A) The Act of a Story Statement
An idealistic medical resident agonizes over mounting pressure to pursue a career of medical research instead of his passion to care for the underserved. His career is further jeopardized when he becomes the suspect in a seemingly impossible murder. While racing to solve the murder, he is forced to navigate many unanticipated land mines, only to find out that nothing in his life is what it appears to be.
The Antagonist Plots the Point
Dr. T. Mallory Campbell (“Malady”) is the chief of medicine the at John Hopkins Hospital. With his rimless glasses, bow tie and over starched lab coat he is the very model of an academic physician. He is the sole arbiter of success for the legions of residents that work for him. They simultaneously live in awe and in fear of this larger-than-life man. Malady is a gifted clinician, world renown scientist and a ruthless political infighter. For him, medical research is the coin of the realm. He has no use for anyone who does not follow this path. Despite this noble patina, Malady has a darker side. His “wandering eye” for attractive women ultimately leads to his demise.
C) Conjuring a Breakout Title
“Death Beneath the Dome”- This title was selected because it refers to the iconic domed main building of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and juxtaposes the concept of “Death” alongside this symbol of healing.
“The Malady Project” – This was an alternative title that was ultimately rejected as too ambiguous. The Malady Project was as assignment given to Hank by Dr. Campbell that facilitates solving the murder.
D) Deciding Your Genre and Approaching Comparables
Death Beneath the Dome involves a series of murders that take place in and around an academic medical center. The main characters are members of a medical community, and the storyline line deals with disease and various medications. As such, a medical murder mystery seems to be the best genre for classification.
Robin Cooke would be the most comparable author or quite possibly Michael Crichton. While nowhere as accomplished as these authors, I am also physician who incorporates and translates complex medical topics in a manner that is both understandable and compelling. I then build on their fascination with medicine to draw the reader into a web of murder, deception, betrayal and ultimately redemption for the protagonist. An alternative, less recognized comparable author might be Michael Palmer.
E) Core Wound and the Primary Conflict
An idealistic medical resident is torn between following the footsteps of his father in the “family business” of medical research and his inner desire to care for the underprivileged community of East Baltimore.
F) Other Matters of Conflict
A newly minted medical resident at the famed Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Hank Baldwin seemed to have it all. This scion of a family famed medical researchers has been blessed with brains, brawn and a beautiful girlfriend. This suddenly changes when he becomes suspect in a seemingly impossible murder. Faced with public humiliation, professional ruin and quite possibly prison, he begins to search for answers at this iconic symbol of academic medicine.
Dr. Hank Baldwin’s primary internal conflict is driven by his success in saving the life of an indigent patient. It is further fueled by his passionate romance with a colleague who regularly encourages him to chart his own career course. The protagonist’s secondary external conflict is fueled by the chairman of medicine who not only pressures Hank to pursue medical research but threatens him with professional ruin after uncovering a dirty secret.
Protagonist conflict abounds, both internally and externally and is advanced by Hank’s overbearing parents, his insatiable love interest, a social circle of other residents competing for cherished career placement, the fearsome chief of medicine and a crusty inner-city detective.
G) The Incredible Importance of Setting
The story takes place in East Baltimore, circa 1990. The iconic dome of the Johns Hopkins Hospital looms in sharp contrast to the sea of urban blight that surrounds it. Scenes alternate between the depictions of hardship facing the East Baltimore community and those of the privileges enjoyed by the medical community. The story also gives the reader an insider’s view of an academic medical center; the emergency room, autopsy room, regal office suites with a sense of realize that few every experience.