• Hi Hanri
    I love the idea of Peony being motivated by both adulation & FOMO. It puts in a mental bind which later explains why she wants to be close to Alma but also able to hurt Alma. I wonder if this scene might be strengthened with more show not tell. How could you show Peony is not one of the privileged class? Does she wonder how Amy always…[Read more]

  • Scene 52 brings my word count to 69,000 words. Room to mop up the inconsistencies, the missing information, etc. This is a quick wrap up, I’m afraid. In the rewrite I will add more detail about the changes. Thanks […]

    • Hi Leona, it was a quick wrap up indeed, but your groundwork is already solid, so nothing felt out of place. I love the idea of a Great Equalisation. Perhaps you want to throw in a comment to Aristotle’s notion of a society in which the richest shouldn’t have more than 4 times what the poorest have.
      I loved following your story – looking forward to next year.

    • Hi Leona,
      This is such a fascinating concept for a story and it’s so believable that we could end up with some of this being real. Already, I get weekly texts reporting my use of electricity and comparing the stats to other “efficient” users in my area and to my usage at the same time last year. Right now this is all voluntary, but what if it wasn’t? Unscrupulous leaders will find ways to drive the guilty and to maximize profits. I’m not sure whether the “great equalization” will make a difference or whether it’s a lead-in to the next book–either way you left this hook dangling which was very smart.
      Excellent direction for your tie-up scene.
      Really great satire that is quite powerful.

    • Hi Leona

      I like the way you created an ending that completes the story and I know you said it is a quick wrap. I haven’t read all your scenes and I’m sure you have some scope to have a deeper look at this in the rewrite. Your exploration of the behaviours and consequences keeps up the tension too.

      Best wishes for whatever comes next for you and, above all, Congratulations!


  • Hi Sudha – gotta love the ending and as you say the bugs can be ironed out next year during the rewrite. This story has kept its momentum and I think it passes the Bechdel test if you can foreground the friendship between Bernadine & Jen again. Like Al has come in, beautiful reunion, AND then Bernadine & Jen are foregrounded in the last scene…[Read more]

  • Hi Hanri
    Great scene and I, too, LOVED the ‘patrol your boundaries’ comment. Fabulous. Both Alma and E-L have certainly matured and to this end I wonder if the start of the scene might be more congruent with A and E-L reminiscing about the time E-L thought taking silk was about worms. As a child of two lawyers and now a teenager I’d be surpr…[Read more]

  • ‘I knew all economic activity would have points attached to it,’ Tom said, ‘that was their plan. Everyone would see their impact in real time and real terms. Secret focus groups had shown this would be a […]

    • Hi Leona,
      I like how the tension climbed as Tom tried to stay neutral and rational throughout his explanation. Amy has very few lines in this scene which is an interesting way to show us how much she agrees with Tom. The explanation is thrilling. It’s also quite frightening that the evolution of the Commission’s actions sounds so reasonable. I would suggest some gestures, expressions, or physical descriptions of the space to pace this scene and not make it sound like a speech by Tom.
      You showed Sara’s growing anger very well.

    • Oh dear… Sarah is going to hit back, I’m sure of that, and it is not going to be pretty…
      Great how you’ve just wrapped up all the loosed ends all at once with Tom’s explanation – now I know what Stella and Nadia and mum did in the story – just Barry needs to be resolved still. There was some tension between him and his wife, I recall, and I wonder on which side of the fence he’s going to end up.
      Somehow I’m also expecting something to happen to Tom – the authorities coming to take him in or something. Guess I’ll have to wait for Wednesday before I know how this will end…

  • Hi Hanri

    Scene A: I love the messy dilemma Peony finds herself in with Mona. OMG. Will Mona take no for an answer or does she want ‘a cracking story’ no matter what? Has Peony met her match in Machiavellian manipulation? I was left hanging to find out what happens next.

    Scene B: Will this scene be placed earlier in your work? I can see Peony…[Read more]

  • Amy didn’t know how to convince Sara.
    ‘You cannot be saying that, Sara. What is wrong with you? Are you only for yourself? Are you going to make us choose between you, the baby, and everyone else? Ser […]

    • SM replied 1 month ago

      Hi Leona,
      You’re tying up a lot of loose ends here. Second draft stuff: Your dialogue tags appear to be a little off and don’t correspond with who os speaking.
      But understanding Tom’s rationale for his action is very interesting. There is a long paragraph of dialogue that gets a little preachy –but the ideas are well presented within.
      Sara is persistently angry and feels that she is the only one interested in the fate of the baby.
      I like the tension in this triangle–very engaging.

    • Hi Leona!
      I’m so glad this was one of the stories I landed on in 2021. I think you have a great concept going. Yes, there’ll be revisions to be made. That’s why 2022 is there.
      Let me just say, for now, that I admire – envy! – your ability to convert a huge global dilemma into something relatable and relevant for the average Jane. Your voice speaks loudly to all of us who still believe and trust in democracy like it’s God. And I love that Tom’s plan involves bringing back real democracy and equity in the age of the anthropocene. We’re still hurtling towards the end – there’s no turning back – but clearly, worldwide, our leadership can’t be affording to make the mistakes they’re still making. With your story, you’re sending the loud-and-clear message that we won’t save the planet “just” by separating our trash and falling in line – we’ve got to keep on staying politically engaged and keep on demanding better leadership.
      When I studied political science decades ago, we had to learn about different levels of political engagement – I recalled that as I was reading your story. Your different characters embody the different levels so well.
      Another interesting tidbit from the recent by-elections in SA: In a broad survey undertaken by some institution (can’t recall which one) about the low turnout at the polls, one of the questions was about whether the participants would give up their right to vote in exchange for safe, secure neighbourhoods. The response was an overwhelming yes. Can you believe it? Here, where people have been denied democratic rights for so long! After all this time, Maslow still seems to be right. I hear this urge for personal safety in Sarah’s responses to her husband and sister’s excitement about the disruption.
      For the rewrite, perhaps you could consider giving Sarah a few more sharper edges – even if it is just a headstrongness – that would make her reaction here understandable, even if it is still surprising. You may also want to consider perhaps a stronger jealous streak – so that her reaction here can be “blamed” on her just not trusting her sister and husband doing something together. Although the real reason is far deeper, and much harder to face and explain.
      Of course, Tom has just given himself a major blind spot. I think his wife is very capable of exposing him in her current state of mind. What are they going to do about that?

  • Hi Sudha
    Everyone has already made brilliant suggestions… and I also agree this scene is punchy yet ties up loose ends. Well done. Only one suggestion from me – noting a mixed metaphor:
    “The avalanche fell. A gushing well burst within…”
    Maybe the dam burst?
    Can’t wait to find out how this ends!

  • Hi Hanri
    So interesting that Peony feels the shame that she has kept at bay only when her actions are revealed to another person. Like a mirror is held up and she can finally see herself. I, too, cannot wait to see how this ties together and how E-L and Alma tie back in. The dialogue and current day references add to the dynamism of this scene…[Read more]

  • Amy watched as Sara drew herself up to her full 155cm and stood over Tom.

    ‘I don’t give a shit about why you did this, Tom, or the technicalities of the how. But you better undo what you have done or —.’ […]

    • Hey Leona,
      You’ve got a might reveal here and you did it really well. You balanced the POV of Sara against Tom and Amy in a believable manner, I couldn’t decide who I sympathized the most with. Was there any foreshadowing beforehand that Tom might not be all that he seems? I wasn’t sure about that as I thought back on all of the scenes I’ve read so far. The dialogue here is very very natural and I could picture the scene well. Especially some of Tom’s disappointment because Sara is not impressed with his deeds (?misdeeds?). The tone of this dystopian near future is very captivating and certainly seems like a plausible situation.
      I read the last two scenes back to back and they flowed really well into one another.

    • Hi Leona

      This is coming together nicely now. I love the way you use the back and forth dialogue to explain a little first and also build the tension of the dilemmas. Interesting to see the two ways of looking at it – lose or gain. That’s always a great debate of perspective.


    • Here the personalities clash just like we knew they would all along.
      Leona, you say you’re looking for a good ending – I don’t think it can be a happily ever after. Not with your subject matter. Think more arthouse: I think the ending should be left somewhat grim and open-ended, anticlimactic, maybe with a hint of what awaits the sisters. You’ve set us up for the futility of it all already. I mean, Big Capital didn’t get a big role in the story, so the real culprit is not even there – and that is exactly how it will feel in the small stories we use to make the big point: the characters squabbles can’t get any release, because they can’t take it out on the ones who should actually be taking responsibility for their deeds.

      Tom has just caused a major disruption to the status quo, which puts a lot of things in flux. Everything is possible, and it is interesting that Amy/Tom now represent the glass-half-full side and Sarah’s the one concerned about what has been lost, rather than gained. I’m sure you’ve brainstormed possible outcomes from here, and I’m curious to see how the “return to the real world” is going to be handled.

      As I was reading, I thought to recommend that you weave in another line, dealing with the suspicion between Tom and Sarah. You know, maybe she can be more controlling / needing / jealous / suspicious of his comings and goings, even pulling Amy into that earlier. So that the suspense about Tom’s secret life is heightened.

  • Sara let the word make its way into every corner of her mouth, sucking her spit dry. Revenge. For the misery of his parents, his lost inheritance? For what, precisely?
    ‘Your revenge,’ Sara asked, ‘works how?’ […]

    • I love how this story is resolving – would never in a million years have thought of Tom as the shapeshifter, but now that it is out in the open, I’m thinking how could it have been any different. There’s so little I can offer by way of suggestion, Leona. You’ve been working through your story so carefully, linking all the ends, and crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s. I’m just going to head over to the next instalment…

  • Hi Hanri
    I agree, the juxtaposition, sits well in this scene bringing together Michael’s life, his hopes and his vulnerabilities. But will he be vulnerable? We get to see some of his inner anxiety and this makes me, as a reader, very curious as to what he will say next given how his world has come undone (or nearly). I wondered about the shift i…[Read more]

  • Tom and Amy hadn’t moved. It was a stand-off at OK Corral.

    ‘So, Tom,’ she finally said. ‘What is this?’

    Tom still looked stunned as Amy sat waiting for his response. The only muscles she moved were those req […]

    • Oh my, I’m quite surprised by this twist. Here was I, all the while thinking Tom is a nice villain to hate, and now I find out he’s a subversive too!
      As usual, there is little to crit, Leona. The scene will need another once-over for typos, but those are minor things.

      Here with this exchange, I’d like to propose an alteration:
      “‘Okay, okay. Just let me get to the end. Don’t interrupt. Then you’ll get it.’
      ‘We shall see, Tom. You don’t get to control when we will or won’t speak. But go right ahead, say your piece. Tell me what the fuck that is!’ Sara pointed at the plastic sleeve still flapping in Amy’s hands.”

      How about:
      ‘Just let me get to the end, Okay?’
      ‘You don’t get to call the shots, Tom. What the fuck is that!’ Sara pointed at the plastic sleeve still flapping in Amy’s hands.

      I’m just thinking that if Sara is so mad at him, her responses are going to be curt and snappy. No time for multiple sentences… (so the suggestion is to try to find a way for Sarah to say all of that, between the lines, with the way in which she makes the few words she choose come out….)

    • Hi Leona,
      This twist with Tom becoming the Coder is intriguing. Does this mean that he was fomenting a revolution on the inside? I’m guessing that from what Hanri has written but it wasn’t clear to me when I read it on my own.
      The other suggestion I have is that if you could indicate when Sara speaks. I figured it out when Sara pointed at the envelope but I thought Sara wasn’t in the conversation at first. You might want to consider moving this line, “Sara wondered if she’d stumbled into a poorly written movie scene. It would be comic if she didn’t feel like these two were about to unravel her life.” as the second line of the scene. It adds tension when we are reminded that Sara is watching this whole exchange and is torn by it. Fascinating twist in your scene.

  • Hi Hanri
    Yes – I was thinking the same thing – that Sara is emerging as the MC and I am planning on the edit shifting this to being her story. I originally thought it would Nora.
    Thanks for the grammar tip. Past perfect will do the job!

    Dare I confess I’m not 100% certain what the ending will be. I am such a planner in real life I can’t bel…[Read more]

  • Hi Sudha – so many comments above I agree with – in particular the setting. I think one description of the smell would hold my attention more. I love the rotten leaves. That dank, earthy smell which stale beer can have. Her stomach gurgling a warning which she ignores is also powerful and if you could link it to both drinking on an empty stomach…[Read more]

  • Hi Hanri – adding Mona to this story adds another level of drama and conflict and she is a great counterfoil for Peony. I’ll be interested to see how you handle the Peony/Michael relationship in the era of #metoo and given the age/power differential. I like the use of an chaotic and confused mess in his normally tidy office space/clothing as a m…[Read more]

  • ‘Amy, come help me put the chooks to bed,’ Sara said as she came through the front door. She wanted to share the strange story about the clinic with Amy, but not with Tom present. She wanted a chance to watch Amy […]

    • SM replied 2 months ago

      Hi Leona,
      This was a gripping installment. This line especially was great, ” She sank into herself and felt the pull of gravity hold the whole of her.” So Amy is seen as having secrets and Tom’s got something really scary up his sleeve. The tension between Amy and Tom is quite taut and Sara is really suffering. The two of them are being particularly inconsiderate of Sara. It’s great to see her fighting back.
      I love the last line, “Her house.”

    • Hi Leona,
      I love how the threads are coming together. There really is something going on with Tom and Amy we don’t know about yet.
      At first, you will recall, I wasn’t sure whose story it was going to be – every POV was so convincing that it could well have been Amy or their mother or Sarah who was the MC. But by now, Sarah thoroughly owns this story. I love how the stakes have been upped with the pregnancy, and how it had shifted allegiances. That an unborn can change a dynamic so much!
      The paragraph starting with “Sarah remembered” is the one taking us into a flashback – I think you’ll need to use past perfect there, even if just to begin with. And then again “he [had] asked as they waited for the bus to take them home.” Don’t you think? Otherwise the transition might get fudged.
      In V2, I wonder if you don’t want to bring in a slight sibling jealousy theme over Tom, early on, maybe during that initial family dinner. Just some ominous undercurrent that can be dismissed as an unreasonably untrusting part of Sarah – because as the story progresses, we’ll learn that she was right all along, and that nobody is to be trusted. In the unborn, she has someone to protect, which will shift all of those initial responses…

      • Hi Hanri
        Yes – I was thinking the same thing – that Sara is emerging as the MC and I am planning on the edit shifting this to being her story. I originally thought it would Nora.
        Thanks for the grammar tip. Past perfect will do the job!

        Dare I confess I’m not 100% certain what the ending will be. I am such a planner in real life I can’t believe that this story refuses my efforts at plotting. Very strange.

        • But isn’t it such a joyride, that in writing we get to be all those potential alternative “we’s” our lives might not allow us to be? So in real life you’re a planner. As a writer you’ll let yourself be surprised. I think that’s a pretty balanced way of being.
          (Dare I remark that there’s a little bit of that same dichotomy in reverse in Sara herself? She’d love to have a life that is all carefully laid out, but the people around her kind of force her into being the one who has to roll with the punches.)

          PS I love it when my characters surprise me!

  • Hi Sharon – oh the typos! Yes. By way of an excuse (lol) I have to confess I wrote this scene in less than an hour when I realised I hadn’t written one for the week after all. What a panic. It was a work day so totally speed writing. I read recently that Sally Hepworth writes in small, time pressured bites. I may start to to the same!

  • Hi Sharon – this is the first time I have read your story and this scene gave me a good overview and the use of the passive past tense amplified that feel. It felt neat and tidy and left me wondering where the conflict is – and then I wondered about bringing a family on to a tight knit team and how that might destabilise it and create conflicting…[Read more]

  • Hi Gretchen – again a great scene and your mastery of dialogue is outstanding. So in character for Grace to still be expecting/hoping-not hoping for contact from Eddie. .

    I was surprised by a couple of things that seemed a little out of character:
    1. Ryan texting even though they were going to be sitting next to each as soon as Grace got to…[Read more]

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Leona Dawson

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