One way to hook a reader right off the bat is to make them identify with your main character.
Another sure-fire way is to start with explosions, gunfire and derring-do.
Even so, once the shooting has stopped, the reader needs to like the MC. Or want to be him. Or respect him or her, admire, find interesting . . . there has to be a connection or the reader stops caring about the MC and that’s pretty much the end of that book. I mean, you’ve got to have a really intriguing problem to keep the reader reading once he stops caring if the characters live or die.
So how do you manipulate your readers into wanting to either be the main character, or to be his best buddy?
Well, try giving him a best buddy in the book. IMO it’s usually better without romance between the two. Doesn’t have to be all smooth, never a disagreement.
Check out books and movies that are favorites of yours. Kirk and Spock. Honor and Nimitz. Frodo and Sam. Han Solo and Chewbacca. Harry, Ron and Hermione. The interactions between characters is a way to pass information about the world and the situation to the readers, but it also shows the character of the characters.
And if Kirk and Spock are one of the best examples of men friends, probably Honor Harrington and Mike Henke some of the best female. Professional and personal support, complete confidence in each other. Liking. Trust. Humor. All the stuff that makes a friend a friend.
We like reading about the camaraderie within a group, even when it seems like small potatoes against a massive battle to Save the Universe. But it’s those friendships that draw us in and make the danger real. That make us care, not just that the right side wins the battle, but that our friends survive.
And for the writer, it doesn’t matter that you can’t write the whole huge battle. You write about what your small group of comrades do. Brief glimpses of the large battle, if you need to add the sense that things are getting desperate, or not. You can paint heroism on a small scale, and make your reader sweat and cry, clinch their teeth and pant as their friend is wounded, a buddy drops. Someone they know and care about dies.
Make your readers cry, because it’s their friend that just went out in a blaze of glory. Make them snivel, as the survivors grieve. Or go in to rescue their commander, because surely there’s some chance he survived.
Having your Main Character be a good friend in the stories, is the best way to make your readers want to buy your book and spend some time in a dangerous place with their buddy.
Take a look at your stories. How many genuine friendships does you main character have?
My favorite “buddy book” of my own: