Chapter 1 Discussion

Well, here goes!

I started writing Trousseau Syndrome in March of 2012 after several friends (one of whom is now an honest-to-Betsy published writer now) decided to form a writing group that happened to meet in my living room. I’ve been making up stories since I started talking– my mom will gladly recount how I would narrate a story for her to write down while I drew watercolor pictures. I moved on to typing short stories when our family got a computer and burned through our dot-matrix printer as I committed what I wrote to paper. My greatest fiction writing accomplishment until now has been a 212-page novel that was a cross between Gilbert Morris’ House of Winslow series and Star Wars. I’m just really glad that you can’t dig that up in some archive somewhere like you can with my old Xanga posts from my teenage years.

Releasing the novel chapter-by-chapter is a new thing for me; the last time I publicly shared my fiction writing was back when I edited the homeschool newsletter that our church co-op put out (there was a video game review in every issue, shockingly.) Having worked on this story for years now, I’ve wanted people read it, enjoy it, and have their minds opened in some way by it. This is, I hope, a way to get all of that started without actually having the last 100,000 words already committed (first 125,000 down at this point!) I am also hoping that public engagement will help me to ensure that the last 1/3rd– which I expect to be the most challenging to write well– is better than it otherwise would have been. There are, of course, risks that I’m running by doing it this way: not finishing, having to go back to change things halfway through, losing the readers’ interest, watching readers turn on me before they realize that I’m setting up for the punchlines (or after they hit the punchlines), the singularity occurs before 2017, another person in real life starts imitating one of my characters after I’ve written crucial scenes, etc. etc. Those are risks I’m willing to take for this experience, and I’m glad you’re taking them with me.

The writing group was enormously helpful in getting this chapter to where it is now, so I’d like to thank Jeff, Jeny, Margot, Tiffany, and Maggie for all of their thoughts. That said, here is Chapter 1.

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9 thoughts on “Chapter 1 Discussion

  1. This is really good.

    A couple of oddly cut-off lines:
    1) “I wanna [this one before a par. that starts “They should have handed out a new set…”]
    2) Hannah’s eyes were caught by the sight of Sarah gently lifting the large

    Keep it up, I haven’t even read the entire Chapter yet, and I’m hooked.

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  2. I like your work here, thanks for sharing it. I think it’s good. I’ll probably have more to say about the content as the story gets going.

    I often found myself skipping over description in the middle of dialogue. The bits starting, “She had put in her share of long weeks…” and “His words came out quickly…” felt like interruptions. I think the dialogue is some of the strongest text here, followed by, e.g., technical description of surgery and medicine, and what Hannah observed of Javon, both of which communicate setting. I’m less compelled by the description used to establish character. I was less gripped by how Adam was initially introduced, and I think I could have seen what I needed to of him more effectively just from the conversation between him and his professor. I think you intend the start of the story to feel very fast, but the urgency of the action doesn’t match the flow of the text; it takes much longer to read the dialogue plus description than it would take to hear the dialogue in real life. Description could be cut here, especially Hannah’s thoughts. Take that for what you will, I haven’t written fiction in years.

    I am reminded that Steven King’s has a couple of pet peeves: use of adverbs and dialogue attribution. My final nitpick: The use of an en dash followed by a space, instead of an em dash with no spaces on either side.

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    1. Thanks, Alex! Honestly, part of the description is to keep the scene from being ten pages of dialogue in a row. Also, the hurry-up-and-wait thing is a big part of what being a student on a medical service or in a surgery feels like, so that was at least quasi-intentional.

      Adverbs are a real struggle for me, I’ll admit. And I will try to fix the dashes in subsequent chapters although that habit will probably be really, really hard to break.

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  3. I liked the pacing and confusion from Hannah’s perspective. The narration to dialogue movements are certainly tough to manage — I also find myself skipping down a few lines at places as a reader. This isn’t honestly fair without you having the chance to counter-critique my work, so I hope that tempers what I’m saying a bit.

    More specifically, I haven’t ‘caught’ Adam’s character in the sense that I don’t empathise with him yet. You paint the general actions of the scene and I get the gist of what’s happening (you might want to harden the instructor a bit more to build Adam by contrast — as an instructor who tries to empathise, it’s not easy when a student can’t just come out with things in full detail while your agenda is falling behind). Having Adam pick which book to display is helpful, but you might have Adam focus on a particular object in the hall — something some of us do whilst waiting.

    I appreciate the general flow of the dialogues, especially amongst the medical staff, and you aren’t getting lost in the landscape…but maybe get lost in the landscape once or twice later on.

    All in all, I’d read this (assuming I found it) if I didn’t know the author and you’ve created some characters. They can be deeper — possibly by having them interact further with their surroundings or creating more awkwardness through juxtaposition. Obviously feel free to disagree fully, and justify if desired, but I’m hoping to be specific in why I’m reacting certain ways — ideally that helps you best.

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  4. FWIW, I feel like it’s essential to have narration interspersed in the dialogue that can serve as a reference to orient the reader about who is talking, especially in scenes like the surgery where you have more than two characters talking.

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