A good introduction for a story is essential, but that first paragraph is often the most difficult part to write. Those first few sentences must lure your reader deeper into the plot. Is it a matter of leading them in gently or grabbing them by the hair and dragging them inside?
As with most aspects of writing, there are no hard and fast rules. Beware of those who tell you there is only one way to produce good writing. There are tried and true methods-and there are certainly some tools of the trade that any writer would be wise to consider, but one of the most exciting things about writing is there is no sure-fire method. But with all this in mind, here are some suggestions as far as the introduction for your story.
Is it good to start slow or dive right in? The answer? It depends. This is like asking if a song should start with a gradual build-up or if it should explode into a wild beat. It depends on the song. It depends on what effect you want. It depends on what the song is about.
If your story is a slice-of-lice, literary effort, then a gentle opening is probably best. When writing for a patient reader-someone who wants to be deep into the moment-you can indulge in the details, establishing the setting with extensive descriptions of the smells and sights. You can dwell on the pensive demeanor of your protagonist as he broods over the icy Atlantic.
However, if your story is meant to create the sensation of movement-through time or space-then diving right into the action is probably best. When writing for an eager reader-someone who is ready for suspense and adventure and does not care what color the house is or what the protagonist is wearing-you should jump in and start moving the story forward. You can start with the frantic intensity of your protagonist as he dives into the icy Atlantic.
Some might argue that literary writing requires a slow progression. The danger here is that your dazzling insight into the details of the moment can end up being pretentious. Your story becomes more about you than the story itself.
Others would argue that standard fiction requires a quick takeoff. The danger here is that your thrilling pace is filled with characters you do not really know anything about-therefore you do not really care if they live or die.
The bottom line is this: it depends on the effect you want. If you want to meet the expectations of the majority, then diving right into the action is more than likely your best weapon of choice. When you are competing with television and movies, if you dally too long at the gate, you will lose your reader.
This leads to at least one strong suggestion. Write a good rough draft of the whole story without worrying too much about the beginning. Once you have got a good feel for what kind of story you have, you can go back and decide what sensation you want your reader to experience when they start to read. Strangely enough, it might very well be that you will find your beginning only when you reach the end.