“When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away – even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”
Kurt Vonnegut (source)
I’m still learning to write good stories, but a character’s motivation seems to be the most important element to keeping the reader’s attention. While many writers try to use the beginning of stories to build up the tension and to raise the stakes of that one big desire of a character, giving the character something to want right at the beginning of a story helps keep the reader’s attention.
Some of the best short stories I’ve read in the last few weeks state that intention/desire right in the first line. Really good novels do the same.
So, ask yourself:
What does my character want right now (no matter how small)?