12.16.2006

HH Com 95

By the second day, a burn victim's flesh feels like it's peeling off the bone. Their skin, blistered and charred black, resembles a slab of Canadian bacon gone putrid with time. Any clothes have long been welded into the body, and whatever fabric the surgeons failed to deabride dot every inch not covered by bandages. For the preeminent few, a news report will follow the weather forecast that morning. The hospital spokesperson, talking dutifully behind a podium lined with different network microphones, reads two prepared statements: the family's gratitude for all the public support given to them during such a tragic time; and the hospital's comments regarding the patient's condition (critical), and what percentage of their body is incinerated beyond recognition.

For Adrian Cohen, that second day is the worst of his life. As a catheter inserted in what used to be a penis pumps crimson urine from his body, he overhears the attending making small-talk with the orderlies ("Guess they don't teach stop, drop, and roll in Yale drama school, huh?"), and in that moment realizes that his once promising career is now over.

A world famous screen actor, disfigured at the hands of the Russian Mafia for failing to pay his protection, Adrian must now learn to live his life with his greatest asset gone.


(Miss Snark to Killer Yapp: Quick, call the pizza delivery place and cancel that order for canadian bacon and pineapple. Substitute veggies. Oh wait. Cancel it all, I think I need to not eat ever again.)

This is riveting in a horrifying way.
I like my hair being set on fire metaphorically only!


Your hook revolts us then switches gears to ask us to care about someone we don't know. A few additional well chosen words will help. Like why he's paying protection money to the Russian Mafia for starters.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

The only part I like is this "This is riveting in a horrifying way."

Kate said...

Gross and really, really disturbing, but also kind of interesting.

Except I don't think I'd read it because I have no idea what kind of story it's going to be. Is it going to be a recovery-against-the-odds kind of thing, is it going to be a thriller, or something else?

cm allison said...

unfortunately, I personally would not read, being a burn victim. Note: you can be taught from childhood to "stop, drop, and roll", but this goes right out of your mind when you are a human torch. And the pain is beyond belief, I wouldn't be thinking about my lost career, only about how much more morphine can I get. Try to put yourself more into what Adrian would REALLY be thinking day two, later he'd think about his future.

Anonymous said...

Without commenting on the book or really the hook itself, which I thought sounded interesting, I have never in my life met a doctor who would say such a thing in front of a patient. Even a patient they think is unconscious or sleeping.

When the patient isn't around they say all kinds of things. But that is so harsh, uncaring, and unprofessional it threw me right out of the hook.

Anonymous said...

First you say "what used to be a penis" and then you say "his greatest asset is gone."

My brain made a connection that you did not intend. Be careful with those 2 phrases.

Anonymous said...

No, no. The best part was "Quick, call the pizza delivery place and cancel that order for canadian bacon and pineapple. Substitute veggies. Oh wait. Cancel it all, I think I need to not eat ever again" That had me rolling.

But I have a question. If his penis was his greatest asset, does that mean he was a porn actor? Sorry, I wouldn't read another word.

puzzlenouse said...

Maybe there are errors about the burns, maybe someone doesn't believe doctors and nurses can be both professional and assholes, but the writing in this hook grabbed me. In a big way. This is the only entry so far that intrigues me enough to wonder what comes next.

Sonarbabe said...

Oh my dear dog! It's not a bad hook, but I agree with Miss Snark that you would need to put in why he was paying for protection. I'm also in agreement with cm allison. If I have part of my clothing charred to my body, my career would be the furthest thing from my mind. I'm afraid that I would pass on this one. It sounds WAY too gruesome for my liking.

HawkOwl said...

I'm gonna put this in the Sunday at the Pool in the Kigali pile. Compelling writing, but no, I don't want to read it, because I don't want this reality in my head. So as a hook, it failed, because I don't want to read your work. But you're the first writer I've ever seen online who made me think "holy shit, you're good."

Xiqay said...

I liked the beginning, gruesome and all. But then I laughed out loud at the reveal that he was a world-famous screen actor disfigured by the Mafia. Don't ask why, I'm not sure. But suddenly I don't care about him.

A Yale drama student with hopes and dreams--I'd care.

And I'll take it from the commenters as true, he's not thinking about his career on day 2. He's thinking about how to get relief from the pain.

Angus Weeks said...

I think if you shorten the first paragraph and take some of the descriptive details out, you can focus that 'rivetingly horrifying' reaction to greater effect.

I agree with the others that we need more story here, and more character. At the moment, it reads like your book is only a few pages long.

(BTW, The term for what you're describing in the third sentence is 'debride', not 'deabride'.)

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be kinda self-defeating for the Mafia to destroy his ability to pay them? It would make more sense to force the famous screen actor to use his "greatest asset" on TV. A reality series with Janice Dickenson would be even more horrifying than the punishment dished out in this "hook."

lauowolf said...

Well, while I was semi-out having dental surgery, the medicos were debating lunch choices (Chinese or Pizza). They are just going about their jobs.

And others have noted that on day two -- and for a long time -- this guy isn't worrying about his career.

I think there's a lot of good work here, but this writer needs to decide:
Is this a Russian mob, world famous actor, human torch, everything bigger than life and half as convincing kind of tale?
Or is he telling a story of massive injury and recovery, in which case lose the melodramatic trappings?

For me the strength here (remember you coaxed "riveting" out of our fearless leader) lay in the concrete situation -- horrifying or not -- but when you get to the plot elements it sort-of goes flabby.

thraesja said...

I think the nasty stop, drop, and roll comment would work if it was one of the orderlies who said it, rather than the attending. Unless your doctor is Gregory House, in which case both he and Adrian should be looking for morphine instead.

If an A-list star suffered terrible burns to a large percentage of his body, I think it would make it onto the news before the weather.

It does make sense for the mafia to maim him if they have a string of other actors paying protection. Sacrificing your victim's ability to pay works if it sets the right example to the others.

I'd lose the bit about the remains of his penis, as it does indeed contrast badly with his greatest asset later.