Friday, February 02, 2007

Adventures In The Cave - Part 1

Another question that I am often asked is “Did you always want to be a writer?” The answer to this is an unequivocal no; it never occurred to me until I did an evening course at random in my mid-20s. Not a single English teacher ever read anything that I’d written and then tried to dissuade me from a default career choice of “I dunno – something in computers?”

But was there some hidden literary genius in my early compositions, cruelly overlooked by large, mixed-ability classes? Stephen King and William Goldman have published some of their earlier works for study, so for the next few days I shall join them and analyse the first and indeed only book that I have ever written: Adventures In The Cave. I shall examine it with the knowledge and craft that I now have, and offer my 6-year-old self some advice that, had he heard it at the time, might have taken his life on a very different path.

Adventures In The Cave

OK, let’s start with the title – it’s a bit bland, isn’t it? What about something simple like The Cave, or, if you’re going for something a bit tongue-in-cheek, The Amazingly Exciting Adventures in the Cave? What you've got at the moment is a bit literal, and dull, dull, dull.

The “adventures” gives the reader some idea of the genre, but all narratives are some kind of an adventure, aren’t they? Joseph Campbell’s works on comparative mythology posit that all stories are a form of quest, so to tell the reader that they are going on an adventure with the characters should be redundant.

The subject matter and setting should also perhaps be more obvious from the cover illustration. What you have at the moment is certainly colourful, with some neat crayoning, but I just don’t understand it. Are those arms and legs, and a nose and mouth at the top? Is this something that will catch someone’s eye in a bookshop? To be honest, I’m not really getting “adventures” or even “cave”.

Depending on where you are pitching this book (mass market horror? Literary fiction?) I would suggest just a dark cave entrance, leading the eye in towards something unknown. The brown background makes the text hard to read as well. What about trying silver embossed lettering? And you should always make your name as big as you can as you try to build brand awareness around it.

The binding is good though. I remember all the children having to take their finished pages up to the teacher, and those three staples have certainly stood the test of time. 30 years later, the pages are as secure as they ever were. So well done there.

But of course you should never judge a book by its cover, so next week we’ll take a look at some of the writing and find out just what adventures await in that eponymous cave.