A first chapter should:
1. Have a great opening sentence. I read one book recently and the opening sentence was both beautiful and stunning. Unfortunately, the rest of the book was poor but because of the opening sentence I at least gave the book a chance. Often authors use description to grab a reader, a dawn of spectacular beauty or some such. However, the following authors combined a great opening sentence and a hook -- all in one.
2. Very importantly, you need a hook. The hook is to grab your reader and make them want to read more. Some outstanding authors get the hook into the very first line of the book:
- It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen". - George Orwell. This is both the opening line and the hook. Why was the clock striking 13?
- "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or eat: It was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort." Tolkien. The hook for most people is -- what is a Hobbit and why is comfort so important?
- "It was the day my grandmother exploded." Iain Banks. The hook here speaks for itself.
- You set two people against each other over some issue and they part swearing vengeance. The reader is left wondering why this happened and what the outcome might be. This works better if your characterisation is good and your reader relates to the characters.
As I say, try using the opening chapter as a short story and get feedback on it via Wattpad or some other author media site. A key trick is to write and rewrite your opening chapter until you finally have a product that shines.
Good reading and good writing, David
Making Your Writing Interesting. Hooks and Lines.