Open your story by making something happen fast, and then keep something happening throughout.
Action—the guiding force of any story—is not only physical movement of some kind, it is often change and development in your character’s thoughts or emotions.
Give your reader something interesting and difficult to think about immediately—on the first page if possible. Introduce him or her to a character involved in sustained action and you will pique and keep his or her interest as your story unfolds.
You must quickly introduce and develop characters your readers can care about:
Your reader seeks sympathetic and or interesting characters—characters that will serve as a doorway to your story. These characters will become your reader’s guide and serve as his or her window into your story as events develop.
Keep your main character or characters in some sort of peril throughout your story:
Your job, whether a writer of fiction or non-fiction, is to bring your characters and your readers from a state of complete ignorance to a state of full understanding of all aspects of your story.
A writer makes a contract with a reader to guide his or her characters to a resolution of the conflicts put in their way. This must be done in a manner your reader will accept as reasonable.
Imagine as you write that your reader is looking over your shoulder. Imagine that you, the writer, and your reader are active partners in creating your story.
Show your characters in action:
Introduce your characters by showing them under appropriate stress. For example, through action or dialogue, reveal the good guy and the bad guy (or girl). Your reader wants to know whose side to be on, and wants to know it right away.
Show your reader what is at stake in your story:
All readers, and especially your editor or agent, want to understand the central conflict of your story even before they start reading. Place this one or two sentence summation of what is at stake in your story as early as possible.
Study the blurbs on the back and inside flaps of book jackets. They are carefully constructed to assure an interested reader understands what the hero or heroine may gain or lose at the end of the story.
“A grand tale of intrigue, deception, true love and exile.” This is the Denver Post blurb on Wilbur Smith’s novel Monsoon.
Every scene—everything in your story must reinforce the reader’s understanding of your story’s central conflict. Every scene—every small conflict and its resolution, must be a step in resolving the central conflict.
Not only must every scene you write move your story toward resolution of the central conflict, every big important scene must include your main characters.