1. Use characterization to show why your readers should care about your character- This is probably the most important thing you can do on the first few pages. Your reader wants to feel connected to your character. They want to have strong emotions for your character, whether good or bad. It’s very important to drop in those little, telling details so that they immediately get a sense of who your character is and what they are up against.
2. Don’t just rely on sight, use your other senses as well- Sure, sight is your go-to sense in fiction, but touch, smell, taste, and hearing will do more to draw your reader in. I like to combine a sight observation with one of the other senses, i.e. “The skeletal tree branches scratched at the sky while the musty, sweet smell of rotting leaves threatened to choke her.”
3. Keep the pace fairly quick in your first few opening scenes- Unless you’re writing literary fiction (which is a whole other kettle of fish), you want to keep your pace quick. Keep you reader turning the pages. Don’t let them put your book down.
4. Make sure you have tension laced liberally through your writing- This is a must. You need to have tension from the very beginning. Whether it’s one little detail that tells the reader something isn’t quite right in your characters world, or a massive disaster, make sure the stakes are high for your character.
5. Don’t use long chunks of description or prose at the beginning (unless you are writing literary fiction)- Make sure there is a fair amount of white space; that means dialogue, people! Dialogue is a great way to get a sense of who your character is and will also help quicken the pace of your story.
For more on this topic, there are two books I highly recommend. I’ve had them both in my writing library for years, and refer to them often:
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman