Critique Corner: The Heart Box

Author:          Daniel B.

Genre:           Adult Dramatic Fiction

“That’s bull,” Jonathan Brooks said and stood up from the padded leather chair. He spun around and glared out the massive window in the old mill building—another turn-of-the-century relic remodeled into outrageously expensive offices.

Why does she keep asking me these questions? Damn, she really knows how to get under my skin.

“Jonathan. Jonathan, where did you go?”

He took a deep breath then turned to face her. The doctor, an attractive East Indian woman with jade colored eyes, watched him intently.

Jonathan took a step forward and she smiled. Her black hair set against a light brown complexion gave her an exotic look. She was empathetic, yet feisty which indicated a level of complexity that beguiled him. When he thought she should be listening, she wrote furiously on a yellow legal pad. Other times she looked off towards the window as if waiting for a cue card to appear with her next question. Her last name was equally as complex, with more vowels than he had ever seen before side-by-side. To her clients though, she was simply known as—Dr. Diana.

“I’m here.”

“Are you?”

Calm down, calm down, remember you’re only here as a favor.

“No, I’m really here,” he repeated, sinking back down into the chair.

“Jonathan that’s the second time you’ve gotten upset by one of my questions. Why is that?”

“Because it’s ridiculous!”

“Is it now?” she asked in a softened tone, which clearly revealed her eastern accent.

“Yes. I’m not a commitment-phobe.”

“Then if relationships are as important to you as you indicated in our first meeting, why haven’t you had one in all these years?”

“Because I … I never found anyone I wanted to settle down with, and I couldn’t see the point in spending time with someone just for the sake of having a relationship.” God, why am I defending myself?

5 thoughts on “Critique Corner: The Heart Box

  1. Claire E A Boissiere (@EABoissiere) says:

    Hi Daniel, I loved the immediacy to this opening. I was straight into his head, I’m a fan of giving direct thought in close third person, and I think you’ve pulled it off in a natural compelling way.
    I’d watch some of the early physical descriptions; they came across a bit cliché, I’d let them tease out over more time.
    I think the important aspect to convey initially is their relationship, which came across really well when he described her scribbling on the yellow pad and staring out the window. I thought that was a great sequence, it told me loads about her, and how she affects him.
    It’s possible you don’t need the previous description, ‘She was empathetic, yet feisty which indicated a level of complexity that beguiled him.’ Because it’s conveyed so well in her actions.
    I’d suggest tweaking this piece of dialogue: ‘Yes. I’m not a commitment-phobe.’ The rest of the dialogue felt really authentic, but this one didn’t seem to fit, I think it needs to convey a bit more anger given the surrounding context.
    The notion of him defending his actions to a doctor in the last line is great, it’s so typical of the types of thoughts we all have! It was a real connection point for me with this character. Good job.

  2. Scarlett Kol says:

    Daniel,

    I loved the introduction of this character. You get a feel for him right away and you carry it through with the internal dialogue. The description of the doctor was a bit dumpy and it kind of threw me out of the scene a bit, but everything after that reeled me back in. I particularly loved that last line. Well done!

  3. swirlandspark says:

    This is a good opening. I feel like I know Jonathan at once, especially how he is feeling in this moment. This is so important because you want your reader to connect with your MC right away. Your descriptions are vivid too. I can clearly imagine the scene you’ve created. I would simplify a few phrases to make your writing even stronger though. For example, you can omit the color of the doctor’s eyes. To say “an attractive East Indian woman” is enough to let the reader imagine a physical description of her on their own. In the next paragraph, you describe her again. You could combine these two paragraphs into one. I agree with Claire that you should omit the sentence: She was empathetic, yet feisty which indicated a level of complexity that beguiled him. This is telling and you’ve shown this information through the rest of the paragraph. I also agree that another phrase then “commitment-phobe” would be more consistent with the way Jonathan speaks. Overall, I’m intrigued by this opening. I want to know why Jonathan is there “only as a favor,” and also why the talk of relationships sets him off so much! There’s more to Jonathan’s story. I’d love to know what it is. Well done!

  4. beth hautala says:

    Love the opening here. Beautifully descriptive and clear. I know right away where I am and what my surroundings look like.
    As has been said already, watch your ‘telling,’ especially when it lands in internal monologue.
    In regard to monologue, or dialogue for that matter, always read it aloud—or even better, have someone read it aloud to you. I have found that this helps SO MUCH when I’m trying to make a character’s voice ring true.
    Perhaps you’re already aware, so forgive the redundancy if this is the case, but most computers are equipped with a speech function in the system software. It’s a great tool for writers. Highlight your text and it will read it back to you. 🙂
    I like what you have here! Keep it up!

  5. manuregurl says:

    I love the action right from the start. I can see Jonathan standing up in frustration and doing everything you describe. I also really enjoyed the little aside about the old mill being remodeled into over-priced offices – that little comment already had me visualizing he was probably in a doctor, lawyer or therapist’s office.

    I was thrown a bit by her comment: “Jonathan. Jonathan, where did you go?” At first I thought they were Skyping and he’s stepped out of the camera’s range. LOL! Of course, that’s just me and my weird way of looking at things. I understand what you’re trying to convey with the line – where did he go mentally. But it threw me off at first. Later, when he describes how the doctor sometimes looks out the window, I was tempted to tell Jonathan to ask her where she just “went” to!

    I agree with the comment from one of the other readers re: description of her eye color. I don’t think it’s needed in that sentence.

    I was intrigued by the idea that he was seeing the doctor as a favor. A favor to whom? I would definitely read on.

    Thanks for sharing your writing. Good luck.

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