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Let’s talk about technique for a second. I come from the world of journalism, where the idea is to put the news first. And, in fiction, something they tell new writers is to create a crisis immediately. If the readers don’t feel there’s something at stake for them emotionally, generally speaking, they won’t stay with the story. See how Saki does this? The first sentence tells us Conradin — the boy — is just 10 and he won’t live to be 15. Newsflash: a child’s life is at stake here! And how about that villain? You know just enough about Mrs. De Ropp to hate her in just a few sentences. In a matter of two paragraphs, we have a fully realized conflict between two characters, one symbolizing a Puritanical, hidebound world and one the life of the imagination.

By the way, Saki’s mother died when he was just 2 years old, and he was raised by his strict grandmother and aunts. Methinks this may be a case of writing about what you know best …