16.30: First Page Fundamentals—THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

In this episode we explore the first page of The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson, with the goal of learning how to build  good first pages for own own work.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Liner Notes: here is the 1st paragraph of The Haunting of Hill House, for reference.

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against the hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.


Write an introduction to your book that is purely description. No action. No dialogue.

Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

7 thoughts on “16.30: First Page Fundamentals—THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE”

  1. My teacher, Mrs Hall read this book to us in the third grade. Can you believer that? That was back in the fifties. It wouldn’t happen today!

  2. I agree with Dan that THOHH has one of the great opening paragraphs. I may have to walk, alone or in company, dreaming or not, to my local library to sequester a copy from those COVID-neglected shelves.

  3. I got a lot of fun-house mirror vibes from reading that first paragraph, especially with how the second sentence is an inversion of the first both structurally and in terms of content. Its cool stuff, and I’m curious if something recurs throughout the story.

  4. This week, the quarrelsome quartet, Dongwon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard, took a deep dive into the first page of The Haunting of Hill House to illustrate what they have been talking about concerning beginnings. Absolute reality, sanity, echoes of Lovecraft, larks and katydids dreaming, and Hill House, with doors sensibly shut. Read all about it in the transcript now available in the archives.

  5. Was waiting to listen to this episode until I finished the book. I listened to it right after I put the book down and realized that the last paragraph and the first paragraph are almost word for word the same. It might be interesting to have an episode at some point that looks at beginnings and endings that mirror each other.

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