The first paragraph of a novel is so terribly important. The title may be provocative, and the cover may be eye-catching graphically and cause you to pick the book up off the shelf (if you're browsing), but really that first paragraph must be the hook. For me, if that doesn't work, I have to have other reasons not to jump ship then -- say, that it is one of my favorite authors, or perhaps that a trusted friend and fellow reader implored me to read the book, or maybe (and this is rare) that the summary on the end-flaps makes me think that it will be worth it if I hang on. Well, I thought I would run a few first paragraphs by you, one at a time, under the heading "Beginnings," so you can see what hooked me. Here's one now:
"Five friends I had, and two of them snakes. Tune and Fairweather they were, thick round as a man's arm, my bedmates and playfellows, keepers of my skimped hearth and hermit's heart till in a grim pet I bade them go that day and nevermore to come again, nevermore to hiss their snakelove when they saw me drawing near or coil themselves for warmth around my shaggy legs. They went. They never came again." (Godric, by Frederick Buechner)
Snakes with names? Snakes for playmates? Snakes to sleep with? That's a hook, friends, a little weird, but very provocative. I read on. You should too.