Under the Microscope extra: Charlie

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02 November 2021
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Microscope_icon-71204.jpg Under the Microscope extra
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 December issue of Writing Magazine.

Charlie, by Andrew Hill - original version

It is 2015, and has been a cold night. Is the old man awake? He doesn’t know; his waking hours are so like his slumber.

It is 1965, and has been a cold night, but the young man is tucked up in bed and warm, that is something. Frank, to give him his name, lies awake in the silence. What are his thoughts? Perhaps this sixteen-year-old boy, for that is all he is, is thinking of the girlfriend he left behind. Perhaps of what is for breakfast. Perhaps wishing it was warmer; it can get bitterly cold on the parade square with a whistling, wintry wind producing near arctic conditions. Perhaps he’s wishing he’d never joined up. At least it isn’t raining, there is silence from the ceiling, not the echoing of a torrent beating down on the roof of the wooden hut that is now Frank’s home.

This is his first term at Norton Grange.

0520 hours. The cold night has become a cold morning.

In 2015 at 5.20 AM, the cold night has become a cold morning.

In 1965, it is still dark outside.

Still dark outside for the old man in 2015, and he is outside.

Alone in a room of fifteen souls.

Alone in a city counting millions of souls.At least it’s dry, meaning no more than it isn’t actually raining. The dampness of this early January morning penetrates his clothing. He shivers.

Can this old man survive another winter?

‘What’s that smell?’ Thoughts tumble from his lips in a manner incoherent to anyone but the old man himself.

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‘It’s piss. Is it mine?’ he thinks while his hand moves around the vulnerable area. No wetness, no betrayal of nocturnal leakage. ‘It’s not mine,’ he concludes to his relief.

 

Charlie - McCredited version

2015. It has been a cold night. The old man is not sure if he is awake or dreaming.

1965. It has been a cold night, but the young man is tucked up in bed and warm. Frank lies awake in the silence. Perhaps this sixteen-year-old boy is thinking of the girlfriend he left behind. Perhaps of what is for breakfast. Perhaps wishing it was warmer; it can get bitterly cold on the parade square with a whistling, wintry wind. Perhaps he’s wishing he’d never joined up. At least it isn’t raining. There is silence rather than a drumming on the roof of the wooden hut he shares with fifteen others.

This is his first term at Norton Grange.

05.20 hours. The cold night has become a cold morning.

In 2015 at 5.20 AM, the cold night has become a cold morning.

In 1965, it is still dark outside.

Still dark outside for the old man in 2015 – and he is outside.

Alone in a room of fifteen souls.

Alone in a city counting millions of souls. At least it’s dry, though the dampness of this early January morning penetrates his pyjamas. He shivers.

What’s that smell? It’s piss. Is it mine? His hand moves around the vulnerable area. No wetness, no betrayal of nocturnal leakage. It’s not mine.

For the full critique, see the December issue of Writing Magazine