Thursday, 2 January 2014

A Final Reckoning by Susan Moody

Until the screams began, the house was quiet, wrapped in an expectant pre-Christmas hush.

So begins a prologue, though it's not identified as being anything. It's all in italics, which is annoying. The scene that unfolds is disjointed with chaotically inserted bits and pieces of dialogue like:

Don't! Stop! Mum! Please, Mummeee, oh don't! Ouch!...etc

Dialogue continues from various disembodied voices, interspersed with various forms of footsteps. It's effective because it feels like the reader is in a dark room when all this is occurring, creating a sense of confusion, always a necessary ingredient for fear.

Chapter 1:

Where do you begin a story like this one?

Not like that. This is preamble and is actually a really stupid question. Why is the author asking the reader about a story the reader has no idea about? Of course, I suspect it's a rhetorical question, but what's the purpose of being rhetorical? To introduce a narrator that has no idea how to tell a story, making an excuse up to ramble? If that's the case, I'm ready for closure - next book.

Next line and paragraph:

Do you start with your characters, build up a portrait of them, small accretions added for the reader: who they are, what they do, where they're're going, what they want?

Ending with:

That way, you make them known,...which holds the attention even before you launch into your story.

Um, wrong. Just because a writer shows there is a character in the story does not guarantee the reader's attention is held. I meet lots of real people, who actually bore me - people I insist on avoiding. So it's more likely than not that as soon as I get to know a character and all their cliches, I will be turned off. And whether you like to admit it or not, we all have these misanthropic tendencies towards strangers.

The next paragraph begins:

Or do you begin in medias res, plunging slap, bang into the defining events from which your narrative springs?

More preamble. All of this is to say basically there is a story that will start soon, but remember it is only a story. So thanks for wasting my time with musings on creative writing which reveal nothing.

Only after the first three paragraphs do we get the inkling of a story (things happening to people):

I was nearly thirteen when my sister died.

So the writer decides to begin with neither character portrayal or in medias res, but instead with a huge back story dump. Ah, I hope it felt good writing that out. From this point one realizes that one must shore oneself up for a long bout of back story dumping before a forward narrative presents itself - if at all.

Fortunately, I will never find out.

Verdict: Epic Fail

Theodore Moracht

No comments:

Post a Comment