You know what I love about a good Austen movie? The silences. I love those parts where they sit around a table, or a sitting room, and all you can hear is the occasional clinking of silverware. In most Austen scenes you can also hear the less than graceful smacking of one of the comedic characters as they eat. There is so much said in those silences. I love it. I love it in books too – I’ve said it’s all about the character for me. I like to enjoy the characters enough that I can sit in silence with them. I like to see the room in which they sit and know perhaps why the pillows rest where they do and how long that painting has hung above the couch. I like to hear clocks ticking, whether there are birds or late-summer locusts outside the windows. Does the room smell like it was just cleaned? Or like it never needs to be cleaned at all? I know a writer is supposed to leave quite a bit to the reader’s imagination but I think personal descriptives are sorely lost in modern books. Maybe it lacks literary intelligence but I don’t mind if you tell me exactly what a person looks like the moment they are introduced. In fact, you might as well, because if you dare to throw in frizzy hair or a chipped tooth in some later scene, you might really lose me.
If it were up to me, modern books would still begin with Once upon a time. In that first paragraph I want to be placed not just into a scene, but into a life. Hopefully, then, somewhere in the middle, I can sit at a table with the characters and thoroughly enjoy the silence (and the clinking silverware and the smacking gums).