. . . of a book should reel the reader right in! You/we don’t want the “it was a dark and stormy night” start, so it’s been often stated. And correctly so.
That said, though, dark and stormy nights do have the ability to provide a few frissons, if depicted with the right details . . .
It was a darkly ominous night, filled with strident thunderclaps and blinding lightning, as Edoardo rode along the overflowing stream. His quest was simple: kill the escaped convicts who’d burned down his farmstead and slew Olivia.
The example above gives the reader a pretty good indication of what the plot’s about and what will [likely] transpire. The mood is menacing: a potentially dangerous storm, purposely (spitefully) destroyed farm, murdered woman (wife/lover), evil fugitives, and vengeful man. Perhaps he’s the protagonist—hero—perhaps not. The reader has to continue to discover who he is.
A powerful plot requires a powerful opening, and winning storyline. Make sure that happens from the get-go.
Details and descriptions should be . . . detailed and descriptive. Consider the examples below, A versus B.
A The gang rode quickly across the corn field, toward the hills.
B The dogged gang, anxious to lose the persistent posse, drove their weary horses across the withered corn field, toward the tree-lined hills.
Characters should be distinct; they have habits, traits, favorite expressions, accents perhaps. They don’t all sport blond hair or blue eyes. Characters are different sizes and shapes . . . have varying purposes/pursuits . . . come from diverse backgrounds. Just like in real life.
John’s blue eyes looked into her gray ones. “How’s it goin’?”
“It’s goin’ great,” she said, looking into his eyes.
Uh . . . yawn. Not everyone speaks the same. How about:
John’s sapphire-blue eyes peered searchingly into her ash-gray ones. “How are you doing today, my pet?”
“I’m doin’ pretty good,” she replied, not quite meeting his gaze.
But I digress . . . a little. These suggestions are something to bear in mind when penning that opening. You don’t want it to be flat, but stirring. Remember: reel . . . in . . . the . . . reader . . . right . . . away.
That first sentence/paragraph should not only introduce the plot and character(s), and establish a mood, but also present you—the writer, and your style. Determine your voice and maintain it. Readers will often read the first page to determine if they will purchase the book; ensure they do by offering the best [most dynamic] writing you can.
How often can I stress the importance of that opening sentence/paragraph? Not enough. And one last thing I’m also going to stress—make certain that dynamic opening carries throughout the book.
Pique the reader’s interest and keep it.