Wednesday, April 02, 2008

New Beginning 478

"Is there supposed to be this much blood?" The medical student struggled to hold the camera steady, but the image kept bouncing on the screen. He brought up a second hand to keep the lens pointed at the pulsing flow of red. When nobody answered his question, he bit down on his lip and tried not to pass out.

Half an hour earlier it had begun as a fairly straightforward surgery. "Just a tired old gallbladder in a tired old lady," the attending surgeon had said after snapping on his gloves and stepping up to the table. "She asleep?"

"Yes, sir," said the anesthesiologist.

The attending looked across the draped body of the patient and nodded his approval to the surgical resident. She took up the knife and cut four tiny holes in the woman's scrawny belly. Through one of the incisions the attending slid the fiberoptic video camera, its tip glowing bright white at the end of a long metal arm. Once inside the body, the camera fed information to the big screens around the table.

Suddenly, there was an annoying, vibrating sound—one the medical student knew all too well from his past.

"Oops," the attending said. "Here, see what you can do." He handed the medical student the end of the camera.

The student sighed. I know this isn't exactly John Hopkins, he thought, but surely they can find a better way to teach surgery than by having us play Operation.

Opening: Benwah.....Continuation: freddie


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuation:

Now, there was panic palpable in the air. The surgeon glanced up at the student, sweat beading on his forehead and fear in his eyes. "Bitch!" he said. "The old girl's a fucking bleeder!"

"Watch your mouth, asshat," the woman said. "And you and your anesthesiologist are fucking amateurs."


Evil Editor said...

I think it might be better to cut this after "...stepping up to the table." and get to the immediate situation: Now all hell was breaking loose, (or whatever). If we really needed to know this much about what happened a half hour ago, you'd have started a half hour ago.

Wes said...

For me, there is too much technology and procedure. I'd focus on the crisis at hand and the resulting emotions and conflicts.

writtenwyrdd said...

After I got sniped for using past perfect, I figure I get to point out your use of it in this beginning. I didn't initially notice the past tense, just that the line "Just a tired old gallbladder in a tired old lady" was before he asked if she were out or not. Uncool to say something that blatantly callus when a patient might hear. The past tense interrupting the surgery (in the middle of a surgical screw up) derails the tension.

Not sure I find the situation as compelling as it could be because we're in teh pov of a med student with a camera watching the action instead of participating.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I don't have a problem so much with the POV if there's a good reason for it, but I do have an issue with creating tension with the first line, then losing it with what led up to that.

If all you had was the first line, I'd read on.

Wes said...


In a past life I was a product manager in anesthesia and observed many surgeries. The most important doc in the OR is the anesthesiologist because he/she keeps the patient alive while the surgeon cuts. It's unlikely the gas-passer would would use "sir" when replying to the surgeon.

And writtenwyrdd, a lot of rude, inconsiderate things are done in the OR. Saying something like that before the patient is under happens. Patients also come out of anesthesia before the procedure is finished and hear comments. The sequence of the statements could be an appropriate device for showing the attitude of the surgeon.

Whirlochre said...

I so much wanted to continue this but I couldn't figure out who was in the room.

So - there's either too much medical jargon (the solution for which might be for me to bone up and flesh out my ignorance - particularly about 'attendings'), or, it's unclear.

I don't mind the technical detail of the various incisions and at this stage I'm not bothered by there being an uncertainty of direction re:plot - but I do wonder who the protag is. The old lady? The anesthesiologist?

So - I would point up who the protag is and cut back on any unecessary staff.

Dave Fragments said...

I saw this opening on the other blog and it's much better.

I like the first paragraph because it's got tension and jeopardy. I think you should keep only this from the second paragraph: Half an hour earlier the attending surgeon said "Just a tired old gallbladder in a tired old lady.

Then forget the backstory. Forget the prep. Dig into that bloody mess that fills the first paragraph. Don't dilute the action, raise the level - this woman's going to die if the bleeding doesn't stop! They have to open her wide like a whatever. they have to fix damage they caused. They are accusing each other. Something like that.

Make that surgeon eat his tired old lady words - save her or kill her, make him work harder than he ever has. Your reader will love you for it.

Robin S. said...

Freddie- good Operation continuation
- I hated that buzzer sound - probably because I heard it a lot.

Hi Benwah- I was really interested in your first paragraph. And then, I'd rather read about what happens next - that's what I wanna know, and I'm most interested in viewing it through the eyes/mind of the student, at least for a few minutes I am, until I'm grounded.

Is this a short story or a novel opening?

Stacy said...

Thanks, Robin. I e-mailed you. Look for the subject title "It's Freddie."

Anonymous said...

"Is there supposed to be this much blood?" Is way up on the list of the top ten things you don't want to hear your doctor say! :)

Chris Eldin said...

I agree with EE about where to cut it. You have us in a surgery where something's going terribly wrong, then you stop to tell us about the camera.
I like that paragraph, and I don't think it's too technical at all. But it's misplaced.

Good luck, I'd read on!