I know, I know, I've been told often enough -- you need a hook. Never mind that I'm a fan of the slow opening, the getting to know the setting and the characters as an introduction to the story. Think James Michener.
That doesn't work for today's readers. Action must start in the first paragraph or they will slam the cover shut and go on to the next book on the shelf. Characterization and setting come later, almost as an afterthought.
Kathy Reichs has mastered the hook. Each chapter ends with a little twist, a dare, a come-on that makes you turn the page, eager to read what happens next . James Patterson's hooks have hooks.
I want to master this technique, because I want people to read my book with excitement and not yawns. I want people to tell me, "I couldn't put the book down."
So I am going through my WIP, checking my hooks as carefully as any fisherman checks his tackle box. I want my readers to be well and truly caught from the first sentence to the last.
I had a woman tell me years ago that she was trying to read my book (my first one), but every time she picked it up she fell asleep. She apologized immediately, explaining that it was on her bedside table and by the time she opened it she was already halfway to dreamland.
If I can come up with a beginning hook that would keep even her awake, I think I will be able to call myself a writer.