As a reader, do you like your stories to begin with a bang, or do you prefer a slow build-up, perhaps a question to be answered, some mystery introduced? As a writer, do you hook readers or do you tempt them, tease them with small tit-bits of information, make them so involved with your characters that they feel compelled to continue to read?
It's generally considered, by those who are supposed to know such things, that the best way to persuade a reader to travel through the first paragraph and beyond is to engage their interest. And, logically, that makes sense, of course. But it's the how of this that interests me. It comes down, I imagine, to the type of book you're reading or writing. The action book needs to grab the reader at once, posing some threat or challenge that must be faced and resolved by the hero. The love story requires that the reader cares about the heroine and is quickly engaged by her potential lover. The literary story can begin more slowly, more deliberately, with fascinating language and images presented in words well chosen. The crime novel employs the body in the library, or the detective about to embark on a new mystery.
So, this is a matter of horses for courses. I write in many genres and always try to engage the reader with the main character(s) as early as possible. I want readers to care what happens to the people in my stories. If I can introduce an air of menace, intrigue, mystery or simple desire, to fit the story, then I feel I've gone a long way to keeping the reader interested. Some writers, especially when they begin the craft, try to tell the reader too much in one go and drown the reader in facts, forgetting that they can be shown these things as the story unfolds.
So, I ask you; what do you prefer to read as an introduction to a new story? What's your approach as a writer to the beginning of a new tale? Please comment and let others know whether your response is as reader or writer.