In this episode author Tim Clare (that’s me) looks at another listener’s first page and gives a detailed critique of the opening to their story. I talk about how you can use vocabulary to build mood and imply things. I talk about how to write great similes and when to dial them back. I talk about how to handle time in your story. I have a strange revelation about bundles of sticks.

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Here’s the extract I discuss in this episode, for you to read through yourself:


Bundled branches and stacked logs loomed through the morning fog as Jim and I reached the clifftop. A hungry fear dropped and hung in my stomach like a noose. I’d prayed to a God I barely believed in all night, hoping that Jim wouldn’t understand what was happening. The poor boy. The decisions I made in the days after I watched Ma die have stalked me ever since.

We’d left at sunrise, wrapped up against the chill with the rest of the Freshwater folk. Dark figures emerged from the fog with muffled whispers. I remembered when I was barely Jim’s age – on top of the cliff with everyone, holding onto Father’s hand and hiding behind him. But I still heard the last words. The begging. The trapdoor thud and crunch as bone snapped. Then the stench of shit that followed – God’s cruel joke.

“Where’s Ma, Anna?” Jim clutched onto my skirts and looked up at me. I placed my hand on his shoulder, crouched down and lied, “She’s gone away for awhile, she-”

“Why isn’t she here?! I don’t want to watch”

“You don’t have to watch, lad. I don’t want you to.” I showed him how to scrunch up his eyes and put his fingers in his ears. He sucked his thumb, his mouth somehow already dirty. I wanted to pick him up and run, but I knew we had to be there. To flee would have been to admit our own guilt.