Category Archives: Writing discussion

Potatoes and Dragons

Yesterday a thread on Reddit’s fantasy writers board brought up a topic I’ve long meant to write something about, and framed it in a way that I think makes the problem quite clear. User Hoosier_Jedi asked whether the existence of dragons and other fantasy elements in a world could justify dismissing concerns about the presence of South American crops in a world otherwise heavily influenced by Europe, and though I have responded in that thread I want to expand and clarify my thoughts here, because while the question posed is about potatoes, tomatoes and dragons, it has wider implications about the attitude a writer takes to worldbuilding and immersion.

Let’s start with looking at potatoes and dragons specifically.

A selection of different varieties of potatoes
Potatoes. Source: Wikipedia.

On Earth, potatoes are a tuber crop originating in the Andes region of South America, where they were domesticated as a high-altitude staple capable of surviving on marginal land where other crops could not, which could be freeze-dried or powdered for long-term storage. They reached the rest of the world following the Spanish Conquest of South America under Francisco Pizarro in the 16th century, and popularised in Europe as a result of their adaptability and high nutritional content.

Manuscript depicting a knight and a dragon fighting within the shape of a large letter R
A dragon and a knight in an initial letter R from from the frontispiece of a 12th-century manuscript of St. Gregory’s Moralia in Job, Dijon, Bibl. Municipale, MS 2. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Dragons, on the other hand, aren’t real*. They’re a mythical monster found, amongst other places, in medieval stories and artworks, making for suitably threatening enemies for gallant heroes to defeat as they demonstrate their skill and bravery.

So, given that potatoes are real and dragons are not, why is it that readers have a hard time accepting potatoes in many fantasy worlds but are fine with dragons?

There are two facets to the answer, I think: the first is about believability and realism, and the second about the work the author puts in and what they leave to the reader.

Believability and realism are related concepts, but they’re not the same thing. Realism is about factual accuracy and faithful recreation of reality. It is vital to the reader’s acceptance of historical fiction and historically-faithful fantasy. Believability is a little more nebulous. It is about creating the appearance of a world or situation that *might* be possible, in another universe, and depends upon using elements of realism combined with internally-logical imagined elements.

In a setting heavily inspired by 13th century Italy or 9th century Britain, potatoes and dragons might be equally unrealistic elements in a story, but not equally unbelievable, if dragons are accepted as part of the fantasy side of the setting and haven’t enabled centuries-earlier discovery of the Americas.

And this is where the work comes in. Readers make assumptions about setting based on the worldbuilding elements the author specifically mentions. There often isn’t space to go into detailed descriptions of every part of a fantasy world. The approach most authors take is to seed their story with worldbuilding hints, brushing upon details when they can organically come up, expanding upon those things that are plot-relevant, and letting the reader fill in the gaps.

But if all of the seeds look like pre-Columbian Europe, the inclusion of a single element from outside that – whether potatoes, katanas or kangaroos – is going to be jarring. It doesn’t match with what the reader already knows of the world of the story or what they might have filled the gaps with. It becomes noticeable, and it interrupts immersion. The reader stops thinking about the story and starts wondering where these potatoes came from.

This doesn’t happen so often with dragons. Why? Because when an author includes something like dragons – or unicorns, magic, eldrich horrors from dark dimensions and so on – they consider their role in the story world. They mentally work through the implications and the impacts that these things would have on society, the way it might change lifestyles, architectural approaches, social hierarchies and so on.

Potatoes, on the other hand, might just be an oversight. And if they’re the only thing from Earth’s American continents in a fantasy world otherwise containing only European dressing, it looks to the reader like a mistake based on ignorance, not a conscious worldbuilding choice.

To make the inclusion of potatoes in a setting that is otherwise heavily European-styled, the author needs to put in more work. If they’re a shorthand for a staple tuber crop and not intended to literally be identical to Earth-potatoes, why pick potatoes instead of, for example, turnips? If they’re intended to demonstrate a more global trade network or a history of exploration that has since been forgotten, where are the other things that might have made the same journey?

To make potatoes feel more believable in a pseudo-European setting, simply seed in worldbuilding that shows there’s more to it than that. Throw in a fashionable courtier wearing the finest imported jaguar furs, or market stall traders shouting the prices of llama wool blankets,  or religious authorities condemning the cultivation of quinoa and calling the society of its origin heretics. That’ll give the sense of a wider world your society is in contact with, and make the inclusion of potatoes feel deliberate and natural.

This isn’t just about potatoes. It can apply to any element outside of the reader expectations you build with your setting. It’s about creating a world where readers can easily accept the little differences between the fantasy world and Earth, so that they can focus on reading about the characters, engaging in the action – and getting lost in a world that feels real.

Sure, dragons are less realistic than potatoes, but the humble potato can still be a bigger threat to the believability of your fantasy world than the mighty dragon, if you don’t take the time to think about what readers assume.

What are the most jarring fantasy anachronisms you’ve come across? And, conversely, what are the most inventive and impressive solutions you’ve seen in fantasy to avoid or explain them?

 

* No, komodo dragons don’t count.

Earned drama

Over the past couple of days I’ve spent a fair bit of time reading back over some of the stories I have written in the past. One of the things I noticed about what I was writing about 8-10 years ago was that I spent a lot of time dwelling on the big emotional moments and rushed through or outright skipped over the slow building of tensions and the subplots and the character building. The result was that it left the stories I was writing feeling flat, empty, melodramatic.

Coincidentally, today a thread popped up on my twitter feed about this very problem:

Click through and read the whole thread, it’s not very long, but it really hits the nail on the head when it comes to what my problem has been with these particular stories, and crucially, how to fix it:

This is very helpful advice and for me, it’s come at just the right time.

One of the stories I wrote back in about 2009 is one I shared with a friend and fellow writer at the time. He was very diplomatic and supportive, but it was clear he didn’t think much of it. And the problem I had was exactly what Mara Fitzgerald has described: I knew the messy world, but I didn’t put it on the page. The story didn’t engage my friend in 2009, and it hurt to see it because I was emotionally invested in it. But reading back with the distance of time and nine years more experience as a writer, I can see it as he did.

I hadn’t earned the emotion with the story I’d written.

I wrote my article about Zuko’s character arc in Avatar: The Last Airbender nearly 5 years ago. It remains the most popular article on this blog. And I think it’s because Zuko’s arc is such a strong one, and it’s written so well, that people remember it and engage with it. It’s not just because of the popular trope of an enemy becoming a friend, though that may be part of it. It’s about earned emotion. Zuko’s eventual turn away from his upbringing to help Aang works because it is done at the right pace. It isn’t rushed. There’s even a moment where Zuko can join the good guys and doesn’t, because he’s not reached the right place emotionally for it to be the clear choice for him.

I am – I’ll be honest – procrastinating right now by writing this blog post. I’m almost ready to start the next draft of my WIP. I’ve been working on it for months. Making notes, writing scenes as I work though the ideas and themes of it. And yes, I’ve been writing the big emotional scenes without filling in the gaps of the framework, slap my wrist. Knowing I’m not the only one that does that makes me feel better about it. Understanding why I do it, and how to combat it, means I feel far better about facing the blank first page.

I think the way to think about it as a tower. The big emotional moments are the banners flying from the top and over the door, but unless I build the tower itself beam by beam and stone by stone, the banners are just going to drag on the ground. It I want them to flutter majestically in the wind, I’ve got some work to put in.

Retrospection and Resolution

The new year is always a time for looking back at the year just gone and making plans for the year ahead.

I don’t feel that 2017 has been a good year for me. I lost my Granny, had a sick partner to take care of, I haven’t had any luck with the job hunt and I didn’t do nearly as much reading or blogging as I hoped. I didn’t achieve the goals I set out to do in January.

But it hasn’t been a complete write-off. I’ve gone a year learning Italian on Duolingo, and since November my writing has really picked up. This last week in particular, I’ve written loads and felt reinvigorated about my fiction.

A little under a year ago I set myself one reading and two writing goals:

  • To read 39 books. I read 17.
  • To rewrite “Horrible Monster”, the story I finished in 2016. I haven’t touched it.
  • To improve my writing by copying and studying twelve authors. I gave up after the first one.

So not exactly a great track record for 2017, but given all the stresses of job hunting, grief, hospital visits and all the rest, it could have been worse.

For 2018 I’m going to set some more realistic goals:

  1. To take time to read every day, even if only for 10 minutes. There are a lot of books on my reading list right now, including some released in 2017 that I ought to have reviewed, some I got for Christmas, and some classics I’ve been meaning to get around to for years.
  2. To finish my current story and bring it up to a standard read to submit. This is the story that I’ve been working on at full steam ahead since November, a pulp science fiction story set in the Second World War, under the working title Aliens in Pendleford. It’s been fun trying something a little different from what I usually go for, and it’s inspired by a combination of the BBC TV series Land Girls and H G Wells’ War of the Worlds – one of those books I’d been intending to read for years.
  3. To revisit Horrible Monster and write a strong second draft. It’s certainly a stronger story than anything I attempted in the first ten months of 2017, but in places it is bloated, and I didn’t quite understand my theme until I was half way through writing it. With a bit of refocusing, I think it could be quite good.
  4. To write more blog posts. With more reading, I should manage more reviews, and with the rate I’ve been writing the odd progress update should be manageable too. Watch this space.

Also in 2018 I’m hoping to get a better job, so that will keep me busy. I will continue practising and studying Italian, and perhaps take an exam in it if I feel ready by the time I need to book it, and I’ll be picking up German too. I was never very good at languages at school – except English, of course. But I think part of that was that I didn’t much like the teachers and had the arrogance of the English to believe I didn’t need another language. But now I’m finding it quite satisfying to see the progress I’m making, the ability to understand written Italian and some spoken, and even slowly compose short sentences without looking at a dictionary or phrase book.

Five phrases people on the internet keep getting wrong

If there’s something I really hate, it’s when people on the internet are wrong.

Obviously this happens all the time and I don’t much care when they get it wrong in ways I wouldn’t notice, because who has time to look up every claim made when chances are the top comment will be a snooty correction by someone who does care?

No, what I care about is when people spell idioms and phrases incorrectly. Of course, I can’t correct them in the comments, because that looks petty and snooty. But in a blog post is a different matter: it’s not a direct response to anyone, and in any case my intent here is to educate and entertain, so even if you are getting these phrases right, you’ll still learning something interesting along the way.

So here are five phrases people get wrong on the internet:

Toe the line

Often misspelled “tow the line”, the origins of this phrase are disputed in the detail but not the effect: it comes from the need of a group of people to line up neatly, with their toes touching a line on the ground. Whether these individuals were school boys being inspected at roll-call, sailors in the Royal Navy lining up along the lines of the planks of the deck for inspection, or people in a foot race starting at the exact same starting line is disputed. In modern parlance, “toe the line” means to conform with specific standards, usually of behaviour or productivity.

The phrase has nothing to do with hauling upon a rope, though the Royal Navy sailors of the 18th century who might toe the line would be plenty of that too!

The Battle of Camperdown by Philip James de Loutherbourg. “Toe the line” might originate from inspections of sailors, standing with their toes touching a line between the planks of the deck.

Lo and behold

“Lo and behold” is used to express a turn of events or situation which might have been predicted or considered predictable. When I hear it used, it’s usually to emphasise the speaker’s foresight and the lack of wisdom of their subject, as in “I told him if he let her eat sweets she wouldn’t want her dinner, and lo and behold, five o’clock comes round and she’s throwing her spoon on the floor.” It’s also used when there is a surprising coincidence: “I met a lovely lady while I was on holiday in Cyprus, we really got on, and lo and behold, she lives only a mile away from me!”

It’s an odd one, this phrase, because “lo” is a very uncommon word used only in this idiom and a few archaic and Biblical contexts. It is commonly misspelled “low”, a far more common word which is pronounced identically. “Lo” here is a shortening of “look”, but with a more exclamatory tone; literally the phrase would be equivalent to “look and see”. Being fairly informal, it’s easy to see why it is so commonly misspelled: it’s spoken far more often than it’s written.

With bated breath

As with “lo”, “bated” isn’t a common word outside this idiom. It is an abbreviated form of “abated”, which means reduced or lessened. So “with bated breath” could be interpreted as holding your breath – which you might be doing as you eagerly await to hear news of something, which is the idiomatic meaning: “eagerly, with great anticipation”, according to Wiktionary. The first recorded use of the phrase, like thousands of others, is in Shakespeare, who used it in The Merchant of Venice. And while perhaps we shouldn’t be taking spelling lessons from a man who spelled his own name in several different ways, that spelling has indeed stuck, in parallel to the word it abbreviates.

The homonym “baited” is the incorrect alternative – and it crops up even in published books like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, according to The Phrase Finder. But how can you bait breath? And what are you attempting to catch with that bait? It makes much more sense when spelled correctly, once you understand the root.

The 2004 film adaptation of The Merchant of Venice has quite the all-star cast.

Free rein

The alternative (incorrect) spelling of this phrase, “free reign”, appears in 46% of uses of this phrase, so it’s a very common error (according to Jeremy Butterfield in the Oxford A-Z of English Usage). The image it conjures up is persuasive, as if a king or queen can act as they wish, though in that case they wouldn’t need a free reign at all, only a reign. The actual origins come from horse riding, where the rider slackens the reins and allows the horse to choose where to go and at what speed. This makes more sense considering the meaning: someone is given the freedom to make decisions where they might not usually, such as a junior team member having free rein over a project, where normally their manager directs their work.

For all intents and purposes

I end with a phrase that is both commonly misspelled and commonly corrected, so hopefully you’re getting this one right anyway. It means “in the practical sense” or “in respect to what is important”. It may be used in contrast to what is technically the case but not viable: “While producing this part itself isn’t banned, importing one of the raw materials is illegal, so for all intents and purposes it is impossible.”

The origins of this are even older than Shakespeare (though not by much): in an Act of Parliament under King Henry VIII in 1546, the phrase was used as “to all intents, constructions and purposes”.

The incorrect construction, “for all intensive purposes”, is pretty old too: The Phrase Finder quotes The Fort Wayne Daily Gazette from 1870, where a political figure is described as follows: “to all intensive purposes, politically speaking, he might as well have been dead.”

A portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger; an Act of Parliament unde the Tudor monarch is the first known use of a variant on the idiom “for all intents and purposes”.

What misspelled phrases and idioms do you notice people getting wrong a lot? Which phrases have etymologies that are particularly interesting or obscure?

Beyond hono(u)rable travel(l)ers going to the theat(re/er): British and American English

Most of us are familiar with the most commonly seen differences between British and American English, and can recognise which side of the Atlantic an online commenter is from based on such spellings (most of the time anyway; but I won’t get into Canadian and Australian spellings here).

You’re probably already thinking about some of these differences: the inclusion or exclusion of U in words like colour/color, honour/honor and labour/labor; whether an S or a Z is used in realise/realize and analyse/analyze; whether you go shopping in the city centre or the city center, or go to the theatre or the theater. Perhaps even whether the L is singular or doubled in words like traveller/traveler and barrelling/barreling – and, conversely, skilful/skillful, enrol/enroll and instil/instill.

There are numerous sites that cover these sorts of differences. In today’s blog post, I’ll be looking at some of the less familiar rules and individual words which don’t fall into a particular rule of difference, but stand alone.

Ending with T or ED for some past-tense verbs

This is a rule that is starting to become obsolete as the ED version is starting to become dominant in Britain, in line with English in the rest of the world, but it’s worth knowing about – and worth recognising that these are valid, if less common, spellings in British English.

Words include:

  • Burnt/burned
  • Dreamt/dreamed
  • Knelt/kneeled
  • Learnt/learned
  • Leapt/leaped
  • Spelt/spelled

If you’re British, you may be familiar with the first of each pair, though both are acceptable; in American English, only the second is used. It is also worth noting that “spelt” does exist in American English too – as it is also a grain variety related to wheat.

Feel free to use these spellings in documents intended for British readers – but remember to be consistent. You don’t want to have learnt in one paragraph and learned in the next.

SC or SK

Fans of Terry Pratchett might be aware of this one: Discworld is a world located on a disc. Or on a disk, if you’re American. This is an odd one, actually, since the disc spelling is universal within the record industry, and disk is universal within the computing industry. You might have hired a disc jockey for your party, and saved the photos of said party onto your computer’s hard disk. But for general usage, such as referring simply to the flat circular shape, it’s disc on my side of the Atlantic and disk on the stars-and-stripes side.

This rather small rule extends to a few other words too. Garden snails are a variety of mollusc – when they’re in Britain. Across the pond, they’re a variety of mollusk. You might be sceptical about a snail’s ability to cross the Atlantic, unless you’re on the other side of it, where you’d be skeptical instead.

Enquiries and Inquiries, Ensuring and Insuring

In Britain if you are subject of an inquiry, you’re probably in legal trouble, but in America it might just be that someone has asked a question about you – a usage that in Britain would instead be spelled (spelt?) “enquiry”. The two meanings – the specific formal investigation and the general questioning – are encompassed by one word in America and separated into two in Britain.

Similarly, if you’re insuring something in Britain you are entering into a commercial transaction to protect your property or yourself from risk. An American insuring something might be doing the same thing – or they might simply be making sure – checking that the lights are turned off before going out, perhaps, or that a document has been properly proofread before it is sent to a client. This second meaning in British English is covered by the word “ensure”.

EY up

Paraphrase this for me: “there’s a fake wall on the fifth floor”.

You might have come up with one of these two sentences:

  • There’s a phoney wall on the fifth storey
  • There’s a phony wall on the fifth story

Or, well, it might be the sixth story or the fourth storey, given that British and American architecture counts levels within buildings differently (American: Floor 1 is the first you reach; British: Floor 1 is the first above the ground floor). Either way, the versions ending in EY are British; in just Y are American. For storey at least this British spelling distinguishes the word from that for a tale.

Silent E ending

Drawing on original French spellings, some British English words end in a double consonant and an E where the American spellings end on a single consonant only. This is to be found in words such as omelette/omelet and programme/program (though the latter is used in British English for computer programs). This is less commonly seen in gramme/gram, where the shorter spelling is now more common. Note: tonne in British spellings specifically refers to the metric tonne, while ton is used for the imperial unit; in America ton is used for both.

Individual words

Moustache is the British spelling; mustache the American.

Sulphur is British; sulfur, dropping the ph that comes from the Greek letter phi and replacing it with the more straightforward f, is American.

Aluminium with an -ium ending is British, and aligns with the endings of other elements such as calcium and potassium, but is pre-dated by the American spelling aluminum.

Following the trend in British English where different meanings of the same word sometimes get different spellings, the word for the rubber casing of a wheel is a tyre in British English, but a tire in American English.

A colour that might be formed of a mixture of black and white paint would be spelled gray in America and grey in Britain; a black tea flavoured with oil of bergamot, however, should be Earl Grey both sides of the Atlantic, as it is named after a person.

Do you have any favourite – or any that confuse or confound you? Do you prefer British of American spellings – or are some you prefer one way and some the other? Personally, I don’t think the O in a British moustache is needed, but appreciate the British spelling nuances available in written texts for words like storey, ensure and enquire. And while I’m equally comfortable with both T and ED endings for dreamt/dreamed, leapt/leaped and learnt/learned, I prefer spelled over spelt but also knelt over kneeled.

Most important, of course, is consistency. Whether American or British English is used – or indeed Canadian, which has elements of both in roughly equal measure, or Australian, which mostly follows British English with a few exceptions (like their Labor Party) – any piece of writing should stick to just one and use it throughout. We can’t have you analysing results on one page and realizing something on the next. And we certainly can’t have you drinking any Earl Gray tea.

Progress Report: One Million Words, March 2016

March’s numbers ended up being only slightly more than February’s: 20,335. The month ended up a little slow due to a few busy days with limited writing time (on the plus side, I had a great time seeing some live comedy last night). My March daily average was therefore 656 words. Though I did have a few days over 1,000.

That brings my total to 175,158/1,000,000 words, or 17.5%.

Most of March’s words were on Horrible Monster. I’m working my way through it now. I also spent a few days on something else, a short piece that doesn’t have a title.

Continue reading Progress Report: One Million Words, March 2016

Delving back into fanfiction

While I’ve been working on getting my notes together for Horrible Monster, I’ve been back writing fanfiction. I started this particular story – The First Mallrat, set in the world of teen apocalypic sci fi series The Tribe – several years ago but haven’t worked on it since 2009. I’ve been rewatching the series lately so picked the story up again, and it’s been fun. I’ve added two more chapters to the above linked story and have another almost ready to upload and a fourth started.

I’m really enjoying getting back into this world. The Tribe is a great series, for all that it’s very much a product of its time, and in the first episodes at least a product of the inexperience of the child actors performing in it. It’s also a powerful series, dealing with several issues that teenagers could well face – including sex, bulimia, bullying, depression, brainwashing, and simply trying to survive in a world the characters struggle to understand. The Tribe is full of great characters working together in spite of differences.

For me, writing fanfiction is an indulgence. It’s fun, there’s no pressure, and I get nearly instant feedback from a very small but dedicated audience. Since I’m writing the story in a serial format, I’m not worrying about an ending, or building up to a climax, or any of that. I’m just looking at where things stand and seeing where I can go from there, sometimes taking into account the parallel canon events in the show and at other times taking my key characters off in another direction entirely.

That freedom is one of the main attractions of fanfiction. The world and the characters are pre-made, so there’s no need to spend any time making notes and developing these elements, you can just pick up where you like and run with it, adding characters and elements of the world as needed or desired. It allows you to focus on the story, the character relationships and the actual writing, and to jump right into all that straight away.

One of the things I find most beneficial about writing fanfiction is that it helps me to learn how to depict characters. This is perhaps something that works best when writing fanfiction of a visual medium, like a TV show or film. I can see the way a character, like say, Lex, acts on screen. He’s brash, he speaks up whenever he has an opinion, he interrupts, he has a confrontational tone a lot of the time. I can hear the way he speaks on screen, and when I write him even though the scenarios are different I can hear his voice clearly in my head. When I am writing character interactions in fanfiction, I am interpretting what I see on screen and translating voice patterns, mannerisms and body language onto the page.

With my own characters in my original fiction, I don’t have that on-screen version to copy from, but having copied from them for the fanfic, I know what I need to consider – the way they speak, the words they use, how they stand, how they interact with others within a conversation.

But there’s also cause to be wary with fanfiction. Much as I am enjoying working on The First Mallrat again, it cannot last. It’s not serious writing. It’s a fun interlude, but it is not and cannot be my main focus. It keeps me writing while I spend time thinking, but before too long it must be set aside once more in favour of a story with a future. Fanfiction can never be more than a fun few chapters posted online for fans of the world to enjoy. Creating my own worlds is my priority, and I can’t let the fun of fanfiction distract me from it. Not that my own stories aren’t fun, but there’s a lot more effort that goes along with that fun.

Here’s my deadline: the end of this month. One more week. That should be long enough for me to finish the current chapter, and it should be long enough for me to have worked out enough of the things that need to be worked out in Horrible Monster for me to make a start writing it. Play time is over, it’s time to get back to work.

A 1 star review is an ATTACK on a book, apparently

Dylan Saccoccio isn’t happy about a 1 star review he received for his book The Boy and the Peddler of Death (Tales of Onara book 1) on Goodreads. He is offended that someone could be immoral as to leave a 1 star review, which is clearly an attempt to ruin his dreams and hurt him financially.

No, seriously.

That’s the archived page behind that link there. Mr Saccoccio has deleted his comments in response to the offending review, having eventually come to his senses and realised what a mistake he’s made.

“Do not engage.” This advice is given to authors who receive bad reviews. When an author ignores this advice, the results show why it is given. Whether that advice should be considered gospel or not is another matter (I see no problem in thanking a reviewer and politely asking for more detail on why they disliked a book). It is advice Mr Saccoccio should have followed. But, since he didn’t, he has provided both entertainment for us and a cautionary tale.

Continue reading A 1 star review is an ATTACK on a book, apparently

Reviewing and being reviewed: Start Writing Fiction week 3

The second part of week 3‘s lessons involved writing a short piece, the start of a story, and posting it for review, then reviewing other writers’ work. The piece we wrote was meant to be new, but I ended up restarting a short story I’ve been working on for a few days but wasn’t happy with.

Continue reading Reviewing and being reviewed: Start Writing Fiction week 3

Editing and examining: Start Writing Fiction week 3

Week 3 of the Start Writing Fiction course looks at editing work we’ve written, reviewing others’ work, and getting reviews for our work. It began with an exercise in which we were given a paragraph of text and instructed to edit it down to two lines. Here’s the paragraph:

The heavy black and blue winter sky groaned awfully with rain clouds that at any moment were really about to fall crashing heavily down upon the street where, because it was rush hour, so many people, wearing all manner of different clothes, hats, shoes, boots, some of them carrying bags, suitcases, briefcases, scampered and strolled about the place as though oblivious to what was just about to happen over their very heads. One of these people was called Hilary and concealed inside her voluminous coat she carried the loaded, snub-nosed gun, and she also seemed to be the only one looking upwards into the tempestuous thundery heavens.

And this is what I edited it down to:

The bruised winter sky groaned heavy with clouds waiting to burst open upon the streets. Amongst the rush-hour bustle, Hilary held her coat tight over the loaded gun, and looked up.

Continue reading Editing and examining: Start Writing Fiction week 3