Assume prior knowledge

He lifted the object and examined it. It was the same as it had been that time before, just after the event which had changed his life. Just thinking about it sent a chill down his spine, for obvious reasons.
‘So,’ he said, ‘what do you think?’
‘Same as always,’ she replied with a shrug. He nodded. The things they had experienced together in the past shaped their current relationship in exactly the ways you would expect. He placed the object back where it had been before he picked it up.
‘Some things never change,’ he said.
‘Everything changes,’ she said, just as she had on that one occasion before. He felt the same way about it now as he had back then. Would the same thing happen this time? He already knew the answer.


  1. Hilarious!

    Of course, the opposite approach could be just as bad.

  2. Ugh. A lot of people *start* books or stories this way in order to build (artificial) mystery, and it kinda drives me nuts.

  3. A key character, already well known to you all, entered andWednesday, July 14, 2010

    This is a little spooky, because so far two of the books I've read while on holiday have had this tendency and I was intending to suggest it somewhere on here. To be fair, one of them was set in a fantasy world where I had no possible chance of knowing the backstory (what with it being *imaginary* and all) and the other was name-dropping obscure 1930's Hollywood types, where I could at least invoke Wikipedia. Still, annoying.

  4. I hate starting trilogies with the middle book...

  5. "...for obvious reasons." Hahaha!

    The mental image of flipping pages back and forth to get a handle on the story made me think of a possible Tolstoy homage, wherein every character has five or so name variations. (I love Tolstoy, by the way.)

  6. A lot of the Philip K. Dick stories I've been reading recently do this, but I feel it's somewhat in the nature of a short story. It's also entirely purposeful, and there are enough contextual clues to either figure out what he's talking about or recognize that it's not important for you to know.

  7. And now a brief lecture from your neighborhood pedant on Russian names, in Tolstoy and elsewhere.

    Russians have three names: a personal name, a patronymic (based on your father's personal name), and a family name. The current Prime Minister, for example, is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, where the patronymic means "son of Vladimir". To address someone formally who you don't know (like "Mr./Ms./Mrs." plus family name in English-speaking countries), you use the first name and patronymic only: "So how are you today, Vladimir Vladimirovich?" Using a title and a last name is only for highly formal or official situations, like appearing in court. The family name alone is used from teacher to student, in the military, and other such highly structured situations. The patronymic alone is used informally, mostly between men who have agreed to mutually call each other by it.

    The first name alone is not used. Instead, your spouse, your family and close friends (traditionally, ones you've known from childhood; now also workmates) will use a diminutive form, which is more or less standardized, like Bill or Will for William: for Vladimir, it's either Volodya or Vova. This form is also used when speaking to or about children. Your mother will call you by a double-diminutive name such as Vovochka (there are lots of possible variations here; mothers often make them up, especially for girls), and that's the name you'll be called by everyone when you're very little, but only your parents and maybe your lover will use it when you're an adult. Finally, someone can call you Vovka, which is deliberately insulting (though of course sometimes insults can indicate that you belong to the in-group, like everywhere else).

  8. Wow, thanks John. Genuinely fascinating. I'll still need some kind of homemade spreadsheet to keep track of who's who in Russian novels, but at least now I'll know why.

  9. Yes, brilliant. Of course it's equally frustrating when you are reading the 7th of a series of novels and half the book is dedicated to telling you what happened in the previous 6.