The way in which learn is through story. We don’t just learn by someone throwing information at us. We learn because people tell stories and the stories are learning experiences.
A friend of mine, a terrific writer, is convinced there is a conspiracy excluding him from certain rewards and publications. Surveying the field, he calculates the present advantages of race, religion, gender, generation, genre; the lamentably low aesthetic standards of the current cultural moment; and the charlatans who act as our literary gatekeepers. I consider him, like most of the paranoia-inclined, an optimist. If only it were that simple. If only we could lay the blame on a sinister group of fashion-conscious power brokers (those cowards, those bozos!) who get together every first Monday of the month at, say, the Century Club to determine the season’s winners and losers. No, I am a pessimist in such matters: I see nothing but randomness, pure randomness.
But there’s one thing I’m sure about. An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.
Come in here. You want to know about this.