Yes, I do teach creative writing: your opening scene
The opening scene is the most important piece of your novel. This scene determines whether your reader is pulled in or puts the book down. Here are some important do’s and don’ts.
DO write it as a scene, not a data dump. You may have a fantastic premise, a marvelous alternate history or post-apocalyptic world or magical realism to die for, but if you don’t engage your reader in an actual scene, you will bore them.
DO write a scene that immediately introduces a character that the reader can root for. Yes, I know Stephen King has had great success introducing victims that are then shortly afterward killed off. That’s a horror trope and we expect it. But if you are caught up in world-building and haven’t dreamed your way into a character who is worth following through 100,000 words of writing, your story is pointless. I have read many pieces of fiction by would-be writers who can’t grasp this essential concept, and without exception, they fail to engage the reader.
DO introduce the stakes right away. In case that’s a challenge that needs some exposition to develop, create some immediate stakes (a life threat works) that keep the tension high and the reader engaged until you can lay out the larger stakes.
DO begin in medias res, which means “in the middle of things.” Most beginning fiction writers make the mistake of starting too early in the plot. Meet the monster on page 1.
DON’T include a flashback in the first chapter. Work on a scene, which means time is NOT compressed. It should include dialog, action, description, setting, and interior monolog. Keep everything happening within that scene for at least the first chapter. You can bring in a flashback in Chapter Three.
DON’T shift points of view within a single chapter. Let the reader establish a strong bond of interest (even if it’s with a POV villain) over the course of a whole chapter.
DON’T open the story with your character waking up unless it’s because she’s got a gun in her face (or a knife to her throat – you get what I mean). We don’t need to follow a character through their mundane daily routine.
DON’T be coy. Beginning writers often have this idea that they need to hold back on revealing all their secrets – what’s in the box, who’s behind the curtain, where they’re going next, etc. Their well-meant plan is to slowly reveal all this over several chapters. Trust me on this one: tell your readers instead of keeping it a mystery. You WILL come up with more secrets to reveal. Your imagination is that good. Spill it now, and allow that revelation to add to the excitement.