And in my beginning – the writer’s dilema

I’ve been writing about endings and beginnings of books. My new book ‘Billy Christ’ is about a young boy growing-up sometime in the early 1970s in a small English rural community. He’s no ordinary boy in that he has a number of obsessions and a deep and primitive spiritual belief. He’s a ‘wild’ child and an outsider – his world is narrow and mainly confined to the Roman Catholic boys’ school he attends and the clearing in the woods at the top of the hill near where he lives. Compared to his contemporaries he is an innocent, sexually unknowing, naive…

But he is also (unintentionally) amusing and I tried to use humour in the narration to highlight by contrast the bleakness of his world. How do you get all this across in that all important opening page? I guess it’s a question all writers have to address: how do you get the reader into your world, into your characters’ world and into their minds? I  tried the age-old idea of entering Billy’s mind through his diary (or as he call them ‘his memoirs.’)

This is what I did:

“There are two worlds.

Sometimes I think I belong to one world and all the other boys at school and some of the teachers belong to another. I get glimpses of their world but I cannot really understand it, let alone explain it.

In their world they make jokes which they laugh at but I don’t understand, sometimes they snigger behind their hands and then they’ll say things which seem quite ordinary but which make them giggle hysterically, so that the ordinary words they use must mean something else but I don’t know what. Take the drama club. Some of the older boys and some of the boys in my year and even some who are below me and who are not in the drama club look at you funnily when you go to rehearsals and they nudge each other if Father Martin asks you to rehearse privately up in his office.

I once heard Roger Inkman in the 1st year sixth say to another sixth former, ‘Oh, they call it rehearsals? – That’s a new name for it!’ And he put a sort of funny emphasis on ‘new’ and then they both giggled and gave me an ODD look. I didn’t understand that, especially as most boys in my school have been in the drama club at one time or another.

Nor did I understand what Mr Postlethwaite (PE and Games) meant, when I said I could not go to a rugby sevens practise because we had a dress rehearsal for the house drama competition. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Well, you’ll have to learn that rugby and plays just don’t mix. Not where I come from, anyway!’ 

He comes from Plymouth, apparently.

Mr Postlethwaite came along to the folk concerts that we organised to raise money for the school development fund and so did Mr Banks the other games teacher and they brought their wives with them who had blonde hair and wore short skirts and cheesecloth shirts and who looked just like each other.

I read some poems at the Folk Concert that I had written for the occasion. At Games the next day Mr Postlethwaite said, ‘Why the poems? You should leave folk to folk singers.’ Apparently Mr Postlethwaite and Mr Banks belong to a folk club in town above the ‘Fox And Hounds Pub’ and they both have ‘pretty fair’ voices – according to Fred Dymond, who is in the third year sixth because he failed his A-levels first time round and who can, therefore, go to the pub.

So can I ask you what you think of it? Does anyone have a favourite opening to a novel they’d like to share? Let me know.  Share them here.

Michael Cameron

Writer, Author, Publisher. Located in Farnham UK. Author of In Harm's Way, Billy Christ and The Brinkmeyers. I'd love to hear from you - feel free to comment on my blogs - just click on the post in the archives menu to do so, or contact me by email.

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The end of the novel – the writer’s horror – and the reader’s too!

I’ve been thinking about endings – the endings of books that is. I had to think about them because I am at that point in my own work where I am writing one.  I suppose as readers and writers we remember the ending of a favourite book better than we remember a lot of what went before…

So is the end of a book meant to complete it, to round off the story and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion? Should it leave us cheerfully fulfilled and informed about where the story and its characters will go next in our absence, when we have closed the pages for the last time? Possibly. Possibly not. Of course, it depends on what went before but sometimes even the author doesn’t know what he was getting at with those all important last few lines. Here’s the end of Great Expectations:

I took her hand in mine and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.’

Oh, good a happy ending. They’re going to get married at last. – after all the faffing around and trials and tribulations…  (Well, the book does go on a bit – but I’m not a great Dickens fan, to be honest). Actually, the story works just as well  with a less optimistic ending. In fact, Dickens wrote both: – the one above is his last revision made after friends told him to make it more upbeat – or perhaps because his agent said, ‘listen Charlie, happy endings sell best. Your comic stuff is where the money is…’ Well, maybe…

Of course, some best sellers just have plain rotten endings – like the author ran out of steam and couldn’t wait to get to press and get the royalties coming in:

” ‘What about my back?’ she said. “

That one sold millions. But it’s a rotten line to end on. I turned over the page thinking there must be more. There wasn’t. That was it…  Still, what do I know? Ian Fleming did alright with it, that was the ending of ‘Live And Let Die’.

So big question. What’s your favourite ending to a novel? I’d love to hear what they are,  I’d especially love to know what ones we hated most. Like ‘em, love ‘em or hate ‘em – let’s start listing a few and tells us why you chose them.

‘What larks, eh pip?’

 

 

Michael Cameron

Writer, Author, Publisher. Located in Farnham UK. Author of In Harm's Way, Billy Christ and The Brinkmeyers. I'd love to hear from you - feel free to comment on my blogs - just click on the post in the archives menu to do so, or contact me by email.

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I hate beginnings…

“Fifty years old on a good day. Younger, some days. Older, quite often. New York, U.S. of A. by birth. Now live in the UK. I married my very own English rose – Maggie. (I’m a lucky man). Settled here in QueenElizabeth-land to bring-up our kids (Kevin, now 17 and Karen, now 19). I work hard. I play hard. I pray to my God and I talk to Him regular.
We live in a digital world, so I thought ‘hey, what the heck!’ I’ll start a blog. I have something to say. I have read other blogs and I don’t believe you need to go on about sex and drugs or swear to be interesting. I’m in oil. I used to be in rubber – now that’s interesting!
I’m middle aged but who says this blog thing can only be for young people?
We can share our experiences. Sharing I like and I want you to share with me; so you are welcome to my Blog. Tell me what you think of it. Talk to me about it. Shees! Someone please talk to me!”

 

…And that is the opening of the new novel I am currently working on – ‘The Brinkmeyers’ . I hate opening chapters, those first few pages are the hardest of all. I never know how to make them work, how to grab the reader. Does the above work? Let me know. We’re in development here – we could collaborate!!

Michael Cameron

Writer, Author, Publisher. Located in Farnham UK. Author of In Harm's Way, Billy Christ and The Brinkmeyers. I'd love to hear from you - feel free to comment on my blogs - just click on the post in the archives menu to do so, or contact me by email.

More Posts - Website