Friday, 2 May 2014

The River Burns by Trevor Ferguson

Quite early on a splendid summer's morning, as sunlight shimmied across the treetops or sashayed within a mischief of breezes to brighten patches of farmers' fields and meadows below, while streams navigating the hills remained wholly shaded and residents of Wakefield stayed asleep or tottered through dawn's familiar routines Dennis Jasper O'Farrell caught himself having a moment.

This sentence bugs me. It was hell to write out. The whole time I was thinking what is the point of it all? Sunlight doing this or that, and residents doing this or that. Simply put, this line is overwritten. It reminds me of either the opening to an animated Disney film like Bambi or the opening scene of season 1, episode 1 of Brickleberry.

If we minus the bloated description of setting and just say it was a beautiful morning, the main thing is that Dennis is having a moment. This is were the hook lies. Many people will read on to find out what it means in this novel, to be having a moment.

A closer look at this opening line and I begin to suspect the writer went to extra effort to let the fireworks of language explode here. That is to say, he probably understands the importance of the opening line. Unfortunately, this is an example of reworking a sentence to death. The rest of the first page does not have the same feel as that opening sentence; the lines are shorter with more simple wording focusing on character and conflict and not on a glossy setting.

Next, we learn that Dennis is having a moment while driving. Paragraph 2 begins by telling us how he'd been in bed, awoken by a crotchety alarm, which is to say there is a little bit too much personification in this opening for my taste, what with all the shimmed and sashayed sunlight, the navigating river and now the crotchety alarm. Then we discover he'd been dreaming but that upon waking he'd forgotten what he'd been dreaming about. The only thing this tidbit reveals is that the pace of this story is going to be sloooooooow. Why say someone was dreaming before they woke up? That's what most people do. Unless the dream is important to the plot, but it's obviously not as the character forgets what he'd been dreaming about.

First thing said:

"Holy sh--!"

Verdict: Epic Fail

This opens with three cliches on page 1: Weather, car and waking up.

Theodore Moracht

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