The first paragraph, maybe the first sentence, is the most important part of your book. It is the first thing your prospective agent will read. It is the first thing your reader will read. It is the determining factor of whether the reader will continue on.
So, no pressure. Yeah, right.
I have tinkered with my opening chapter for...um...a year, maybe. I learned that you should not open a scene with weather, a dream or anyone waking up in a dream, and a prologue. Exceptions to the rules always exist, of course, but as newbies we should try not to break them until we learn how to use them properly.
So, I did my own little research. I read the first paragraph of 30 published books and this is what I came up with for openers.
Five of them started with telling some fact. Setting up the scene by telling us information.
Six began with a thought.
Nine began with description--not of the weather.
Five began with some sort of action. The character in motion.
Five began with a prologue.
Granted, 30 books among a gazillion is nothing and we also need to consider genre, year book was published, and if the book was written by an established author. Yup, not much help, huh?
What do I look for in an opening paragraph? Style. I want to know if the author is the type to jump into the action, uses flowery language, or gives us a glimpse of character emotion first, because depending on what I'm in the mood for, I'll keep reading. One thing I don't like, is an author who is being around the bush on letting the reader in on what he/she knows. Tell it, and tell it like it is. I'm pretty sure the reader will follow.
What do you look for in opening paragraphs?