Sunday, 13 October 2013
Cormoran Strike meets with an Accident
Helen kindly left me her copy of J K Rowling's book - the one published under a pseudonym. I haven't read it yet, but I keep looking at it. Unfortunately it has already met with an accident - Tim jumped on the bed, nudged it off the bookshelf and was having a whale of a time when I caught up with him. Fortunately, though it looks bad, only the corners of the first two pages have been nibbled. The introductory pages have been given a lacy edging, but the story is intact.
The perceived wisdom for authors seeking publication is to write to a certain style, broadly outlined in my last post. With memories of JKR's writing in the Harry Potter series, I looked at the first page and thought to myself She hasn't changed her style. I've read that page twice more before I go on. After all, the first page is the one that entices you to read the story, isn't it? It's the most important page, the one we are told we should spend the most time on, honing and sharpening. The first sentence should be a hook.
JK's first sentence is "The buzz in the street was like the humming of flies."
Not bad, although it contains a passive verb and a gerund - an -ing ending. But not brilliant either. Out of interest I got out three coloured marker pens and marked up 5 -ly endings, 12 gerunds and 12 adjectives. All on the first page. H'mmm.
Enough to make aspiring authors groan into their cups of coffee. Perhaps the English publishing market is different to the American market. Perhaps the English prefer a longer, more leisurely read and don't mind adjectives if they work well. Perhaps I should ignore it when critiquers highlight all my gerunds and -ly endings and go with my own instinct of what works for the story. I do ignore them, some of the time, but I always consider the word, the place and the tone of the piece before I do. Find highlights every gerund in the chapter and if you are so minded, you can then consider each one individually. Sometimes it is good to get an overview like this. Active is all very well in its place, usually when something exciting is happening on the page. But there are times when introspective is good and less active writing gives the reader a rest. I still remember how irritated I got with the Da Vinci Code with its relentless demand that I turned the page. Somehow, I don't think JK's writing will make such a demand. It occurs to me that the name of the hero - on the back cover - is the giveaway to the author's identity. Cormoran Strike is a name that harks straight back to the Potter stories.