Over at Brenda Drake's blog, she's holding a first line blogfest. The first line of Devolutionaries is "Grandad lied to me a lot."
Now, this wasn't always the first line. In fact, my whole first scene was completely different. It was actually a version of what's currently my second chapter. Originally, I started right in the middle of an exciting and pivotal moment of the story-- a big hook.
So why change it? Well, because it started immediately into the action. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't work for my book. And I'm going to go out on a limb and say it doesn't work for a lot of books. Because we don't care what happens to people we don't know much about.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that you start with backstory. I actually did try that for a period with Devs, and it didn't work either. B-O-R-I-N-G. I eventually found a balance that introduced the character and relationships that were necessary for people to care about the big action, but still (hopefully) catches the reader's attention. Here's what I discovered can help:
Start with your character involved in some kind of defining action-- just not the inciting event.
You want something that will 1. draw a reader in, 2. help them start to care about the character, and 3. get the plot moving. But it doesn't have to be the inciting event. Devs starts with Ash, the MC, getting cheated. It's a conflict, it shows a bit of his personality (and even a bit of the world), and it helps readers identify with him-- we all know the anger and betrayal of someone trying to cheat us.
Now, of course where you start will depend entirely on your own story. In The Maze Runner, for example, the book DOES start with the inciting event: Thomas wakes up with no memory in an elevator. But this works, because we immediately have sympathy for someone who can't remember who they are. The main point I'm trying to make is that starting with ACTION without CHARACTER can do your story a disservice.
So take a look at your opening scene and sentence. How can you make your readers care more while still hooking them into your book?
And now for something completely different:
Don't forget you can win a critique from agent Sarah LaPolla and editor C.A. Marshall, and help African kids get an education! Here's a brief glimpse of what Michael, one of the students, wants from life: "I would wish for money because I can help people who are poor. After that, I would wish for love because when people do a bad thing I can forgive them." Please help Michael and his friends get their wishes! (Image: Michael [left] helps care for the smaller children at the orphanage)