Totally agree – giving it an original twist or sometimes simply doing it really is what changes it from a cliché to something compelling and even fresh for the audience.
Nope. Clichés are often referencing things that are terrific. A hobbit having to take a magic ring to a volcano was amazing until it was repeated over and over. Now having a hobbit take a magic ring to a volcano is bad because it's a cliché, not because hobbits are inherently bad. #PippinDeservedHisOwnBook
No, they didn't start with a "mystery". I pointed out precisely why the opening you quoted from Name Of The Wind is not a mystery. Now, you may find it interesting and have questions – "My God . . . there aren't lots of patrons at this tavern these days? What a mystery!" but it could as easily be the first line in one of those giant walls of exposition you so disdain.
I'm starting to wonder if what you mean by "mystery" is anything that implies the state of a character isn't its obvious natural state. Yes, water is usually blue. "Johnny walked by the beige ocean" raises a question in the reader's mind (why is the ocean beige?) but that's neither a mystery nor a hook nor an initial driver.
The Lessa opening in Dragonflight similarly is neither an obvious mystery nor an inciting incident, first driver, or can of fairy dust. You could as easily open the book with, "Frank Hill left the house wearing his blue coat instead of his usual red one" and decide that's a mystery. Yes, the reader can wonder why the blue coat, but that's significantly different from a first driver.
Again, you started all this with your pet theory that books that don't start with an initial driver are inherently boring and that – while exceptions existed – they were a bad idea. The simple fact is, based on the evidence that's available, you're probably wrong. So again, I can't help but ask what this magical expertise is that you're relying on to make these broad pronouncements? The only thing I or anyone else has said is that there's more than one way to start a novel effectively. Your position requires significantly better evidence than anything you've put forward.
You've hit the nail on the head. This is why I'm bothering to engage with this particular bit of nonsense about novels having to start with the storyform's initial driver. First, because it's obviously not true, second, because I don't think it's even true for Dramatica, and third – and most importantly – because people who are trying to write their first novels need tools not rules. I've met so many new writers who've ended up quashing their own considerably more interesting instincts because someone told them to "never start a book without X".
I sent my first novel to a freelance editor who insisted I cut out the opening prologue (it's a couple of paragraphs that anyone can read on the Amazon preview), that I not allow the first line of dialogue to have a swear word, and that I skip the three-guys-having-a-chat to go straight to an action scene. The editor was dead wrong. Not only did the book sell with its quirks intact, but when I showed my publishers the trimmed version in case they'd like it better they thought I was crazy.
So, yeah, we should all offer up the best tools and ideas we have. But that can be done without grand pronouncements or laws of the universe.
Except "Don't be boring." I've still never found an exception to that one.