My background is as a scriptwriter and if the first two pages do not have a producer salivating, forget it and watch it sail into the trash.
As a reader, I note that so many novels open with either the weather or a long piece of backstory. Neither interest me unless the state of the weather or the backstory has an immediate bearing – within 5 pages – on the fate of either the antagonist or the protagonist.
My new novel due out….er, sometime…if editing ever finishes…went to several beta readers, who proceeded to demolish my previous opening pages with a sledgehammer.
They were right to do so.
Now, the novel opens without any mention of weather, but with some of my antagonist’s backstory. The storyline hinges on these first few pages. And it is exciting, if a little rude and violent. My beta readers love it. Being English, I get to the weather later.
We live in an age where a short attention span is the norm; where media overload scrabbles for our attention. So, unless a writer is writing a literary work with a slow build, and the reader expects this construction, it is probably advisable to grab one’s reader by the short and curlies in the first paragraph. It doesn’t matter how this is achieved as long as the reader is not cheated by two pages of interest and 50 pages of boredom.
A writer’s prime concern must be to interest the reader so much that her or she has to see what happens next.
Anything else is an essay (with apologies to essay writers).