The wait, what beginning is best used when you need the reader’s attention right away. You start with a seemingly nonsensical or self-contradictory, or reality-contradictory sentence.
I know there are a million published ones, and I’ll let you quote. I am pre-caffeinated, so my brain refuses to spit up a single one, but I remember one from a workshop (not my work): “It was Wednesday and Smith was dead again.”
Of course you want to know why Smith was dead, so you read on.
There is a trick to this. No matter how strange your beginning, you have to either explain or pay it off fairly soon.
And again, because uncaffeinated and frankly suffering from something not unakin to con crud, I’ll use one of my own stories as example; the only one in which I really used this opening gambit to effect.
Dying is easy. It’s staying alive afterwards that’s hard.
We’ll agree it’s a “Wait, what?” right?
And I don’t tell you what it’s all about in the next sentence, but I start giving you heavy hints.
Until the payoff at the end of the section.
The dark portals open in front of you. You cross them. It’s like a reverse birth, from light to pain and constriction and the darkness beyond. No escape.
You emerge into smoky darkness lit by a tremulous red glare. Fears of fire and damnation flee with all your memories of another life and leave you empty, vacant, alone.
You smell sulphur, but you lack a name for it. And your new eyes don’t know how strange the landscape looks, how the buildings in the distance, looming and dark and diamantine, look like nothing you’ve ever seen. Like skyscrapers made of wax caught in the flame of a candle. Like architecture writhing in pain. Like maddened claws tearing at the crimson sky.
And then they slither out of the darkness. The creatures. To call them devils would sully a perfectly good word. They are worse than any boogeymen, more heinous than any monster, scarier than any nightmare the living mind can conjure.
They come with open maw, with dripping fang, with tearing claw and screaming hatred. Towards you.
In the new body you haven’t even learned you have yet, you fight back. You fight back with your bare hands, your cunning, your monkey-mind, your puny being.
Only the strong survive the slashes and cuts and bites. Only the determined run past that first gauntlet. Only the merciless kill the demons and drink their life force.
Only those who can fight ever survive to enter hell.
It worked fairly well, and it’s one of the short stories I get the most fan mail about.
So, start up your number 2 pencils, and let’s see your efforts.