Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Structure reinforced by the first line

There is no other way to write this than as an epistolary novel because the act of writing is central to the culture I have created. The interesting thing - I think, at least - is that this is the only thing the girl is expected to write in her life; the culture is largely based on oral teaching and histories and this act of writing is a well-trodden rite of passage (and I thought of the punny 'write of passage' in bed last night) that all girls must complete. I don’t know where I got this idea from, but maybe it came from the experience of being at university and noticing the way my writing changed as I became more adept at that particular mode of address. Unless you’re Sheldon Cooper, the academic mode can be a challenge to adopt (especially if you’re experienced in more florid or journalistic prose), and the critique can feel a little harsh in the first year, though it’s still nothing compared to the attentions of an attentive newspaper sub. However, as I progressed through my undergraduate and graduate studies, I grasped the form quite well and became a better (academic) writer. And as my methods of expression grew more sophisticated, I think I was able to articulate more sophisticated ideas, which possibly allowed me to think more sophisticated ideas. There’s probably been some work done on this... or work to be done.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that being able to express ideas well (or at all) allows for a person to examine those ideas more critically.

While pondering the meaning of all this, I read Frankenstein (I started reading just after arriving in Geneva, knowing that I’d be walking the same locations as the doctor and his monster), and the thing I noticed most about its structure - and I have no idea why I didn’t notice before - was its Inception-like parcelling up of individual narratives. I found it to be like a well-formed piece of XML code with it’s closing tags all in place (unlike The Turn of the Screw which fails to close off any of its opening tags, reinforcing that it’s a story all about unfinished business, inconclusive conclusions and poor intranet coding).



So, the captain is writing to his sister, and tells her what Victor told him, Victor relates the story of the monster and the monster relates the story of the family he watches. One thing that always struck me about this was that the passages of narrative were far too long - Victor would not have remembered the feelings and thoughts of the monster so well - for an oral telling, and so I wanted to break mine up and, as luck would have it, the structure presented itself in the form of the first line of the story which came to me one evening as I was talking with some friends outside of the pub.

The first part goes:

dear husband. 3 days ago i became the last girl in the world. in 40 pages i will be a woman.

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