01/05/2019
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Under the Microscope extra: Every Picture Tells a Story

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

Every Picture Tells a Story - original version

“Where were you?” Lidia’s irritation was clear from her accusatory tone and glare.
“I just went to the gents,” Charlie replied.  “I haven’t been gone long.”
“You’ve been ages!  You could’ve told me where you were going!   Come on, let’s not waste any more time.   There’s lots to see.”
An uneasy silence descended upon the couple as Lidia handed over their tickets to the museum attendant and they entered the Edward Hopper exhibition at the Tate Modern on London’s Southbank.   They had walked from Liverpool Street Station via the Guildhall and St. Paul’s Cathedral, then across the Millennium Bridge.  They preferred to walk when visiting London as it gave them the chance to see more of the sights and for Charlie to try and lose a bit of weight.   His doctor had been adamant that he should start doing some exercise and lose a bit of the excess weight gained in middle age.  Walking seemed like the least strenuous option.   This was their monthly trip into to London from Chelmsford where they now lived.
As they wandered around the exhibition the tension eased between them as the colours, lines and contrasting light and shade from Hopper’s paintings began to work their magic.  There was something mesmerising about the images.  
“Every picture tells a story,” mused Lidia as she gazed at the woman sitting alone in a café in the painting entitled Automat.  “I wonder why she’s alone.  She looks so sad.   Perhaps she’s waiting for someone...”
Charlie stood contemplating the painting, lost in his own thoughts.  
As he had nothing to add, Lidia continued her monologue, “What a shame people don’t wear hats much anymore, just those stupid backward baseball caps young people wear these days.  Back in the thirties and forties they looked so elegant, and frankly much cooler.”

 

McCREDITED VERSION

“Where the hell have you been all this time?” said Lidia.
“I just went to the gents,” said Charlie. “I haven’t been gone long.”
“You’ve been ages! You could’ve told me where you were going!”
“I just needed to . . . you know. It was a long walk from Liverpool St—“
 “Well. The doctor said you need to lose weight.”
“I know, but . . .”
“Come on, let’s not waste any more time. There’s lots to see.”
Lidia handed over their tickets and they entered the Edward Hopper exhibition at the Tate Modern.
As they went from painting to painting, the tension eased between them. The windows and corners and tables and self-contained spaces of each vividly coloured canvas presented a different world for them to escape into. It was like entering another time.
“Every picture tells a story,” said Lidia as she gazed at the woman sitting alone in a café in the painting entitled Automat. “I wonder why she’s alone. She looks so sad. Perhaps she’s waiting for someone . . .”
Charlie stood silently contemplating the painting.
“What a shame people don’t wear hats much anymore, just those stupid backward baseball caps young people wear these days. Back in the thirties and forties they looked so elegant, and, frankly, much cooler.”
“That’s your focus in this painting?” said Charlie. “The hat?”
“Why not? What do you see?”
“Well, she’s wearing only one glove.”
“And that’s important, is it?”
"It’s interesting. And, well, look at the way the reflection of the lights just stretches off into the night. And she’s at the centre of the darkness . . .”
 “Her hat is at the centre of the darkness.”

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

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