03/08/2017
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Under the Microscope extra: Fallible Justice

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Read James McCreet's analysis of this novel opening in the September issue of Writing Magazine, and scroll down for his suggested rewrite.

Fallible Justice, by Laura Laakso

I am running. The foot that touches the ground is a deer’s hoof, the foot that propels me forward a wolf’s paw. With each stride, the wings of a seagull hold me aloft. Running along the sandy hill, the wide paws of a lynx ensure my passing is silent. The wind is against me, whipping through a horse’s mane that is my hair. With the wind comes the smells of the land and the sea and I sift through them with the nose of a badger. In the distance, a magpie takes flight and the ears of a dormouse pinpoint the source of the sound with ease. My foot hits a depression on the ground, but with the balance of a squirrel I change the direction of my momentum and keep going.
I am running through the wilderness and the wilderness runs through me.
The hills follow the curves of the coast and from a sheltered cove, I catch a whiff of decay. My stomach growls and it is the hunger of a vixen sneaking towards a chicken coop, a pine marten tossing a shrew in the air, a striped dolphin chasing a school of cod. As soon as the thought registers, the smell is gone.
A hound bays in the distance. It is downwind from me and has recognised my scent. I bay back. Kin recognises kin.
Although I run with the strength of a red deer, the speed of a swift and the grace of a pond skater, there comes a point when I have to stop. I brace my hands against my knees, breath coming in gulps. In that moment, I am all human, only human. There is no sorrow in the change; the wilderness hovers on the edge of my consciousness, ready to immerse me with its power.

James McCreet's suggested rewrite

I am running. I am running with deer’s hoof and wolf’s paw. The wings of a seagull hold me aloft. The wide paws of a lynx ensure my silent passing along the sandy hill.
The wind is against me, whipping through my horse’s mane. With it come the smells of the land and the sea and I sift through their complexities like the air through my hair. I see a magpie take flight. I sense the ears of a dormouse pinpoint the source with ease.
My foot enters a rushy depression, but with a squirrel’s balance I tip my equilibrium and lose no pace.
I am the wilderness.
The hills follow the lines of the coast and I catch a whiff of decay from a sheltered cove. My stomach growls – the hunger of a vixen stalking a chicken coop, mouth open, sensing the night.
A dog bays in the distance. It is downwind from me and has registered my scent. I feel him. Kin recognises kin.
Although I run with the strength of the fleeing, the speed of the swooping, the aim of the striking, there comes a point when I have to stop. I brace my hands against my knees, breath coming in gulps. In that moment, I am all human – only human. There is no sorrow in the change; the wilderness hovers on the edge of my consciousness, its power ever-present in me, around me.

Read the full analysis in the September issue of Writing Magazine.

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