It's safe to say I've become a bit of a grammar nerd since I started writing my first novel. Three years after my first words landed on the page, I'm only now coming to the end of my final round of edits. However, I've still got no shortage of questions, one of which concerns the 'given-before-new' principle.
If you aren't familiar with this concept, it effectively states that old information should precede new information in each sentence. (Here's an article for those wanting to read a more comprehensive account.) Many of us will do this intuitively, but there are instances where we might write something jumbled or actively choose to break the rules, to be stylistic.
That's what I want to ask about.
In most of the books I've read, the subject of consecutive sentences bounces around. We go from one character to another, then to a description of the scenery; it's all quite random, yet it seems fitting for fiction novels.
My question relates to style and grammar equally, so a bit of knowledge in both these areas will be helpful if you decide to write an answer. Since we are writing about different characters sharing the same scenes, which we also want to highlight, is it appropriate to transition abruptly between subjects?
Take this example I've quickly written (we'll say James is the story's focal character, and David is a secondary, established character):
James sat in his favourite chair, pondering the nature of his existence. Shadows darkened his features. After a short while, David entered the room with a discourteous thud.
This isn't intended to be anywhere near my best work, only to highlight the point. Each sentence begins with a new subject, not already established in the scene. Is this appropriate given the understanding that 'Shadows' are generic things, known to the reader, and 'David' was introduced earlier in the novel, even if it wasn't in this scene? Or should we shift the subject like this revised example below?
James sat in his favourite chair, pondering the nature of his existence. His face was darkened by shadows. After a short while, he watched David enter the room with a discourteous thud.