Have you ever stood in a bookshop and picked through the shelves, looking for something to capture your imagination? We all have.
The cover and/or author's name leads us to pick up the book. We glance at the back to read the blurb, then flick the book open to read the first paragraph and that is when a lot of us make the decision whether or not to buy that book.
Well, agents and publishers do the same thing. So you need a 'cracking' first chapter, to use an English term.
Here's a quick survey.
The traditional exciting start.
Logen plunged through the trees, bare feet slipping and sliding on the wet earth, the slush, the wet pine needles, breath rasping in his chest, blood thumping in his head. He stumbled and sprawled onto his side, nearly cut his chest open with his own axe, lay there panting, peering through the shadowy forest. 'The Blade Itself', Joe Abercrombie.
The philosophical start.
Both moons were high, dimming the light of all the brightest stars. The campfires burned on either side of the river, stretching away into the night. Quietly flowing, the Deisa caught the moonlight and orange of the nearer fires and cast them back in wavery, sinuous ripples. And all the lines of light led to his eyes, to where he was sitting on the river bank, hands around his knees, thinking about dying and the life he'd lived. 'Tigana', Guy Gavriel Kay.
And the whimsical.
This is the bright candlelit room where the life-timers are stored - shelf upon shelf of them, squat hourglasses, one for every living person, pouring their fine sand from the future into the past. The accumulated hiss of the falling grains makes the room roar like the sea. This is the owner of the room, stalking through it with a preoccupied air. His name is Death. 'Mort' Terry Pratchett.
Reading these has made me go back and take another look at my first paragraphs. Have you come across some great openings? Do you need some feedback on yours?
While we're thinking about opening paragraphs -- Nathan Bransford from Curtis Brown is having a First Paragraph Challenge Competition here.