Sunday, April 29, 2012

Work in Progress and First Lines

The first line of a novel probably doesn't matter that much from a commercial standpoint in 99 cases out of a hundred. Does anyone out there even remember what the first line was of the novel they're reading right now? I think an amazing opening line can help drag readers into the story, but finding the correct mix is elusive at best.

Nevertheless, every writer I know takes pride in trying to create the best opening line they can work out. One that's intriguing, and reveals just enough about the story to pique a prospective reader's interest.

I'm coming up on the half-way point in writing my third novel, In Machina Umbra, and already I'm spending time on the opening page, trying to find the perfect words.

So, let me know what you think. Would you read on?

The dead work for free, once their funeral costs are covered of course; it's in the contract.

Farthing-sized gemstones of spirit-traps on each machine flickered like embers as Robert Bexley plodded past on his rounds of the factory floor. They seemed agitated. Normally the spirit-traps gave a steady glow while the ghosts were working, but something nearby had set them off. They were sensitive to the emotions of those around them, perhaps one of the other guards had thought of something that upset them.

The tread of his heavy boots was drowned out by the constant drone of machines hard at work in the dark and empty factory. He gave a terrific yawn and pulled out his pocketwatch. It read four fifty-five. Not terribly unusual for him to be up so late, but without company it was difficult to keep his eyes open.

The little brass man with a football at the bottom of the watch beckoned to him. He hadn't played a game in weeks. By pressing a series of buttons the brass man would flick the ball in the air with his foot, then use his head to butt it into the little goal on the edge of the watch. A counter kept track of how many goals a player could make in a row. Dr. Ludgate, Robert's professor of Babbage-Boolean Mechanics had called it trash, a waste of talent, but it was good for a bit of fun.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Fun

Stuff getting destroyed in slow-mo.

What more could you ask?

Inspiration: Abandoned Cities

To continue with my recent theme of abandonment, I thought I'd look for some abandoned cities. I have to say, even looking at these sorts of things on a semi-regular basis because they fascinate me, I was pretty amazed at how many there are.

First up, Kowloon Walled City.

Originally a part of Hong Kong, it was taken over by the Japanese for use as a watch-post in World War II. After the war, the Japanese abandoned it and neither the British nor the Chinese wanted to sort the problem out, so it was left as a completely lawless society. As there were no building codes, residents modified and added to the block of buildings as they pleased, with elevated walkways built from scrap spanning between buildings, and shanties built everywhere there was a spare space. The Triads had free reign to run the place from the '50s to the '70s as a centre for prostitution, drug distribution and gambling. In 1987 Hong Kong began evicting residents, and it was eventually demolished in 1993-94. At its peak the population was 33,000 people, giving it a population density of over a million people per square kilometre (compared to Hong Kong's seven thousand per square kilometre).

Craco Italy was abandoned when the local inhabitants realised that living on the edge of a cliff was great for defence against marauding medieval armies, but not so great for earthquake-proofing. After a fairly major quake that damaged most of the buildings, everyone left for lower, more stable ground.

Sanzhi, near Taipei, Taiwan was never occupied. A string of accidents killed over 20 of the workers building the resort there. There was disagreement whether the bad luck came from the accidental destruction of a dragon statue on the site, or the fact that it was situated on an old Dutch burial ground. In any case, the weird UFO style rooms don't seem to belong to this world.