We think the modern day style of writing is just that – modern. Grabbing a reader right away and moving quickly to the action.
It is not new at all.
Over 100 years ago, Edgar Allen Poe created some of the basic rules for powerful short story writing.
“First the artist must decide, of all the innumerable effects or impressions, what one shall I select?”
“If the very initial sentence does not bring out this affect, then he has failed in his first step.”
Many of Poe’s opening sentences immediately pull in the setting and the character.
From “The Cask of Amontillado”:
“THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could ; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.”
“The Tell Tale Heart”:
“TRUE! – nervous – very, very nervous I am and had been and am; but why will you say I am mad?”
From “The Pit and The Pendulum”:
“I WAS sick — sick unto death with that long agony; and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me.”
From “The Black Cat”:
“FOR the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief.”
And of course, “The Raven”:
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore–
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”
Guess what? He also created the detective story. Sherlock Holmes and Poirot – and TV’s “House”? All ripoffs of Poe. Who knew?
And he, too, struggled for a looooong time before finding his success. Enough times that any of us would have quit.
Imagine if he had.