“What a bit of luck I’m placed next to you,” said Laura as we sat down to dinner.
“For me,” I replied politely.
“That remains to be seen. I particularly wanted to have the chance of talking to you. I’ve got a story to tell you.”
At this my heart sank a little. “I’d sooner you talked about yourself,” I answered. “Or even about me.”
(My mentor Howard Pease continues) We learn from this that we are probably beginning a first-person, observer’s story about someone we have not yet met. And we also get the impression that if Laura is to tell the story, her interpretation will be different from the observer’s, the “I” person, Mr. Maugham himself. Except for setting—a dinner party—we get nothing else.
Maugham’s first goal in writing was clarity, and indeed this plunge opening is instantly understood by a reader.