Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Okay, this week I’m going to concentrate on just one of the pieces read at Renegades. No disrespect to the other readers – it was a very good evening, quality wise – it’s just that I think Peter C is onto something.

He bought back ‘Tumbling Dice’, the story that had made its debut last week. But this was V:2, a revised and rebuffed revision of the original. I think this is an excellent strategy: keep worrying at one thing until it is right. In this case Peter had switched his protagonist to 1st Person mode and I think it works much, much better. But there is still slack, and taking this up will make a good story…great. Some of the ideas knocked around at the meeting were:

• Make Graham and not the hitch-hiker the psychopath. Maybe the hitch-hiker is simply obsessional (forever counting, forever throwing his make-believe dice) but otherwise harmless. Maybe the hitch-hiker’s size and demeanour make him more threatening than he actually is (a big guy must be trouble etc.). This will set up a great twist at the end.

• The ‘as though he read my mind’ tip has to be developed! Ditto, ‘it’s all the same’ regarding the CD tracks.

• In retrospect I think Peter’s right not to make either of the protagonists too uni-dimensional (that’s always my inclination). Make the reader care about them. Bring us into the realisation of their madness gradually. Seduction rather than rape.

• The idea of story being circular has legs. The idea of beginning and ending with the same sentence - ‘I’m going to Brum…that any good for you?’ or something - is pretty creepy!

• The rejection motif is a good one: cars driving past the hitch-hiker; CD being ejected from the player; hitch-hiker too big for the seat…

• Keep the hitch-hiker counting, counting, counting.

I think this could be a f****** great story, but it needs time to mature and that will take another three or four revisions.

And this, folks, is what makes reading groups a blast: someone comes up with something really choice and you get to watch it evolve. A really good evening!

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