25 August 2022
A reader's novel opening goes under the editorial microscope
Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's first 300 words and for the full critique, see the October issue of Writing Magazine.
Aliane's Legacy by Gavin Skerry - original version
The land was desolate, an unforgiving wilderness of craggy rocks and sparse wild grass, despair laced the air. Overhead the sky was dark with threatening grey clouds, in the distance streaks of lightning briefly lit the darkness. It was an evil place, not just the inhospitable environment but a real sense of terror that would rip through any who dared venture here.
Some always dared. Amid a clearing, three large slabs of rock had been arranged to form a crude table. Four hooded figures were gathered around the construction. The long green robes with thick hoods hid all details of those present. One took their place at the head of the table, long gnarled, bony fingers emerged from the deep sleeves and placed several objects on the surface, four green candles, a large shallow bowl, a menacing brute of a knife, so long it almost qualified as a sword.
The four figures turned as one to look behind, several others were making their way up a hill. The tough terrain was making their going slow, as was the fact they were dragging another. This individual was female, and naked. She was screaming with all her might and thrashing against those pulling her. Her screams were so loud and terrified that they pierced the howling wind all around. Her white skin was marked with streaks of red, telling a tale of the violence that had been done to her. Despite her best efforts the four people pulling seemed to be extraordinarily strong, as she impeded their progress not at all.
The second group arrived at the stone table, those already there moved apart as one, there was an awful, beautiful choreography to their movement. The new group lifted the struggling girl with ease, and threw her like a heavy burden on to the unyielding top, her screams stopped briefly as she was winded by the impact, her eyes losing focus as her head hit the stone. She was young, no more than 20 summers. Her skin had taken on a cyanosed tone due to exposure to the extreme cold.
Aliane's Legacy - McCredited version
A cold wind howled over the wilderness of split and craggy rocks. Sparse wild grass shivered and the bruised black sky flashed with lightning. No birds flew. No human dared enter this terrain.
Yet amid a clearing, three large slabs of rock had been arranged to form a table. Four hooded figures had gathered around it, their long, green, hooded robes making them seem identical. The one at the head of the table used gnarled, bony fingers to take several objects from his robe and place them on the surface: four green candles, a large shallow bowl and a hooked, serrated knife almost as long as a sword.
The four figures then turned to face the hill that led down to the clearing. Another four hooded figures were slowly dragging a naked female, a girl, over the rough earth towards the stone table. She screamed and roiled, her tortured wails swelling and ebbing on the gusts, her skin torn and hanging in raw, crimson flaps.
The new group arrived at the clearing and those waiting moved away from the table like blue petals opening. The girl’s body fell hard on the surface, restrained by unyielding skeletal hands.
For the full critique, see the October issue of Writing Magazine