From author and regular visitor J.M. Ney-Grimm:
What makes a good opening? How does a writer engage the strong interest of her reader?
Writing stories is an art. In a sense, there are as many good opening structures as there are good stories. Every story’s first few paragraphs are unique to that story.
However…you knew there’d be a “however,” didn’t you?
There is a structure that consistently hooks most readers’ attention. This “hook opening” won’t be right for every story, but it serves many of them well.
A character with a problem in a setting.
. . . .
There’s also one more critical element.
My teacher recounts how that critical element made all the difference for him. Decades ago, when he was first starting out and before he incorporated this key element, he received nothing but form rejections from publishers. After…he received personal letters for his rejections and…a beginning stream of acceptances! That’s how important this is.
What is it?
Ground your reader in what your character is seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. Make your opening rich with sensory detail. Your reader will feel like she or he is there, chilled by the breeze, smelling cinnamon, tasting vanilla, hearing chapel bells, and watching the cavalry thunder over the hill crest.
Touch on all five senses in the first three paragraphs and continue to mention them every 500 words.
Link to the rest at J.M. Ney-Grimm