Openings are important. They invite the reader to come into the place you have prepared for them. Your opening must convince them that this place is somewhere they want to visit. Here are two rules I have for writing openings, that I (almost) always try to live up to.
The first rule is to provide sensory details in the first paragraph, so the reader feels as though they are “there.” What does the character or setting look like? Colors, shapes, designs? What sounds are there? Loud voices, whistles, screams, bells? What smells? Strong like gasoline? Sweet like lilacs? Wet wool drying on a radiator? What tactile sensations? Soft wind on your skin? The rough scrape of a poorly shaved chin?
The second rule is that the first scene should either encapsulate or foreshadow the theme of the entire chapter or book.
Here’s an example from a book I ghostwrote a few years ago. It is a memoir for an 80+ year old man, and is his musings on the “big” questions of life – like how did the world get so screwed up and what can we do about it. He was kind of a curmudgeonly fellow. The first chapter in the book is his take on the meaning of life.
How do you provide sensory details on such a big, vague subject? The first scene is he and his cousin, also in his eighties, standing together at their grandfather’s grave. They are arguing over their different versions of where Grandpa is now. The cemetery overlooks San Francisco Bay, and the crisp wind blowing off the Bay ruffles their gray hair up so high they look like fighting cocks.