Let's begin with an example of what I believe is a great introduction. The following excerpt is taken from Stephen R. Lawhead's book, In the Hall of the Dragon King (book 1 in the Dragon King Trilogy):
The snow lay deep and undisturbed beneath the silver light of a dawning sky. Overhead, a raven surveyed a silent landscape as its black wings feathered the cold, thin air. The bird's rasping call was the only sound to be heard for miles, breaking the frozen solitude in irregular staccato. All around, the land lay asleep in the depths of winter.
Every bear, every fox, hare, and squirrel was warm in its rustic nest. Cattle and horses stood contented in their stalls, heads drooping in slumber or quietly munching the first of the day's provender. In the country, smoke drifted from peasant huts into the windless sky from rough-hewn chimneys, sent aloft from hearth fires tended through the night. The village, clustered close about the might walls of Askelon Castle, slept in pristine splendor, a princess safe in the arms of her protector.
All through the land nothing moved, nothing stirred, save the raven wheeling slowly overhead.This introduction to Lawhead's book has stuck in my mind throughout the years. I recall first reading the trilogy when I was 18; to this day it continues to stick with me as being, in my opinion, an excellent example of an opening introduction to a spellbinding tale.
Plenty of young writers find themselves drawn into the trap of writing action-packed introductions that will "captivate and ensnare" their readers. They begin with a tremulous crash of swords or a blood-rushing chase scene, or perhaps the revelation of some secret that appears to shatter one of the poor characters. Now I'm not saying that it is sinful to write a fast-paced introduction. Heavens! some of us may need that extra kick to get things rolling. I know plenty of books that could have used a good bit of action before subjecting the reader to the drab chronology of historical facts.
I am suggesting that, instead of relying upon action and suspense to draw in a reader, we should broaden our horizons and strengthen our trade by practising the feel of the gentle and soft whisk-like scenes that brush us smoothly into the plot. For instance, if you haven't read In the Hall of the Dragon King you might not believe me when I tell you that the above introductory excerpt is immediately followed by a scene in which a fatally wounded knight disrupting the peace of a temple with an urgent message, thereby sending Quentin, a young acolyte, on a fantastic adventure.
Memorable introductions are made with care, much like flowers and gardens require tending in order to reach their full potential. One cannot expect to impress a reader if they display a lack of motherly love towards the binding of their tale. My best advice is to take your time -- don't rush the plot, don't force your scenery or characters to do something they seem to be resisting, and don't jump directly into something unless you are absolutely certain it is necessary for the benefit of the reader.
Remember: Christian writers should not simply write to tell a story for a hungry reader, they write to make a whole new world come alive. They, in desiring to be like their Creator, imitate His ways by breathing life into the imaginings of their souls -- in this way, a writer is capable of reaching from the depths of his or her own heart into the heart of the reader.
Writing is a far more delicate art than many think it; yes it is rough and difficult, but it is a dance of the soul and our keystrokes and pencil smudges should imply this truth even in the very opening sentence.
Signed with star sparkles,