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Aeolus Early Will Scenes - Revisited

by BigSmile 

Posted: 06 October 2008
Word Count: 2898
Summary: Cornerstones have told me these early scenes with Will were a bit too prosaic for a thriller and needed more tension. I’ve since reworked them, both by tweaking what happens and cutting dialogue. Do these revised scenes now work and have tension? (Note in the MS they are interspersed with other scenes)

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Will was running late for his first appointment of the day. Blue and white police tape sealed the main road out of the village and a series of diversion signs directed him down miles of country road. Fortunately, at 10 a.m. there wasn’t much traffic and he could move at a reasonable speed through the narrow, sun-dappled lanes.

His customer was a middle-aged man building an extension onto his house; a pale, gangly man with ginger hair. Will thought he looked like a human Swan Vesta.

“I’m really sorry I’m late,” Will said when he arrived.

“It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you’re here now so you can get the job started.”

Will unlocked his van and took out the tools of his trade: toolbox, drill, extension lead and several drums of cable - and carried them into the house. A pleasant breeze drifted through the open windows and cooled the day.

He marked out where the ring main would go, and started fixing the stiff cable to the wall. Ginga (as Will thought of him, but not unkindly) had contracted him to install the power sockets and lighting in his extension.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” Ginga asked, standing a little too close. Will smelt his stale odour.

“Yes, please. I’d love one.”

Ginga reappeared with a steaming mug which he put on a stack of flooring tiles. He folded his hands into his elbows and stood watching Will work, which zapped Will’s concentration.

Damp splodges began to form under Will’s arms, and he found himself having to double check what he was doing. It’s Ginga’s house and he can do what he likes, he thought. He’s probably lonely and looking for company.

“Did you hear about the murder on the common?” Will asked.

“I saw it in the paper this morning. Shocking stuff, and not five miles from here. And the postman told me he’d heard she’d been raped. Then hacked into little pieces. What’s the world coming to?”

“Yes, it’s terrible.”

“Well, the postman’s got friends in the police, see? That’s how he knows things. Inside information!” Ginga said, raising a finger to his nose. “And he reckons his police friends know a lot more than they are letting on even to him.”


“Yeah. They’ve got clues. They’ll catch whoever did it, you mark my words.” He stepped closer to Will. “I bet he’s an axe-murderer. Don’t you?”


“I bet he’s a lunatic.” Ginga’s eyes sparkled in Will’s face and Will caught the sour waft of his breath. The hair on the back on Will’s neck began to stand up.


Ginga pointed his finger at him. “I bet his daddy fiddled with him when he was little…”

Will put down his hammer and slowly inched away as he listened to his client’s speculation on the attack, most of it far-fetched and without substance. Ginga moved after him, ranting with excitement, and Will realised he was backing into a corner.

Suddenly, Ginga seemed to lose all interest in the event that had shaken their neighbourhood and his raving ceased. He stared deep into Will’s eyes for a few seconds. Then, without a further word, he turned and walked out.

Will took a deep breath and, after mopping his forehead with his sleeve, picked up the hammer and began to crack on with the job.

Half an hour later, Ginga reappeared to collect the empty mug. “The thing is,” he said calmly, “the postman says the police are almost certain he’s going to kill again…”


Will worked until almost seven. He could do no more until the extension had been plastered. He felt a sense of achievement, despite the bad start to the day.

He put his tools in the van and said goodbye to Ginga.

“OK, the plastering should be finished within a week,” Ginga said. “I’ll call you when it’s done.”

Will started his van and wound down the windows. The warm evening air wafted through with a faint trace of jasmine from a nearby hedgerow. He put the van in reverse and backed into the lane. Shifting the gear stick into first, he punched one of the twin black buttons in the middle of the dash. The catchy jingle of a local double glazing firm blasted his eardrums.

He grabbed the knob, dropping the volume. Why were the adverts always so bloody loud? He released the clutch and the van shot forward.

He had been driving for a minute or two when the news came on. The local events still made the top story.

“Police today released the name of the girl whose body was found yesterday on Lympton Common. She was Diane Swinton, a twenty-year-old flight attendant from Southampton. Police believe she was killed as a result of a violent attack at the location where her body was found. No further details have yet been released but a spokeswoman said they had a number of significant leads. An incident room has been established and the public have been asked to call 0845…”

Will exhaled. At least the victim wasn’t someone local. Naming the girl somehow humanised what had happened, changed the context.

Coming to a fork, Will saw the familiar diversion signs that meant the common remained sealed off. As he made his way through the back lanes, he found fewer vehicles than the previous day and made good progress; it was as if the traffic had somehow got used to the tumour that had materialised without warning to block its arteries and had adapted to flow around it.

The evening sun twinkled through the hedge to his left and the warm, comforting smell of seeding grass filled the air. The speakers sang I can’t get no satisfaction and Will tapped along on the steering wheel - Though I try - though I try - I just can’t get no…no, no no.

A track from Meatloaf’s Blind Before I Stop album came on next, and Will found himself singing along to the chorus. Gettin’ away with murder - you can love a girl and hurt her. The corners of his mouth lifted as his hands strummed out the cheesy beat. That's gettin’ away with - gettin' away with murder.


Will strolled up the road and pushed open the door of the Quart Pot. Stepping inside, he saw a few of his friends at the bar and raised his hand in greeting.

“Evening Will.”

“How’s it going?”

“What’re you having?” Pleasantries given and received, hands shaken. A pint of bitter materialised in Will’s fist.

He usually came to the village pub two or three nights a week. He knew everyone here; being a locals’ pub, outsiders rarely dropped in.

He pulled up a stool and inserted himself into the group. To his left sat Pete Brown, the plump village butcher, and wiry Davy Potter, who owned the local garage. On the other side stood Ted Conner, the postmistress’s husband, who in his fifties was the oldest.

“So what do you think about the murder, Will?” Davy asked, leaning in.

“It’s dreadful. Completely shocking.”

“Yeah, it’s been the only topic of conversation in here for the last two days. What do you know about it?”

“Nothing. Why should I?” Will scowled, crossing his

“No, sorry - I mean what have you heard about it?”
Will picked up his pint. “Only what’s been on the news, but one of my customers says his postman knows people in the police who claim the girl was raped and chopped up.”

“Yeah, we’ve heard that already, and a lot more besides. It can’t all be true.”

Will sensed that the initial shock of what had happened had passed, and now the collective mood seemed to incorporate a strange sense of ebullience – something exciting had happened in the village. It almost seemed glamorous.

“I reckon the killer’s…” began Ted. Speculation riddled most of what followed. Will couldn’t help noticing that his friends were discussing the murder in the same casual way they might talk about the football results.

But a girl had died.

“Maybe he’s a serial killer,” said Davy. “Do you think he’ll strike again?”

“Well,” said Will. “Apparently this postman says the police reckon he might.” He rubbed his chin. “I suppose it’s a possibility.”

“So who will be next?”

“Don’t say that, Pete.”

“Well why not? We don’t know the girls around here are safe. He might kill someone we know.”

They looked at each other, then turned their heads to scan their fellow drinkers. Will recognised most of the women in here; all much older than the murdered girl. His gaze finally came to rest on the barmaid, where his friends’ eyes had also stopped.

Jenny glanced up and her red teenage lips smiled at the four men staring at her.

“Right then, who’s up for darts?” Ted said after a few seconds of awkward silence.

“Me,” said Will, picking up his pint.

Will and Pete accompanied Ted to play, leaving Davy at the bar. Will fished in his pocket and pulled out a pound, which he stuck in the jukebox. He put on E14 – Lying Eyes by The Eagles, leaving the other choice for Pete.

“Why’ve you put this old crap on?” Ted asked him as the familiar guitar chords filled the pub.

“Because I felt like it,” Will replied. “It reminds me of someone.”

Ted won the first game, as he often did. He had had years more practice. Will wasn’t very good; his darts rarely went where he wanted, but sometimes chance gave him a lucky strike.

Pete’s playing always provided a source of amusement. As he threw the dart from his right hand he would lean his rotund frame forward on his left leg, sticking his right leg out behind as a counterbalance. His friends generally acknowledged that his stance bore more than a slight resemblance to one of Disney’s Dancing Hippos, an effect compounded by the fact that he often stuck his tongue out in extreme concentration.

They started a second game. By a miracle Will landed a triple nineteen – although he had been aiming for the twenty. Pete and Ted both scored sixty, then again on the next few turns. Will lagged behind. This time Pete won.

“Well guys, I guess that’s enough for tonight,” Will said, not relishing the prospect of playing again.

“Yeah, I’ve had enough too,” Pete said, and they returned to Davy at the bar, who looked nonplussed, it being his turn to buy the round.

The choof of the door being opened drew attention to their friend Stephen Stone as he entered the pub. Grinning like a Down’s Syndrome kid on a day out at the seaside, he rushed over to them.

“Guess what?” he said. “I’ve just heard on the news that the police think that the attacker is a local.”


Will woke late morning. Today he planned to visit his mother at the home and take her out to lunch. That was the big advantage of working for yourself. Flexibility. He could take her somewhere nice and it wouldn’t be too crowded, unlike at weekends.

Grabbing his keys, he slung on his jacket. Being a warm day he didn’t really need it, but it made him look a bit smarter for his mother.

“Shit!” As he approached the van he realised how dirty it was, always a problem in this dry weather. If it wasn’t dust, it was mud; that’s what you got driving down country lanes. He really should clean it before picking up his mother, but there wasn’t time.

He opened the door, hoping at least the inside was respectable. A selection of discarded sandwich packets and crisp wrappers littered the floor. Cursing, he chucked them in the back behind the seats where they couldn’t be seen.

His mother lived in Harris Court, a care home on the outskirts of Billingfield, a small town some eight miles from Lympton. Will pulled into its circular drive and parked as close as possible to the main door.

“Morning, Mr Griffin,” the matron smiled up from her desk as Will entered. “Your mother’s in her room.”

“Thanks,” he replied and set off into the Miller Wing, named after some former dignitary who had left money to the place. Will knew the way well; he came here once a week.

He knocked at Number 44. A muffled “Come in!” reached him through the heavy fire door. He pushed down the handle and went inside.

His mother rose to greet him, struggling to stand with the aid of a stick. He rushed to her and wrapped her in his arms. A huge beam cut across her face.

“Hello, Mum. How are you?”

He looked down on her straggly grey hair. As he released her he took in the frail frame and wan legs poking from her pleated skirt. Her pale blue eyes sparkled with pleasure behind the round spectacles.

“I’m fine, love. And you?”

“I’m good. I thought we’d go to The Castle today.”

“Ooh, yes please!” The beam continued. Although not a real fortress, The Castle was one of her favourite restaurants. They didn’t go too often as they didn’t want to spoil the magic by making it routine.

As Will helped her put on her coat he looked around the room; neat and tidy, as always. A teak dresser with brass corners that had been in the family for generations, remembered from his childhood. The ageing telly. The comfortable armchair. The red carpet with a complex pattern designed not to show spills. A fresh bunch of lilies in a vase, their unsubtle scent masking the institutionalised smell that formed as much a part of Harris Court as the walls.

Amongst the pictures hung a black-and-white photo of his father as a young man in army uniform. Another stood proudly on the dresser, this one in colour and showing him middle-aged. Next to it sat one of Will, taken in his early twenties, his mischievous grin perfectly captured beneath a mop of wavy blond hair and doey grey eyes.

He held his mother’s free hand as he helped her along the corridor. She was only sixty-five, but a stroke five years earlier had left her with the mobility of a ninety-year-old. Will didn’t mind at all that it took them over two minutes to cover the fifty yards.

“Oh, Will, look at the state of your van,” said his mother. “It’s filthy.”

On the passenger side someone had written I wish my wife was this dirty. A faint colour crept into Will’s face. Although his mother’s eyesight wasn’t as good as it once was, he was sure she had seen it.

“Yes, it needs a good clean,” he agreed. “Another job for the list.”

Some high cloud had removed the glare from the day. He helped his mother into the van. It would have been easier just to lift her and put her on the seat, but her pride prevented that and he waited patiently while she pulled herself up with her stick.

Going around to the driver’s side, he helped her with the seatbelt. The smells of summer streamed through the open windows on the ten-minute drive. His mother leant back and he knew how much she was enjoying being away from the home. It did her the world of good to get out.

The Castle had four steps up to the front door, which his mother found difficult to negotiate. Will let go of her hand as she planted the stick on the first one and used it to haul herself up. Two steps she could manage easily enough, but then it became tiring and the fourth exhausted her. They hobbled through and a waitress showed them to a table in the bay window with a view of the road and the New Forest beyond.

Another waitress brought their drinks, an attractive blonde of about nineteen. Will saw his mother had noticed him looking at her.

“So when are you going to get yourself a proper girlfriend?” she asked. “You haven’t had anyone decent since Penny.”

Will hated this question, and felt the blood start to rise to his face. Girlfriends weren’t like buying a new car or TV. When you found someone you found someone, if you didn’t you didn’t, it was as simple as that. He had learnt long ago the pointlessness in going out with someone just for the sake of it.

“Mum, when I find someone I really like I’ll let you know,” he said. “We always have this conversation.” He didn’t want to be reminded about Penny, so he changed the subject to the first thing that came to mind: “Have you heard about the murder on the common?”

“Yes, love, I read about it in the paper. Unbelievable, isn’t it? And just down the road from your place. So what’s the latest news?”

As he told her about how the police thought the attacker could be someone local, he realised he was talking about it in the same dispassionate way his friends had been the night before.

“They should hang him to hell and quarter him,” said his mother with blazing eyes. “This country’s become far too soft on people like that.”

“Yes, Mum, I agree. Scum like that don’t deserve to live.”

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Comments by other Members

Xena at 17:03 on 04 November 2008  Report this post
Hi Simon,

Sorry for coming so late. I had to retrieve your piece from the archive.

I’ll concentrate on answering your questions this time around.

I think these chapters are very good in setting the scene and bringing to the reader a slice of village life, which I like very much. However, I understand what you’re after is tension, and I personally didn’t feel much of that when I was reading. What basically happens here is that Will is going from place to place, discussing the murder with different individuals. These dialogues don’t move the story any further (or rather the movement is very slow). Essentially the same thing is being said, which is very realistic, but it doesn’t add anything to the tensions. Sentences like ‘contracted him to install the power sockets and lighting in his extension’ give unnecessary details, which are fine when you’re simply describing everyday life, but don’t work very well when you’re after the pace.

Further, the description of the darts game almost brought the story to a halt. If this game is not essential to the story, I would simply mention it in passing without concentrating on it, or alternatively, would mix it with the dialogue above.

The allusions to Ginga’s sexual interest in Will didn’t quite work for me. It seemed too contrived. Of course, it’s only my personal perception. I have certain preconceptions about sensual digressions in the stories of non-sensual nature. Things like that don’t often happen in real life, but they are generously used in literature to add the spice. Of course, it would be different if Will was a known homosexual. Then it wouldn’t be unusual that men with certain preferences were treating him in this way.

He folded his hands into his elbows and stood watching Will work.

I thought it was a bit too ‘telly’. If you could break down ‘stood watching’ into smaller time quanta, it would increase the immediacy of the scene. For example: ‘He folded hands into his elbows. Minutes passed, but he didn’t move. Will felt increasingly uncomfortable. Dump splodges began to form under his arms…’ (This is just an example to get across the point, and not a suggestion for editing.)

What do you know about it?
‘Nothing. Why should I.’

I think that Will goes on the defensive too early. It gives the game away.

I’ve just heard on the news that the police think that the attacker is a local.

This appears to be the beginning of a conversation. Indeed, it’s almost implausible that he would hear no response from the others, and it would end there. I wouldn’t finish the chapter at the beginning of the conversation. It looks a bit artificial. I would let them speculate about what they’ve just heard. The suspense wouldn’t go, if you added a few more sentences. If anything, it would even increase the tension.

Will didn’t mind at all that it took them over two minutes to cover the fifty yards.

A very small point and I may be wrong. ‘Didn’t mind’ doesn’t seem an appropriate expression here. ‘Don’t mind’ usually means ‘not to raise objections’, rather than ‘not to feel irritated’. It’s basically about voicing your irritation, rather than feeling it. I don’t think he’s in the position to ‘mind it’. He’s attending a disabled person and has no choice. If he minds it, he shouldn’t be here in the first place. Perhaps, you could say something like: ‘Will patiently accompanied his mother in her slow progress. It took them over two minutes to cover the fifty yards.’ (As above, this is just an example and not a suggestion.)

It was pleasure to read this.


BigSmile at 11:54 on 05 November 2008  Report this post
Thanks Xena

Obviously these scenes are interspersed with other ones in the novel. You are right about the darts match - I've already cut that in the version I sent to agencies.

So far I've had rejections - they've seen the first 30 pages and synopsis - no calls for the rest of the novel. The last reviewer of the whole novel said it was good enough to publish if I increased tension in the opening scenes, but obviously what I've done isn't sufficient to grab an agent's attention, so I think I need to completely rethink the opening. Any ideas welcome.

Thanks again


Xena at 11:12 on 22 November 2008  Report this post
Hi Simon,

If you still invite ideas for the opening, I can share mine. You've reworked this novel so many times that I really don't know where you stand now, but so far as I can remember you begin with Will coming back home from work and hearing about the murder on the news. I think it's a bit sluggish for a crime novel.

I would start with the murder itself. I would make the murderer use some of the expressions and catch phrases normally used by Will, so that later your readers would be left wondering if it could be him. That would create suspense even in the opening scenes with Will visiting places and talking to people, because little by little the readers would recognise the language used by the murderer. In the end there could be some explanation given as to why Will's and the murderer's usage is so similar.

In this way you can easily indulge yourself in describing the village life and Will's habits, because in the eyes of your readers they would be full of cues, when in reality nothing but coincidence.

I'm fully aware how far off the mark and how at odds with your ideas I may be.


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