Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #24


The young man's limp body is dead weight. His teammates in the pool struggle to hoist him up as two lifeguards reach down to drag him onto the pool deck. Late for my morning water aerobics class, I hesitate, unsure if I should stop.

The guards seem to be handling everything just fine. But maybe I should at least offer to lend a hand?

"Need any help? I'm a nurse."

"We've called 9-1-1," replies one of the young guards.

“Does he have a pulse?” I ask.


Relieved that they have everything under control, I turn away to join my class, which is warming up at the other side of the pool. Suddenly I hear the swimmer’s breathing change to jagged retching. I pause and turn around.

"He sounds like he's going to vomit." I say. "If you're sure there's no chance he hurt his neck diving, turn him onto his side so that he doesn't choke."

The swim coach assures us that boy hasn't been diving, just swimming laps when he suddenly lost consciousness.

"Do you know if he has a seizure history?"

The young man looks like someone who's unresponsive following a seizure. If that's the case, all we need to do is keep his airway open until the paramedics arrive. In the ER where I work, this would be just another routine day. But I'm not in the ER with the support of my fellow nurses, doctors and the equipment I rely on - monitors, oxygen, and suction.


  1. Strong use of both observation and dialogue to move the scene. Author begins with engaging conflict. I would keep reading.
    Only nitpick: 'pause' is one of those words that should be avoided. Writers can use the space to insert a relevant observation or just delete. "I turned back."

  2. Despite the first couple of paragraphs, I'm getting the wrong impression from this one: I'm getting the sense of a nosy woman who forces her help upon people when it's not wanted.

    Luckily it's a simple fix: Just have the other people in the scene be unsure what to do and have them gratefully accept her offer to help.

  3. It's interesting that you should say that. Initially, I showed my hesitation to get involved, not wanting to appear pushy, but I deleted it to fit more into the 250 words. Maybe I should put it back in to the original version?

  4. I'd love to see her more assertive, without being aggressive. I sense she is a skilled ER nurse who would unlikely turn away from a scene that more than hinted of emergency. I'm guessing her professional qualifications (as well as instincts) exceed the lifeguards, so yeah, I'd like to see her get in there and HELP (rather than boss people around). Good luck.

  5. Your genre says memoir but this reads like fiction. A memoir typically is told directly to the reader by the author, and the barrier between them is completely broken down. Now, if this is just a scene to sort of whet our appetites, fine. But if your entire MS is written this way, I'm not so sure you can call it a memoir. But you could certainly write fiction based on your own life experiences.

    I'm also not sure what purpose is achieved by writing in present tense (again, unless this is just an introductory scene to create some tension).

  6. I'm confused why this trained nurse wouldn't be more aggressive about getting involved? Nurses and doctors are usually johnny on the spot when an emergency breaks out. I'm assuming you had a a reason for your hesitation, and as a reader, I would like to hear more about that! Why was your water aerobics class more important than helping out an unconscious victim in the pool?

    Also, I agree with the sentiment that this reads more like fiction rather than memoir.

    Good luck with everything!

  7. There's a lack of tension in this excerpt that I believe belies the full story. I think the writing otherwise is good though. Nice, believable dialogue. Good scene setting. I, too, want to know more about this main character. For the record, I like that this reads like fiction.