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[personal profile] lookingforoctober
There are some people, I understand, who like the first line of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice because it's clever, amusing, and makes a good hook.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Me, I like it because it's extremely easy to understand without any previous understanding of the story, introduces a concept that's going to be important to the story with a minimum of fuss, and lets the reader understand what's going on so that when one gets to Bennets in the next sentence, one knows exactly what they're talking about.

What I don't like in a first sentence is a "hook" that introduces two characters that the reader doesn't know in a way that doesn't make it clear what their relationship is, a very blurry and disjointed setting, and a situation that seems to be ominous but it's not exactly clear why. Yes, it is very mysterious and a little ominous; no, I'm not excited about figuring out why. And when the first scene is an exercise in pulling clues out of the narrative to figure out who these people are and what's going on and where they even are and why they're even talking to each other...

I mean, I'm pretty sure it did the "hook" thing by the book, and it's supposed to be that way because it's supposed to make you want to keep reading to figure out what's going on...but I was not hooked. I don't want to spend all my time figuring out when I could spend my time understanding.

This is what I like about the openings of Diana Wynne Jones books too. They pretty much start off with something that's immediately understandable, and go from there, explaining and expanding until you're painlessly right in the middle of a story. I can read from the first sentence on as easy as anything. It's not in media res, it's usually very much summary rather than right into any action, but I'm in almost immediately. No time spent going "Huh?"

That is what I want in an opening.


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