Since the day is more than half gone, I'll just touch on things to avoid when attempting to seize the reader.
Cliches- these, unless you add your own little twist to them, should be avoided. When you are introducing your story to your reader you want them to continue on. One way to do that is with originality. Using cliches right off the bat (hehe, cliche), tells the reader you don't know how to think outside the box very well.
I'm guilty of this next one. Too much scene setting or backstory. If you're setting up the story, you're most likely starting in the wrong place. I rewrote the first chapter of my first manuscript at least five different times. I found myself setting up previous happenings in order to clue in the reader.
As with the rest of your manuscript, you should show and not tell. Imagine you're in a time travel machine and you've been thrust into the middle of one of Genghis Khan's battles. What is going to engage your reader more, telling or showing?
She sat there, stunned.or
Clara landed on her feet like a cat.Do you see something wrong with that second sentence? Cliche, cliche, cliche.
Clara stumbled onto the frozen ground. She gasped. The harsh, fridgid air caught in her throat as she pushed her damp hair out of her eyes. Why couldn't she have landed on a warm, sunny beach with a hottie cabana and a cute umbrella drink? But noooo! Instead of conjuring up a tropical paradise, she had to envision him, Genghis Khan.
Better? Maybe. I'm the sort the spends hours perfecting my beginnings(which I didn't do), and even then I still don't get them right. I at least got the showing in there, but did I put too much backstory in, or just the right amount? I'll let you decide.
All right, the last thing to avoid when seeking to engage your reader is starting with a secondary character. Yes, secondary characters serve a purpose and can be fun, but they are secondary. They might be able to show a story from their pov but they can't possibly know the inner workings of your hero or your heroine. In order for you beginning to be effective the reader needs to be right in it with your main character. That means getting into their heads too.
The odd creature fell from the sky, and landed near Chuluun's feet. He wondered if this was another of Khan's deceptions. He glanced toward Bataar, and then to Khan, their greatest enemey. The two warriors dropped their weapons and narrowed their eyes upon this unknown being. The creature brushed the fur from its head. A woman? A beautiful woman. Bataar grunted out a command before his gaze flickered to Khan. Chuluun grabbed the woman's mane, lifted her to her feet and watched as Khan and his commander battled for possession.
Again, this was done on the spur and not well thought out. To me it sounds stilted. Ahhhh, I know what is wrong with it, it's a lot of telling. Anyway, from what I have above it would seem as if Chuluun is the hero, which would mislead the reader, which would ultimately cause disappointment, which is not something I want when I'm hoping to gain fans.
All right, that's a wrap up. If you want to engage your reader you need to create beginnings that will seize them. I'm just saying . . . . I hope you got something out of all this. If you have any questions please feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer.
Don't forget to check out Anthea Lawson's workshop that she'll be presenting through the East Valley Authors.