20 November 2020
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 January issue of Writing Magazine.
Flamed, by Courtenay S Gray - original version
Belle, a young and vulnerable woman gave her heart to so many people. She sadly, never got any love in return. This was never a surprise to her as she had become used to it, not that it hurt any less, but it became second nature to her. Most people would say that she was a cynic in love, but she was never cynical. It was more that she knew exactly what was bound to happen and therefore braced herself for the ensuing heartbreak.
She had many fond and comforting memories of her childhood. Obsession has always been in her nature, even during childhood but it never seemed to affect her like it does now. When the heartbreak ensues, the whole world stops and tomorrow becomes unreachable. Her tears could flood a town and her fury could burn the world to ashes.
She is all the elements of the world. She is Earth, Wind, Water and Fire. She can be as sweet as sugar and as cold as ice. An all-around good person but a monstrous temper and with a broken heart, her eyes stab like daggers and her hands shoot flames.
She took a trip to the city one day. She went looking for some peace from her racing mind. She could never get away from it. She got herself a coffee and she went to sit on the benches outside. Belle was a keen people watcher. She loved to watch people pass by and wonder about the houses they lived in and the jobs they had. She wanted to know everything about everyone. She had made it her mission to become omniscient.
Out the corner of her eye, she saw an intriguing looking man. He looked intriguing enough for her to want to know his whole life story. She needed to know where he lived, what his name was, if he was married or if he had a girlfriend. As she was looking, he seemed to sense it as he exchanged the same look with her. She couldn’t turn away as that would be obvious, so she gave a momentary glance and shifted her vision to the stray cat strolling by.
Flamed - McCredited version
Belle took a trip to the city one day. She went looking for some peace from her racing mind. She got herself a coffee and she went to sit on a bench outside. She liked to watch the people.
How would she have appeared to other people watchers? She was young and looked vulnerable with her pale face and oversized cardigan (seven buttons, the top and the bottom ones always left undone). Perhaps she was one who’d had her heart broken, and not for the first time. Perhaps she’d given her heart to someone, to many, and not received any love in return. Again.
Perhaps she was used to such rejection, or at least told herself that because it was brave when in fact each new heartbreak was a tearful inundation, a furious fire, an elemental grief. But brave. Always brave.
She watched the people. Where did they live? What did they do? How many steps did they take between their bathroom mirror and the office door? Could their thoughts be discerned? Omniscience would have been her superpower.
An intriguing man walked by. Unlike the rest, he was watching rather than being watched. He was watching her.