George, either, but I imagine that'd be cleared up soon. Darn that 250-word limit :)

    Good luck with this!

  21. I think you're wrong about the second error - a doctor would certainly consider a waiting room empty if there were no patients in it. I don't think a receptionist at a desk contradicts that. I've worked many a front desk at a doctor's office and often referred to an empty waiting room, while I was technically in it, speaking to the doctor.

  22. I had difficulty reading the piece from a different point of view entirely. I am a therapist and I had difficulty with what I saw as various points of technical inconsistencies. I thought the loud, visible emotion that the Dr. displayed in the waiting room about the patient not being present did not ring true. It was not professional and more than that would be clinically very bad practice. If the patient had been there, or other patients had been present, the doctor's level of distress at the patient being late wouldn't have been displayed for the sake of the clinical relationship. In addition, even acknowledging the patient's presence to someone else without prior consent in therapy is a breach of patient confidentiality and wouldn't be done by an appropriate professional. The lack of technical veracity in the passage put me off and I could suspend disbelief to read and get involved in the narrative.

  23. Oops, I meant I couldn't suspend disbelief to get involved.