“When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man.”
Did that get your attention?
That’s the very first sentence in the Parker novel Firebreak. It makes you feel like you walked in on the book at the worst possible moment. It also immediately hooks you and makes you want to read more.
There’s a lot of importance placed on making your story a page-turner: ending each chapter with something that entices the reader to turn the page and keep reading. I don’t always manage it (sometimes it’s probably just not gonna happen), but I try to whenever possible. But equally important is your ability to give a story a great opening (and hopefully a great ending, too). If your story begins and ends with a bang, everything in-between probably doesn’t matter. If it begins and ends with a bang, and every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, you probably just guaranteed your novel’s success (beyond the marketing aspect, anyway).
Try it as a writing exercise: think of some “cliffhanger” first sentences that hit the reader with a baseball bat and make them want to find out what happens next. Write up as many as you can in, ohh, let’s say ten minutes — do it even if you don’t plan to write a story for any of them.
‘Cos you might entice yourself into finding out what happens next.