What about these openings?
“When the blind man arrived in the city, he claimed that he had travelled across a desert of living sand.” —Kevin Brockmeier, A Brief History of the Dead
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.” —Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” —Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
“You better not never tell nobody but God.” —Alice Walker, The Color Purple
In every case, don’t you want to read on? Don’t you feel you can’t help it, even though you ought to walk the dog, empty the dishwasher, pack the lunches, turn out the light?
Tip: Start every scene—especially the first one—by enticing your reader. Irresistibly.
Because, as Paula Berinstein puts it, “We all know that if we don’t capture reader attention within a few seconds, we might as well kiss the sale of our work goodbye.”
K.M. Weiland adds:
Readers are like fish. Smart fish. Fish who know authors are out to get them, reel them in, and capture them for the rest of their seagoing lives. But, like any self-respecting fish, readers aren’t caught easily. They aren’t about to surrender themselves to the lure of your story unless you’ve presented them with an irresistible hook.
Hooked on hooks yourself now? These tricks might work more often than not:
~ Check to see if your hook is already there—just not in the opening sentence.
~ Emphasize what drives the scene.
How will it intensify the obstacles from the previous one? What must the protagonist learn? What additional pressure will the antagonist exert? What single sentence propels the protagonist into the next difficulty or exacerbation of a previous one?
~ Value high stakes over context, which you can easily fill in after you’ve grabbed attention.
How can you crystallize huge tension right now? Can you provide enough grounding with a prepositional phrase or two?
~ Write vigorously.
This means connotative nouns, active metaphorical verbs, and minimal modifiers.
~ Watch your sentence structure.
Don’t overdo any one technique. But compound sentences rarely coalesce the most energy. Strive for either short sentences or highly rhythmic long ones.
~ Use the ending of the scene to launch the subsequent one.
It’s often helpful to have that in mind before you even begin writing a scene. How will this one cause whatever’s next?
Like so many things about fiction writing, developing hooks is a skill that anyone can master, simply through lots and lots of practice. No magic involved. Doesn’t that challenge hook you?