Hey kids. Here’s this week’s episode of Death Of 1000 Cuts – a podcast for writers, readers and people who are nosy about how stories get made. Check out the archives for more episodes.

Below is a text version of the piece we discuss in today’s show. If you’d like to submit an extract of your work for future shows, I’d love that – please make sure you’ve listened to a few episodes so you understand what you’re agreeing to and read our submission guidelines.

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Clear (by Dan)

They don’t even have magazines any more, just pamphlets smeared with filth. I can smell the mother with wide, sun-cracked shoulders, fat kid lolling in her arm pit. Girl next to me looks vegan, pale and pointy. No smell.

My jeans haven’t dried properly and I smell like a banana.

I try to pull into myself, tighter and tighter, but I bend back to shape like a coat hanger. Another fat mum, pushchair too big. Not regular either: tubes, pipes, a machine for God’s sake. Baby seems chirpy though, gurgling into its raw pink chin. Try to look normal.

I’ve been rehearsing my script. I can’t tell them what it is and admit I’ve been googling gloopy wreckages of flesh since 4am. Last week it was Impetigo, so she said. But it’s…

Tom Creckan, room 6

Polite knock. He actually gets up and meets me at the door. Normally just a sullen clack of the keyboard, whiff of mint. New and keen. And clean. Creamy hand-soap hand-shake. Hint of acne himself if you peer close enough, gnawing at the corners. No hair gel/wax/crème, just a breezy morning fluff. Shirt well ironed. This man is a fucking morning.

I start my tale. Just throw it right in.

‘I get these cold sores.’

He stares, unflinching, bobbing my reflection in his spectacles.

‘Last week…your colleague said it was Impetigo…I mean, not that I’d question…but…’

He’s about to stop me. Smother me, politely, with a creamy palm.


1 thought on “Death Of 1000 Cuts – Podcast Episode 9”

  1. Good analysis, as usual. I think the first sentence is the most important to focus on–“they” is the worst possible word to lead with, since the author could convey so much setting and genre in the subject of that sentence. “The hospital waiting room” or “the quarantine offices” or ANYTHING else would give us a hint of the main character’s plight and the world he’s in.

    There’s a lot of good detail here–the people in the waiting room, the doctor–but it’s mostly irrelevant, especially when the main character’s current situation and the opening conflict are crucial to grabbing a reader’s interest. Because they aren’t contributing to the narrator’s mounting anxiety or revealing anything about why he’s here, they’re distracting from the actual story.

    So, aside from more concrete world-building as the first few sentences, I did like Tim’s suggestion of opening the story with the discussion of cold sores. Much more immediate conflict.

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