Tuesday, 22 December 2009


I finally watched Moon (hooray) and I unsurprisingly loved it. What I particularly enjoyed wasn't the acting, the effects, the direction or the plot (which were all fantastic) but the way the story was told.

Douglas Jones gave a great deal of credit to the intellect of the audience. There was only one key scene of exposition that I can recall. Generally the story was leaked carefully out in subtle ways, through videos watched, or the ways characters acted. Huge clues were given that you in no way had to pick up on but surely will on a repeat viewing. By the end you had come to a lot of your own conclusions as to what happened, why it happened and the motives of the characters involved.

It's one of those few films that will actually get better on a second viewing akin to
Memento or Primer. Both were also told in complex ways, Primer particularly thanks to its creator's refusal to 'dumb down' the plot and its subsequent near-impossible-to-follow story. Moon may not be quite as complex as either of these two but was in many ways far more subtle and I'm desperately looking forward to rewatching it to see just how much better it will be on a repeat viewing.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

First lines

'It was the day my grandmother exploded.' - Iain Banks, The Crow Road

'When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect.' - Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis

'This much I know for sure: My name is Peter Sinclair, I am English and I am, or I was, twenty-nine years old.' - Christopher Priest, The Affirmation

'In spite of all his efforts, Tavenor was unable to remain indoors when it was time for the sky to catch fire.' - Bob Shaw, The Palace of Eternity

It's line like these, particularly the first two, which for so long in my writing inspired and controlled me. Coupled with my longtime inability to proceed with a piece of writing until I had the previous section/chapter perfected, I was desperate to write the perfect opening line. Not just a good opening line. Nearly all novels have those. Not a great opening line; one that suits the tone and themes of the novel perfectly. A lot of novels have those. But a brilliant, punch-in-the-gut, rips you from reality and places you in the world of the novel, line.

I became somewhat obsessed with it and despite all this never succeeded. I believe the best I ever came up with was:
'A dead fish floated in the bay.'
Still working on this same story some time later, I gradually came to the opinion that although a line like Banks's, and Kafka's would be fantastic, they aren't necessary. As long as the first page hooks you, the first line merely has to be not-bad and that's not asking the impossible. So this first line of mine, in some sort of cathartic act finally became:
'A dead fish no longer floated in the bay.'
It was now obtuse and bizarre and acted mainly as a reminder to myself that this first line obsession was mostly pointless and not as important as I had myself believe.
Then, some time later I lost that whole section altogether.
As long as my first line isn't bad, I think I'm happy now. At least that's my excuse.