Friday, 23 May 2014

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror.

This sentence offers little, except persons unknown who are upset looking at themselves. We can assume it's something to do with the way they look and can expect a physical description of the character. Unless an eye has fallen out, teeth are missing, or there's some weird skin disease, there isn't much conflict story-worthy conflict here. The next sentence:

Damn my hair - it just won't behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal.

A lot of damning going on and all because of hair? So this novel begins with hair conflict. For twelve-year olds this might hook. But really, how much more trivial can you get? The narrator needs to study but is instead obsessing over hair, repeating: I must not sleep with it wet, several times. I assume that this is because the night before that is what she did, and therefore the conflict in the morning. But why not have another shower in the morning? There is the suggestion there is little time, but surely the narrator doesn't just wake up and five minutes later is pushed out the door.

The next paragraph is back story, and we learn more about Kate and it's explained she's sick and the narrator has to do an interview for her instead. Even though the narrator doesn't want to do it and comes off as hating Kate, by page 2 we learn that the narrator is fond of Kate, made her some soup, brings her medicine, and is willing to do Kate a favor that could cost the narrator a degree, etc. So that damn Kate bit must have been just a joke or a little bit of melodramatic hyperbole. In other words, the opening doesn't contain as much conflict as initially implied. This is easy to do, just choose the right words and you can make someone opening a kitchen door sound fraught with antagonism:

He gripped the barren wood and with great trepidation, slowly pushed the crooked door open, as it creaked like a screaming witch being drawn and quartered. Once inside the kitchen, he started whistling "Hold me Now" by The Thompson Twins and made a cup of coffee. It was going to be a splendid day, indeed.

First thing said:

"Ana, I'm sorry."

Later we have this line:

The roads are clear as I set off from Vancouver, Washington towards Interstate 5.

She's going to Seattle, but I don't think Vancouver is in Washington. This sounds like a factual mistake, just like the one Stephenie Meyer makes on page 1 of Twilight.

Overall, we have exposition that lacks conflict. One can say it is an inciting event, but it is not an interesting inciting event. It is stalling as the character gets ready to travel to the story hook. It would be more effective if the novel begin with the narrator at the interview and use this opening as back story as necessary.

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

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