Every reader is different. I can only speak for myself, but I like to get to know a character before I invest 100,000 words with him or her. Buy me a drink before you try taking me to bed.
Today, there is a tendency to begin with action. The problem I have is not knowing who to cheer for. When someone is being chased by exploding pitbulls (EPB), I might want to see what happens if they catch her. I don’t know her, and maybe EPBs are cool.
Once upon a time, beginnings were longer. If you don’t believe me, go back and reread The Hobbit, or Lord of the Rings. It takes forever to leave the Shire.
I try to write with a happy medium. I want readers to learn a bit about my character before I start torturing him. I’m not going to drag it out for several chapters though.
I don’t think it’s necessary to explain all the physical features, and traits a character has. If I’m detailing physical features, they ought to go in PDQ. The traits can trickle in later.
It really isn’t necessary to detail physical features. Readers will form an image as they read. It’s alright to give a few helping hints, but detail isn’t needed. I really don’t want to bog down a story opening with paragraphs of curly red hair. I’ll only do this if the curly red hair is important to the story.
Whatever you do, don’t detail physical features after a reader is already into the story. Their image of a thin brunette gets marred by my description of a chubby redhead three chapters in. It pulls the reader out of the story.
Traits are easier, and I like a little bit up front. “Excuse me, you dropped this dollar.” I can afford six words to let readers know this is a good person. This works for evil characters too. “He’s not an EPB, he’s a service dog.”
I’d love to see some thoughts from readers. What kind of introduction do you like?