A first paragraph is like when you owe me money, and I send No-Nose Noonan over to your place to collect. (1) It grabs the reader by the collar and captures his attention. (2) It drags the reader by the shirtfront into the story itself and suggests what is to come. (3) It shakes the reader back and forth and forecasts both the mood and style of the story.
Some writer friends kicked this topic around on the “Writers Tips” discussion thread of Writers Etc (on FB), and Dan L. Hays added this:
You've nailed it so far - the first paragraph has to be a grabber! I took a creative writing course one time where the teacher went further - the first sentence. I remember the one that stuck with me:
"Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again." - Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier. A strong first sentence pulls you even into that first critical paragraph!
Anyway, in the words of the Jimmy Buffet country song, “That’s My Story and I’m Stickin’ To It.” What’s your opinion?