Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Threat

I understand that modern readers are jaded by television's pacing and need some action up front. I get that you can't ramble around for three chapters before getting to the actual story like a nineteenth-century novelist. Even I get impatient with some of those nineteenth-century novelists.

But is it really necessary to put the murder in the first line and then dump in backstory with a backhoe? Couldn't we stroll around Lord Frogmorton's ball for a few minutes and mingle before the body is discovered? Instead we wind up racing to the phone, while somehow managing to reminisce on the way about the personal history of everyone we pass. Absurd.

So, to modern novelists, I offer three options: 1) Spend a wee bit of time on setup. Write it well and people will hang around until someone dies. 2) Write your backstory sensibly. Let it unfold within the story instead of dumping it all off at the first opportunity. If you can't do either then, 3) Know that I will toss your book across the room and refuse to read past the first three pages.

Of course, since I'm not buying the books anyway, the modern novelist probably doesn't give a hoot what I think.


Steve said...

I don't remember the author or the title. I didn't read the book - only read about it. But the opening sticks with me.

"Blam blam blam! Three shots plowed into my body, and I fell to the floor, dead."

You have to admit, it's an attention-grabber. This was probably from the 80s or earlier, so your distaste over opening murders is not merely aimed at oh-so-modern books.

Queen of Carrots said...

It's kind of a bummer when the narrator dies in the first paragraph.

Steve said...

I guess it wasn't a stream-of-consciousness story . . .

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Now... I'll stuff the envelopes if you'll gather the mailing list! Crumb! I contribute to the postage as well... that or use this as the reason I need to spend hours on the internet gathering e-mail addys! However, they might notice a tactile letter more!