02/08/2016
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Under the Microscope extra

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In September's Writing Magazine, James McCreet suggested improvements to Amanda Bowden's intro to her domestic thriller, The Last Straw. Read Amanda's extract and James's suggested rewrite below, and see the September issue of Writing Magazine for the full critique.

The Last Straw, by Amanda Bowden

David’s feet flailed, occasionally catching kitchen cupboard doors, his trainers leaving black streaks on white melamine like car tyre skid marks. His thin bony fingers grappled with his dad’s strong-tendoned hands.

‘You useless, stupid little prick,’ his dad spat in his face. The words forced out through snarling teeth. Barry’s face briefly resembled a rabid dog and momentarily, David forgot what it was he had done wrong. Black spots dotted his vision now. He felt like he was gargling his heart. His breathing stertorous. Barry’s iron-fisted grip was cutting of the supply of oxygen to his son’s brain. He had effortlessly picked him up by his neck and now dangled him as he yelled insults. Insults David no longer heard as he teetered on the brink of losing consciousness. He was vaguely aware of an animalistic cry that sounded far away, then suddenly he was released. He dropped to the floor. His feet skidded across recently washed lino, his shoulder caught on a drawer handle. He landed painfully on his hip and buckled knee. He closed his eyes for a second or two. When he reopened them, the floor around him was wet. Not just from being freshly mopped, this was a warm, sticky wetness. At first he thought it was his blood. He sat slowly up. Dazed. Confused. He mentally scanned his body.

‘Mum?’ he croaked.

Eileen stood above him, pale and shaking. Laying in a crumpled, awkward heap next to him in the narrow galley kitchen was his dad. Blood seeped from a wound in his stomach.

‘Mum?’ David croaked, again. He struggled to stand up.

Eileen snapped out of her trance and focussed on her son. Slowly she lay the breadknife on the draining board. She offered her trembling hand to her son to help him up. 

 

McCredited version

David’s trainers flailed against kitchen cupboard doors, leaving black streaks on white melamine. His delicate fingers fluttered about the rigid knuckles and tendons of his father’s grip.
‘You useless, stupid little prick,’ growled Barry, all snarling teeth and spit-flecked lips.
What had David done wrong? He couldn’t remember. Black spots dotted his vision. He was gargling his heart. His breathing rasped. He was vaguely aware of a shrill cry far away. Then suddenly he was released. He dropped to the floor.
His feet skidded across recently washed lino, his shoulder catching on a drawer handle. His knee buckled and he landed painfully on his hip. He closed his eyes.
When he reopened them, the floor around him was wet. Not just from being freshly mopped. This was a red, sticky wetness. Was it his blood? He sat up. Dazed. Confused. He waited for the pain.
‘Mum?’ he said thickly.
Eileen stood above him, pale and shaking. His dad was lying in an awkward heap just beside him. Blood seeped from a wound in his stomach.
‘Mum?’ He struggled to stand.
Eileen focussed on her son. Slowly, she rested the knife on the draining board. She offered the same trembling hand to her son to help him up.

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