Under the Microscope extra: The White Witch of Melancholy Wood

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28 October 2020
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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.

The White Witch of Melancholy Wood, by Michael Mcallister - original version

Ava dabbed the corners of her eyes with a tissue, as tears mixed with mascara slipped under her Ray-Bans; tramlines ran down her baby-faced cheeks. She pushed the sunglasses up her nose, flicked a stray lock of blonde hair out of her eye-line and pressed the accellerator pedal to increase the speed of her Porsche Carrera. Ava watched the speedo hit 70MPH and felt the cooling breeze through the open window. She sang along with Sandy Denny as her vocals caroused from the CD speakers. One Angel reminded her of another two; taken too soon – her Mother and Grandmother. Ava blubbed the half forgotten lyrics to “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” her Mother's favourite song; played at her funeral. Sandy's voice unrivalled, the purity of her grace notes sublime: her vocals soared, flawless; she asked the unanswerable question? Ava had another question in mind. Why had Xavier come back?

Ava missed her Mother and Grandmother so much. She's worried about being late – she needs to get to Highgate Cemetary in less than half an hour and she's still on the M40 – a slight dip of the pedal increased her speed. A bouquet of lilies lay on the dashboard.

What's that noise? Loud, getting louder. Merde! Sounds like … What the …? Ava instinctively slammed on the brakes, as the front passenger side wheel broke free of the axle and slewed away from the car. The noise deafening, as the left side front under carriage tore along the tarmac. Sparks dazzled the air like a huge Catherine wheel gone berserk. She heard something snap, that caused the front end of the car to veer left, thudding into the embankment and toppling onto its roof. The airbag released and cocooned her like a baby in its mother's womb.

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The White Witch - McCredited version

Ava lowered her Ray Bans and dabbed the corners of her eyes with a tissue as mascara tears ran in tramlines down her baby-soft cheeks. She flicked a stray lock of blonde hair out of her eye-line and pressed the Porsche Carrera’s accelerator. The speedo hit 70mph and she felt the breeze increase through the open window.

She sang along with Sandy Denny as the vocals caroused from the speakers. That angel reminded her of another two taken too soon – her mother and grandmother. Ava blubbed the half forgotten lyrics to “Who Knows Where The Time Goes,” her Mother's favourite song – the one played at her funeral. Sandy's voice was unrivalled, the purity of her grace notes sublime. Her vocals soared, flawless. She was asking the unanswerable question. Ava had another question in mind: why had Xavier come back?

She looked at her watch. She needed to get to Highgate Cemetery within half an hour and was still on the M40. A slight dip of the pedal increased her speed. A bouquet of lilies lay on the dashboard.

What was that noise? Loud, getting louder. Merde! Sounded like . . . What the . . . ? Ava instinctively slammed on the brakes as the front passenger-side wheel broke free of the axle and slewed away from the car. The noise was deafening as the left-side front undercarriage tore along the tarmac. Sparks dazzled the air like a huge Catherine wheel gone berserk. She heard something snap. That caused the car to veer left, thudding into the embankment and flipping onto its roof. The airbag released, blanking her vision.

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