Depending on how fast they read, the first page or two takes approximately twenty seconds.
That’s it. You need to hook your reader into the story and give them a character they can like within those first few pages.
In Writing for Emotional Impact, Karl Iglesias lists these three “categories of appeal”:
* We care about victims—characters we feel sorry for
* We care about characters with humanistic values
* We like character with desirable qualities
Victims—You don’t have to just think stalker victim here. Don’t we love the underdog? The downtrodden? The kid who gets beat up in the schoolyard? The man without enough money to pay for coffee? The woman beat up by her husband? The teenager who can’t read?
Humanistic values—Show your character doing something nice or being heroic. Helping someone else, being kind to children or animals, rescuing someone.
Desirable qualities—These are personal traits (versus humanistic values) that don’t necessarily influence another person in the opening scene, but which are qualities most people admire and respect. The character is someone the reader would like to be—powerful, glamorous, courageous, passionate, clever, skillful, athletic, persistent, rebellious.
Your first pages are your most vital. Make sure you start with a character who will hook your reader.