Friday, 24 January 2014

Wonder by Dominique Fortier

It was snowing confetti on Saint-Pierre.

Every time authors start a story they must decide how to begin. Many choose to begin with setting to set up atmosphere, mood, and/or tone. To each his own. However, even though these are story elements and important, they are not in themselves the story. So, no matter how one justifies it, the novel does not begin with the story - things happening to people.

Think of it like this: Something happened to you, perhaps you were accidentally pushed from a subway platform onto the tracks and the next day you want to tell your friends what happened - that is to tell the story. How would you begin? It was a sunny day when I walked into the subway station filled with the dank smell of the herd of humanity as it wondered aimlessly through time and space.

Your friends would get pretty pissed, pretty quick if that is how you start your stories. The short of it is, beginning with setting, atmosphere and mood is just not how a story instinctively starts. Well, perhaps that is not entirely correct, mood and atmosphere can be established from word 1 simply in the telling of how conflict unfolds with some setting, which may be necessary, like this: You wouldn't believe what happened to me - I was pushed off the subway platform!

This is much better than: You wouldn't believe what happened to me - I was pushed!

But the setting is only important because it is vital to understanding the conflict.

Anyway, there are many different ways to begin and perhaps in the grand scheme of things, none of them are wrong. All I know is that the opening of Wonder does not hook me.

From a purely technical point of view, for descriptive writing, it is wonderful and the author obviously exhibits a talent for writing - a real wordsmith. Sometimes I wonder though, if that is the only purpose for such flowery and descriptive openings- to show off the chops. Don't get me wrong, good writing is important, but by itself, it does not hook. Character and conflict do.

First thing said:

"I am ridiculous."

This is on page 2 when we are introduced to a character describing himself, so the descriptive preamble does not last too long, though there is still vivid description between things said. So, if you like verbose description then this should be right up your dandy alley.

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

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