I've been reading a lot about how to start novels lately, it's a habit of mine, and how to introduce characters quickly and in such a way as to draw in the reader. And, I'm sorry to say, much of what I read is uninspiring. I don't mean to say that this should not be the aim of authors or that anyone who writes should not emulate those that are successful, but I worry that there has been a dumbing down of what we mean by this.
Swiftly put: I'm not at all convinced that some of the examples I've been reading do any of the jobs that people who quote them say they do. None of the 'great' openings by mainstream authors that I have read seem to do it terribly well, in fact, they instead seem to plumb for the long opening that leaves it until, say, the third or fourth page to draw the reader in. What do I mean? I mean authors that are famous enough to trade on their name tend to skimp on this art, because it's bloody hard to do, and these authors are the ones that get used by newbie writers and wannabe authors to explain what they mean. It does both sides something of a disservice.
My other thought, for my time is tight, is that the First World War nears a centenary and this will mean a sudden influx of books, films and plays about that area of history. My own novel may well be badly timed in this regard as there will be bigger names making plays at publishing for the next five years and many many unpublished authors also trying to get noticed with 'novel' takes on the First World War novel. Given that's what my own novel has become I'm not certain that it would get noticed at all.