The perfect opening. And old-fashioned vs contemporary novel writing.

Could this be the perfect opening to a story?


For me, I think maybe the answer is yes.

I love that Stevenson-style exposition of how the story came to be written down (the style that Burnet employs so successfully in His Bloody Project, but that you so rarely see nowadays).

I love the tension built with the diary form.

I love the matter-of-fact description of the task ahead: the moving of a tomb with a ‘forbidding inscription’. The dramatic irony and delicious foreboding. What could possibly go wrong here?

I have recently joined a book group, and my first meeting included a discussion of contemporary creative writing vs old narrative techniques. There were some strong views that novel writing has generally improved over the decades (or centuries). I know my tastes are not typical (when I read too much contemporary fiction in one go I start to get a bit itchy), but I am not so sure. There is something irresistible about this style. Yes it may seem dated (this story in particular was written in 1900) but I can’t help thinking that to dismiss these old-fashioned techniques as having been improved upon is to miss out.

I wish more contemporary publishers agreed though.


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