It’s the literary sensation that has taken the book charts by storm. It’s the soon-to-be movie that’s had Hollywood speculating wildly about who should star in it. It’s the ‘mummy porn’ novel that’s surpassed even Harry Potter, and has become the fastest-selling paperback of all time.
It is, of course, Fifty Shades of Grey.
I finally – not that I’d been searching EVERYWHERE, or anything (cough…) – got my hands on a copy of the first book in the Fifty… series and sat down for a read. And I was, well, baffled.
This is all it takes to become a global literary star? I mean, really? Really?!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not writing this for the sake of leaping on the #wehate50 bandwagon. I get that – what is essentially – a porn novel is never exactly going to win the Nobel Prize. I admire E. L. James for writing something that has *ahem* captured so many imaginations across the world. I’m curious to read the other two books, simply to see how it can be dragged out into a trilogy. And, FYI, I vote Scott Disick to play Christian Grey in the film.
But I still think that the book is so full of LOL moments that it’s more of a comedy than anything else.
Deciding that author E.L. James has obviously hit upon a winning formula in writing the series, I decided to try and work out the five key ingredients for concocting your own global best-seller, and came up with the below.
1. Lots of italics.
It’s best to italicise every other word or otherwise readers might lose their attention span. Protagonist Ana is perpetually italicising her thoughts about Christian and - oh my! - what he’s just told her. The italics are an excellent way of pinpointing where the next interesting bit of plot is. Bored of skimming through pages of dull dialogue? Flick through to the next set of italics, skip to the paragraph above and you’ll find out what’s been going on.
2. A hero with a surname that matches the colour of his eyes.
Christian Grey has grey eyes. See what E. L. did there…? Also, while we’re, er, at it, Christian would have to be good-looking and mega-rich, wouldn’t he? It wouldn’t exactly work if he was benefits claimant Barry Smith.
- “Oh no, my flatmate’s got a cold and she’s asked me to go and interview an elusive millionaire on her behalf! I’ve just arrived at his office - oh my! - and, whoopsee, the moment the door opens, I trip over and fall on all fours! Haha, what am I like!”
- ‘Outside it’s a mild May Sunday.’ ’I gaze at myself in the mirror.’ ‘I climb out of the shower and grab two towels.’ Who cares? No italics here, so I’ve already lost interest.
4. A delicate appreciation of music.
My personal highlight of the whole book: the morning after the night before, when Ana wakes up to find Christian playing the piano (‘he sits naked, his body bathed in the warm light cast by a solitary freestanding lamp beside the piano’ - but of course).
“You should be in bed,” he admonishes.
“That was a beautiful piece. Bach?”
“Transcription by Bach, but it’s originally an oboe concerto by Alessandro Marcello.”
Nothing screams sexy – or page-turning – quite like an oboe concerto transcription. FACT.
5. Plenty of tedious email exchanges (including ‘To’, ‘From’, ‘CC’, ‘Subject’ lines and even dates and times).
Yes, these are certainly a convenient way of padding out some space. Why do the subject lines change in each email? For example: Christian sends Ana an email with the subject ‘Stalker? Me?’, to which she replies with a message titled ‘Expensive Charlatans’. An excerpt from one of their email exchanges: ‘Have you taken off yet? If so, you should not be emailing. You are putting yourself at risk, in direct contravention of the rule regarding your personal safety. I meant what I said about punishments.’ Top banter, chaps.