Under the Microscope extra: Open

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Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's novel opening

Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's first 300 words and for the full critique, see the August issue of Writing Magazine.

Open, by Sarah Daglish - original

My husband appeared to me for the first time as I was walking to his car. This wouldn’t have been so strange ordinarily, but we’d had him cremated three weeks previously, so the shock was enough to make me drop the crowbar I had been carrying. It bounced off my big toe and landed on the driveway with a metallic clang. Ben’s spirit looked exactly as he had the morning before he left to go to work on the day he died; pristine grey suit, crisp white shirt, finished off with a bright cerise tie to show he was confident enough to be in touch with his feminine side. His face reminded me of the last time I’d witnessed him opening his credit card statement (the one I had a card for): face a mask of horror and mouth curved into a silent “No”. His hands were held up begging me to stop walking any further. He disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared, leaving me standing on the driveway outside our house, jaw hanging and big toe throbbing. When I came to my senses, I muttered an expletive through clenched teeth, whilst rubbing my toe which I suspected might be broken.

I looked up and down our street; a few cars idled past but there didn’t appear to be anyone around who might have witnessed the little scene, which I still wasn’t convinced had actually happened. Grief does strange things to people, particularly when you lose someone as suddenly as I had lost Ben. He just went to work one day and never came home. I guess that’s what happens when you attempt to treat a heart attack with ibuprofen and Antacids. I did ask the registrar if we could record the cause of death on the death certificate as stupidity. She wasn’t amused. Sarcasm is how I chose to deal with difficult stuff

Open - McCredited version

My husband appeared to me for the first time three weeks after we’d had him cremated. I was approaching his car and dropped the crowbar I’d been carrying on my big toe. It landed on the house’s driveway with a metallic clang.

Ben’s spirit looked exactly the same as he had the morning he’d gone to work that fatal day: pristine grey suit, crisp white shirt and a bright cerise tie to show he was in touch with his feminine side. His face now in the driveway, however, reminded me of the last time I’d watched him open his credit card statement (the one I had a card for): a mask of horror, his mouth curved into a silent “No.” His hands were up, begging me to stop walking any further.

He disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared, leaving me standing on the driveway, perplexed and with my big toe throbbing. It was probably broken.

“Shit!”

I looked up and down the street. A few cars cruised past but there didn’t appear to be anyone else who might have witnessed the scene. Had it been visible to anyone else? Grief does strange things to people, particularly when you lose someone as suddenly as I’d lost Ben.

He just went to work that day and never came home. I guess that’s what happens when you attempt to treat a heart attack with Ibuprofen and antacids. I’d asked the registrar if we could record the cause of death as stupidity. She wasn’t amused.

Sarcasm is how I chose to deal with difficult stuff . . .

 

For the full critique, see the August issue of Writing Magazine.