HH Com 244 (240)

Dr. Kristin St John’s first instinct was to let the phone keep ringing.
A glance at the amber glow of the clock on the nightstand told her it was 3 A.M. A call at that time of the night always meant trouble, particularly on a Saturday. Besides, she’d already pulled her duty today, twelve hours of it at the EIS duty’s officer’s desk. She’d been stuck there until her relief arrived at midnight fielding nothing but routine calls. Couldn’t they give her a moment’s peace?
That must be why they’re calling she thought. Maybe this time of night they couldn’t get anyone else, and they know I’ll be home in bed. Certainly it must be something out of the ordinary, or the officer on duty would handle it.
She didn’t turn on the lamp still hoping to get back to sleep as she groped for the phone.
“Hello,” she said through a mouth that felt dry as cotton.
“Kristin, I’m sorry to wake you, but I think it’s something you’ll want to be in on.” She recognized the voice as Dr. Steve Chin, her replacement on the duty officer’s desk. “It sounds like it’s your specality.”
Kristin sat up straight, suddenly wide-awake.
“You mean E reston?”
“Might be. It involves monkeys in Mindanao. If you’re interested, come on down and I’ll fill you in.”
“Interested? Are you kidding? Just let me get a quick shower, and I’ll be right there.”

this isn't a hook, it's a first page.

And as first pages go, it's toast.
Waking up, answering the phone, then having our heroine hear it's "urgent" but she'll take a shower first....blechhhhhh.

Open with someone's hair on fire. Even if they're asleep.

Start over.


Jocasta said...

Ouch... an heroine craving to go back to sleep, then wide awake with excitment but still wanting to take a shower in the middle of the night before kicking her ass into gear? Made me feel like kicking her ass myself. But in spite of the bad start, I'm kind of curious to know what that phone call really was about...

tomdg said...

My idea of "urgent" involves crawling out of bed and being outside the house two minutes later, sweaty and stinking, but I know plenty of people whose "urgent" involves a shower first.

E Reston (whatever that is) and monkeys in Mindanao turn me off on this one though. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

Could not comprehend crisis. What's an EIS duty officer and what kind of doctor does the job? etc.

Brady Westwater said...

Dr. Kristin St John’s first instinct was to let the phone keep ringing until a glance at the clock on the nightstand told her it was 3 A.M. She picked up the phone.


It was Dr. Steve Chin, her replacement on the duty officer’s desk.

"Monkeys in Mindanao - and E. Reston may be involved. I'll have some hot coffee waiting for you.

Anonymous said...

Check out Rachel Vater's blog (Lit Agent X) for some nice rants on starting a story with someone waking up. Or, to sum them up: You pretty much just shouldn't do it. Try starting with her getting to wherever she's about to go instead. Then you can completely avoid the shower issue. ;)

Angus Weeks said...

tomdog, I think Miss Snark is aware that many people will have a shower first even when it's urgent.

But Miss Snark is commenting on a work of fiction and not everyday hygiene practices.

Just as you don't put in every toilet break your characters have, you don't need to put in "just let me get a quick shower" on page one when the action should be moving forward, not taking pit-stops. The line is unnecessary, and to a reader, it suggests that the reason for the phone call may not be so interesting after all.

Also, I'd suspect it suggests to Miss Snark that the whole story may be filled with unnecessary details.

Compare the original to Brady Westwater's rewritten version here. What Brady Westwater has done, in a fraction of the wordcount, pushes the story immediately forward and also instills in the reader the necessary curiosity.

(I think I might hire Brady to be my editor)

dana p said...

E Reston + monkeys = Ebola Reston?