Okay, so I think most people know by now that I'm a huge fan of Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT series. I recently taught a class using this book, as well as SAVE THE CAT STRIKES BACK.
He subscribes to 15 beats in successful storytelling. The first beat is the most important, in my opinion. It is also--for me--the hardest.
The Opening Image.
This is the snapshot of the character in their world before. Feel like that sentence needs more? It doesn't. This is the BEFORE snapshot.
I think we hear a lot of advice about the opening chapter/page of our books. "Start in the middle of the action." Or "You have to hook readers really fast." Or whatever.
I think sometimes this advice is dangerous.
I think it's okay to start a little slower. I think you need to have interesting writing and captivating characters to keep readers interested. I think having a fast-paced novel is a good idea. But I don't think the fast pace should come at the expense of the opening image.
I don't think action should come at the expense of the opening image. I don't think backstory should come at the expense of the opening image.
It's important to start the story exactly where the story needs to start--and build from there. Which is why the opening image is so crucial, and also so, so hard.
How's your opening image? Too fast? Too slow? Is it "before" enough?