Every novel needs an effective opening. If it wasn’t any good, we probably wouldn’t read the novel! How do authors try and make the opening paragraphs of their books effective? Writers try to hook the reader into reading their book, by making a strong narrative pull; they try to make the reader want to know “what’s going to happen next?” so that they read on.
They do this with the aid of the author’s craft. The authors craft is like a writer’s secret code of story telling. It’s their nifty gizmo, and they call it their craft. It’s basically their way of writing, and it is made up of two main parts; narrative elements and literary devices. Every author has a craft, but they all use it in different ways and in this essay I aim to show how Robert Swindells has used it, in the opening paragraphs of his book, Stone cold.
Literary devices, as can be worked out from its name are the tools and techniques that authors use to make their work more meaningful and significant. Narrative Elements set out the story and its structure in different aspects, for instance its plot, characters and setting.
Swindells has mastered the use of characterization in the opening paragraphs of his novel, and even in his first sentence, he characterizes his main character: “You can call me Link”.
Links tone and wording makes him seem friendly -so the reader knows what sort of personality Link is of- and eager to talk to the reader directly, via the pronoun ‘you’. And by putting the words ‘you’ and ‘me’ in one sentence Swindells also makes the first sentence emotion as Link is connecting to the reader directly. The opening sentence in a way welcomes the readers into the book. It also seems a bit random, because we don’t know at all what’s going on. So this makes the reader eager to know why the character would want to be called by an alias, so would therefore read on to find out.
In the same way, in the next paragraph another character is shown. The way he talks is very different to how the previous character did, so it is evidently clear he isn’t the same person. By starting of with just “Shelter” and the often repetition of the word, it shows this character is quite full of himself. Unlike Link, this character doesn’t at all use the word ‘you’, so is clearly not talking to the reader, but rather to himself. Swindells uses the technique of foreshadowing here. Here it is shown in advance that Shelter is a bit crazy, hence he is talking to himself. This is consequently proved later on in the novel, when the deeply disturbed Shelter, stores his murdered victims’ corpses under his floor boards, after making them presentable with clothing and haircuts. He seemed to care for the victims he despised in life, undoubtedly making him a lunatic.
In the opening sentences Swindells uses a metaphor, to make the reader want to read on and question: “I’m invisible, see? One of the invisible people”. Swindells does this to make the reader question as to why Link would say that, what’s going on in his life to make him feel neglected? This makes the reader nosy and want to read on. It’s also emotional, because Links manner of saying this kind of touch the heart. He says it as if no one cares about him, and he shows he is upset about it. Once again this makes the reader want to read on to find out why he feels like that, but the answer is revealed truly in the end of the book, when another character called Gail betrays him. Swindells does this so that the reader has to finish the book.
Link says:” I’ll tell you the story of my fascinating life”. It is obvious here that Link is being sarcastic as he seems depressed and hurt, and the reader does not expect Link to say this due to his negative attitude, even though to a normal person it probably would be fascinating. All this emphasizes on the fact that Link is the main character and the book is about his “fascinating life”. This makes the reader once again want to read on. As can be seen, most literary devices are aimed to make the novel more exiting to make the reader carry on reading.
Throughout the second paragraph the technique of parallel structure is used. All the sentences are short and snappy: “It’s what they’re all seeking. The street people. What they crave.” This creates a rhythm to what Shelter says and makes it confusing but satisfying; this makes the reader think about what is being said. The short sentences also grab the attention of the reader and make the reader think and wonder whether possibly the reason Link was sitting in the doorway was possibly because he was one of the “street people”, so may possibly be homeless. Furthermore the thing Link wanted from the “passer-bys” was money. In the same way the reader might jump to other conclusions, so carry on reading to find out if he was right and if not what else it could be.
In the end of the second paragraph of the novel, Allusion is used. “Well get fell in my lucky lads.” Here Shelter is referring back to the army, when soldiers fall into line. This also gives a sense of foreshadowing because later on in the novel, the reader discovers that Shelter was actually from the army, and he creates a little a little army of his self with the homeless people or as he call them his “lucky lads”.
From the opening chapters of Stone Cold, it is clear that even in a little extract of a novel authors use the authors craft quite a lot, and very complexly. The opening of this particular book is very effective and really does make the reader want to read on further in the book. People say that you can’t judge a book by its cover and I agree with that. They should judge it by its opening paragraphs. If an author can’t write the most important paragraph of a book properly, why would the rest of the novel be any different? Robert Swindells has written a successful novel here, and a lot of that goes onto the fact that he had a great opening paragraph.
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