Monday, April 23, 2012

“Beginning” of the Week #11

Last week I wrote about what makes a great beginning to a novel. This includes the hint of conflict, an interesting character, and, perhaps most importantly, writing that sets the tone or mood for the story to come. My first 10 “beginnings” focused on a number great works of historical and fantasy fiction, some of which remain bestselling novels today. For the next seven or so weeks, I plan on featuring the opening passages from vintage works of fantasy fiction to consider whether they have the elements of a great beginning, or whether the standards back then were a bit different than today’s.

For the first vintage fantasy “beginning,” I’m featuring the opening passage of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné, the first novel is his most famous fantasy series, published in 1972:
It is the colour of a bleached skull, his flesh; and the long hair which flows beneath his shoulders is milk-white. From the tapering, beautiful head stare two slanting eyes, crimson and moody, and from the loose sleeve of his yellow gown emerge two slender hands, also the colour of bone, resting on each arm of a seat which has been carved from a single, massive ruby.
The crimson eyes are troubled and sometimes one hand will rise to finger the light helm which sits upon the white locks: a helm made from some dark, greenish alloy and exquisitely moulded into the likeness of a dragon about to take wing. And on the hand which absently caresses the crown there is a ring in which is set a single rare Actorios stone whose core sometimes shifts sluggishly and reshapes itself, as if it were sentient smoke and as restless in its jeweled prison as the young albino on his Ruby Throne.
– Michael Moorcock, Elric of Melniboné

This is one of the all-time fantasy classics!
So read my post on What Makes a Great Beginning? and let me know what you think? Is this one as good as  – or better than – those that proceeded it? Or were the elements that make a great beginning somewhat different back then?

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