Friday, July 20, 2012

A Beginning is a Very Delicate Time

Here's an assignment we had to do for the Creative Writing Class: Take two pieces, one published, one by us, and rewrite the start to try and hook us in. After some false starts (I looked through Jim's book of H P Lovecraft short stories and EVERY SINGLE ONE WAS EXCELLENT) I went for the start of Ian Fleming's The Man With The Golden Gun.

The Secret Service holds much that is kept secret even from very senior officers in the organisation. Only M and his Chief of Staff know absolutely everything there is to know. The latter is responsible for keeping the Top Secret record known as ‘The War Book’ so that, in the event of the death of both of them, the whole story, apart from what is available to individual Sections and Stations, would be available to their successors.
-Ian Fleming, The Man With The Golden Gun

There are secrets so important to the Secret Service that only M and his Chief of Staff know them. Even very senior officers are not aware of all the contents of ‘The War Book’, the record kept so that, in the event of the death of both them, the whole story would be known to their successors.

Obviously this is just an edit, a tightening. It is my personal opinion that Fleming's pedantic attention to detail helps to ground the crazy ridiculous nonsense that Bond gets involved in. However, the story needs to get up some momentum before grinding away at this stuff. In other words my opening really ought to have been:
James Bond had been Missing in Action for a year before he telephoned Secret Service Headquarters.
or even
James Bond had returned from the dead.
before going into the details of what happens when you try to contact the public face of the Secret Service.

By the way The Man With The Golden Gun, Fleming's last Bond novel, is not great, but it is hilarious in parts. I honestly didn't think I could top my novel interpretation of Diamonds are Forever (In Two Parts) but the actual text of the psychologists report on Scaramanga is very funny, partly deliberately and partly not. I will return to this.

Onwards. Back in March I wrote a poem which I modestly called Genius.
I make a wish and know what will happen
In their own time things will come true, or not
We will only find out when now is then
The past is full of things that I forgot

In their own time things will come true, or not
My memories made of regrets and mistakes
The past is full of things that I forgot
I must hope that this time it's not a fake

My memories made of regrets and mistakes
I try to speak but my vocal cords cramp
I must hope that this time it's not a fake
Hands trembling I reach out and rub the lamp

I try to speak but my vocal cords cramp
We will only find out when now is then
Hands trembling I reach out and rub the lamp
I make a wish and know what will happen
I rewrote the start. Which knocked on to rewriting half the damn poem.
Make a wish not knowing what will happen
Things not true now will become so in time
Not sure of the what, but certain of when
My memory has no reason or rhyme

Things not true now will become so in time
The past has only regrets and mistakes
My memory has no reason or rhyme
I must hope that this time it's not a fake

The past has only regrets and mistakes
When I try to speak my vocal cords cramp
I must hope that this time it's not a fake
Hands trembling, I reach out and rub the lamp

When I try to speak my vocal cords cramp
Not sure of the what, but certain of when
Hands trembling I reach out and rub the lamp
Make a wish not knowing what will happen
This was considered by the class to be less successful; the lack of an "I" at the start defuses all the power. See, I prefer that the lamp rubber[1] not know what will happen, but others seem to think that is less important than identifying that this is something someone is doing rather than a general intention or instruction. Duly noted! Here's an attempt to preserve a. the scan, b. the I, and c. the line "When I try to speak my vocal cords cramp[2];
I make a wish not knowing what happens
Things not true now will become so in time
Not sure of the what, but certain of when
My memory has no reason or rhyme

Things not true now will become so in time
The past has only regrets and mistakes
My memory has no reason or rhyme
I must hope that this time it's not a fake

The past has only regrets and mistakes
When I try to speak my vocal cords cramp
I must hope that this time it's not a fake
Hands trembling, I reach out and rub the lamp

When I try to speak my vocal cords cramp
Not sure of the what, but certain of when
Hands trembling I reach out and rub the lamp
I make a wish, not knowing what happens
Reason and rhyme was not liked by some as it's a cliche, but I do. I think that the tutor's point that reworking prose usually improves it, but reworking poetry is more mixed in results was a wise one.


[1] Obviously the double entendre was pointed out. Poetry criticism should only be done by people with clean minds!
[2] Rub the lamp and vocal cords cramp are the two fragments that I built the poem around. Of course now I re-read and wonder if they could go the other way around.
I make a wish not knowing what happens
Things not true now will become so in time
Not sure of the what, but certain of when
My memory has no reason or rhyme

Things not true now will become so in time
The past has only regrets and mistakes
My memory has no reason or rhyme
I must hope that this time it's not a fake

The past has only regrets and mistakes
Hands trembling, I reach out and rub the lamp
I must hope that this time it's not a fake
When I try to speak my vocal cords cramp

Hands trembling, I reach out and rub the lamp
Not sure of the what, but certain of when
When I try to speak my vocal cords cramp
I make a wish, not knowing what happens
Originally the lamp went at the end of the third verse as that's the last new line in a pantun, so the last chance to change the poem. Since my go-to literary technique is the last minute twist I've focused on that as the revelation of what the pantun is about. Of course what this is about isn't actually rubbing a lamp, but fear, tension, uncertainty and fate, so the vocal cords cramping is just as good there.

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