Monday, March 21, 2016

The importance of Page 112

I'm an avowed francophile. I love everything about France; I love their countryside, what they call 'La France Profonde' with the pretty villages that don't seem to have changed much in the last few hundred years. I love their food, and their wine, of course. I love the people, who have an unjustified reputation for rudeness. How can you say they're rude when the shopkeeper says he is 'désolée' if he happens to be out of whatever it is you want?

But more than anything I love the elegant quirkiness of their minds. Is there any other country that has an a book award like Le Prix de la Page 112?

Yes, this is quite literally a prize awarded for the best page 112.  Just that page, not the whole book.

The idea behind this is, I understand, that page 112 is held to be the point at which the initial enthusiasm that drove you in starting the book in the first place has waned and all the brilliant ideas and aperçus you thought would carry you right through to the concluding chapter have been used up. This is where the book starts to sag.

Presumably the temptation will be to cheat. Once you knew which page in the book would be 112 you'd want to revise it to a high state of polish. However, since you never know until you get the page proofs, this presumably has copy-editors up and down France tearing their hair out as they have their work to do all over again in a blizzard of corrections.

I kept wondering whether having read 112, the judges then couldn't resist checking out 111 and 113, to see whether it toned in with the rest of the story. Perhaps they judged on the basis of which page 112 was so interesting that they rushed off to read the rest of the book, or more likely, being French, they would award the prize to the most elegant and 'literary' page.

I looked back through a few of my own books to check on page 112 and I have to say I don't think I'd have been on the shortlist. The one that began, 'Yes, she was his mother. But yes, he had reason to hate her. She had used him when he was too young to understand, had condemned him to the sort of half-life he was leading now,' was probably the best of them in that it was reflection rather than just dialogue and events, but I have to say I couldn't dig out anything elegant or literary. I'm down and dirty with the plot at that stage of the books.

So what about a prize for the best first page, or even the best last page? First impressions are so important and the last page is the impression of you as a writer that the reader takes away with them so these are definitely the pages I spend most time on and I suspect some of you would say the same.

Or – here's a radical thought – not the first page, the last page, or page 112, but a prize for the best page chosen at random? It might make authors keen to compete take that sort of trouble over every page. It could make writing the book a very slow process – but think how good it would be.


Roland Clarke said...

Love the idea of the Random Page Prize. That would make the reads even better - not sure about the rewrites though. I'm forever delaying release....

Aline Templeton said...

I'm with you there. Roland. They have to prize my twitching fingers off the computer when the deadline forces me to let it go.

Rick Blechta said...

Quirky awards such as the one you describe certainly do have a place. I love this idea and some of the others you floated. Great post! Thanks!!