01/06/2018
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Under the Microscope extra: IED

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Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's thriller opening, and see the full critique in our July issue.

Original version

Improvised Explosive Device. Triggered remotely by a mobile phone, shattering lives, irreversibly changing the course of our future.
Beep beep.
“Who’s texting you at this time of night?” No attempt was made to conceal the accusatory tone. It really could have been work, but I knew it wasn’t.
“How would I know? I haven’t looked at it! It’s too late to matter now, whatever it is. I’ll deal with it in the morning.” My attempts at dismissing the text were unlikely to be successful, but I had nowhere to go.
“Show me!”
“Just leave it – it’ll be work and I don’t want to deal with it tonight. They get enough of my time without pestering me at midnight.”
“Show me the phone right now”. The measured tone was a bad sign.
Beep beep. Jesus, please stop! Why would she text so late? Idiot. Idiot! My mind was racing. My stomach an empty pit. My normal, easy, comfortable life was about to collapse around me, all for the sake of a stupid mistake and a bloody text message!
“Give. Me. The. Phone!”
Sarah didn’t wait for a response. I wasn’t able to react fast enough to prevent her lunge across the bed.
“Who’s sending you a smiley face and a kiss? At midnight!”
“Look…this isn’t what you think…”. Of course it was. It was exactly what she was thinking. “Don’t start shouting, OK. I don’t want to wake the kids. I can explain this.” I couldn’t explain this. There was no reasonable explanation. There was the truth. That didn’t seem reasonable.
Sarah was already out of bed. I could see the smooth outline of her body in the weak phosphorescence from the street light. Everything about her was tense, as though she were on the start line of a race. Fight or flight.

 

 

McCredited version

Beep beep.
“Who the hell is texting you at this time of night?”
“How would I know? I haven’t looked at it! It’s too late to matter now, whatever it is. I’ll deal with it in the morning.”
“Show me!”
“Just leave it – it’ll be work and I don’t want to deal with it tonight. They get enough of my time without pestering me at midnight.”
“Show me that phone right now.”
Beep beep.
Jesus, please stop! Would she really text so late? My stomach was a cold knot.
“Give. Me. The. Phone!”
Sarah didn’t wait for a response. She lunged across the bed.
“Who’s sending you a smiley face and a kiss? At midnight!”
“Look…I don’t know what you’re thinking …Don’t start shouting, OK. I don’t want to wake the kids. I can explain this.”
Sarah was already out of bed. Everything about her was tense, her limbs like wire, her body bent.

Read the full critique and commentary in the July issue of Writing Magazine

Back to "How to write fiction" Category

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