Under the Microscope extra: Peter and Tom

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Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's novel opening

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


Peter and Tom, by Elizabeth Cathie - original version

The two figures walk along the road holding hands. The mother is short, not slim, wearing safe comfortable clothes and flat shoes, eschewing any notion of fashion, happy in her own body, confidence displayed unknowingly in her quiet voice and easy walk; she looks calm, almost serene except that she is too ordinary to be serene.

The boy is small, just four years old; he walks happily by his mother’s side doing little skips and hops, chatting just because he can. He has a blue woolly hat pulled down over his ears. The summer day doesn’t really merit the hat, but to those passing on the street or standing at the windows who know the ways of children and can happily accommodate their oddities the hat wearing can be seen for what it is, a loved garment whose wearing gives the child pleasure, an oddity that does no harm, something that by the time winter comes around again will have been discarded in favour of a new novelty.

The pair appear to dance along the pavement, happy in each other’s company; when the child stops to push his face deep into a rosemary bush in a front garden causing a buzzing and fluttering of disgruntled bumble bees the mother laughs and waits as the space around her fills with the smell of the herb, until the boy is done with his game. Then briefly they hold hands again but soon his happy voice echoes around the walls of the cul-de-sac as the door of the last little cottage opens and a man appears on the doorstep drawn out by the sound of the boy’s voice; now the little boy’s legs in their red shorts are running along the pavement and his arms are spinning and waving in joy.

‘Granddad, Granddad, I’m here Granddad.’

The boy jumps and the man catches him up in his arms.

 

Peter and Tom  - McCredited rewrite

The two walk along the residential street holding hands. The mother is short, not slim, wearing safe, comfortable clothes and flat shoes. She seems not to know or care about fashion, happy in her own body, confident in her quiet voice and easy walk. She looks calm, almost serene.

The boy is small at just four years old. In his red shorts, he walks happily by his mother’s side, skipping and hopping and chatting as much to himself as to her. He has a blue woolly hat pulled down over his ears despite the summer heat – a loved garment that he’ll discard for another novelty when winter comes around.

The pair almost seem to dance along the pavement, happy in each other’s company. When the child stops to push his face deep into a rosemary bush in a cottage garden, disgruntled bumble bees buzzingly take flight and the mother laughs as the herb’s scent reaches her. They hold hands again and walk until his happy voice echoes around the cul-de-sac and the door of the last little cottage opens.

The man on the doorstep has been drawn out by the sound of the boy’s voice and now the boy runs along the pavement, waving in joy.

‘Granddad! Granddad! I’m here, Granddad!’

The boy jumps and the man catches him.

 

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