Monday, 9 June 2014
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
William Eng woke to the sound of a snapping leather belt and the shrieking of rusty springs that supported the threadbare mattress of his army surplus bed.
There aren't too many ways to make a bed setting opening interesting. After all, it's just someone waking up. People do that hundreds and thousands of times in their lives. It is not gripping. One could make the argument that every story should begin with the character waking up but it's just as possible to assume that the character woke up and is awake to react to the inciting event that actually begins a story. Waking up is rarely, if ever, an inciting event. So why do authors do it? Have we been mistreated by society with an overwhelming overdose of cliche, so much so, that our brains are now pickled cliches? Some will argue that usually the bed setting scene is employed to establish setting. I,on the other hand, prefer a story to start with conflict.
In this case, with this novel we get a sense of the setting and that it might be harsh in that William is sleeping on a surplus bed, but as we don't know who William is, a man or a child, we can't tell just how horrible this opening line is. The snapping of a leather belt sounds promising though. Perhaps someone is getting beaten. Many readers would infer this and so get hooked.
As we read on, still on page 1, we learn that William is at an orphanage and that the sisters like to beat kids who wet the bed and believe that bed wetting is the result of unsavory, nay sinful, self-touching, so the boys are tied to the bed. Apparently this works. So we learn that beds are related to some conflict, which salvages the opening and cancels out the bed setting cliche.
In general this opening is all about the evil sisters who abuse orphans in the 1930's. This premise is filled with conflict, just that it's been done before. But people can't get enough of evil nuns who beat children, so it will hook most people.
First thing said:
"I told you it would work."