Renew yourself, my fellow creatives!
As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.
Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST FIFTY PAGES
Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?
Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:
Ever hear of the sci-fi cult classic Logan’s Run? It’s a 1976 film about a world where everyone is young and perfect, and life will always give you just what you want. Once your hand’s computer light starts flashing, you have to go be “renewed”–or as one quickly finds out, you die.
This immediately came to mind when I picked up Justin Cronin’s The Ferryman, so I was a little wary of how this deceiving utopia would compare with the likes of Logan’s Run.
If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.
Happily, my concern was unnecessary. The prologue (yes, a prologue) introduces readers to the “mother” of the book’s protagonist. She is preparing to leave all that she knows; since the dust jacket says that folks of a certain age in this utopia are taken away to be “renewed,” we can safely assume she’s preparing herself for that journey. Unlike Logan’s Run, it appears this renewal is almost like a reincarnation: the aged or taken away, bodies de-aged and minds erased, to come back to the island as teenagers to start life again as wards to selected adults of the city. Yes, this prologue is a lot of exposition, but the prose fits the moment, for the woman is describing all that she says as she says farewell to her life. She then recalls meeting her ward, the protagonist Proctor, and is surprised by the maternal feelings she holds. She doesn’t understand them.
And frankly, the alienness of family feeling is what I find so compelling here. As a writer, we can create whatever kind of world we want, and I see Cronin’s done precisely that. Yet something must be relatable for the reader, or they won’t feel the story is accessible. Most people have their own sense of family, whether by birth or friendship, but the fact that this society has turned that sense of family into an alien feeling leads readers to question what else has been essentially removed from the human experience–perhaps the soul itself?
No matter what the season brings, keep reading!
Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!
Not especially my type of book.
The reprogramming makes me think of the Tron movies, too.
Guess I should warn that you that if you ever decide to read my fantasy novel, it has a prologue.