Moby Dick. The Hobbit. A Tale of Two Cities. All have classic beginnings, ones most readers know by heart. And therein lies one of the great challenges of writing: Where to begin. The hook. How to convince people to continue past the first sentence in your Moby Dick length epic in this soundbite world (long novels aren’t quite as popular as they used to be, but that’s another story).
So are there hard and fast rules to at least help your catchy first sentence from not turning away readers? Many writers just laughed when they read “rules,” but there are many of these said requirements that can keep your first lines from sounding cliched. Joe Konrath lists some of these in “How Not to Start a Story.”
After reading his article you may, like I did, start pulling books off the shelf and seeing how many examples of rule violations you discover. There are always exceptions, but many of his points have to do with good writing, avoiding cliches and not boring the reader. Others are disputable (not many, though). There are shelves of fantasy writers who would argue that there is nothing wrong with a prologue (and many Chapter 1s I have seen are technically prologues and vice versa). Nevertheless, people are busy. Do you want them to spend time in your world?
Then suck them into your Hobbit hole from word one and don’t let go.