Question: In the novel I am writing, I would like to know how to get the reader actually hooked into my book. I have read the other answers to along the same question... :( I want to start the story out gradually, and then leave the main character in a "pickle", as a cliffhanger. Where she opens the door and it isn't what she is expecting. Is that WAY too boring? Honest opinion, and advice please. I really don't want to bore my reader to death because I am taking too long to get to the plot, I have read those type of books and many of those were put down and not read past the first fifty pages...
You must realize there's a bit of a contradiction between wanting to "start the story gradually" and not wanting to "take to long to get to the plot." The cardinal rule is to never, ever bore a reader.
Sometimes, it's a question of which throughline you want to begin with. For instance, the classic way to start a story in medias res
would be to begin with the main character opening the door and realizing it isn't what she expected. That would be starting with the first event, the inciting incident, of the overall plot.
An alternative would be to begin with one of the other throughlines - for instance, the first event in the main character's throughline. This would be an event that shows the reader what kind of person the main character is at
the start of the story. Or you could begin with the first time the main character encounters the impact character. Or you could have an event which shows what their relationship is like at the beginning.
It is important that you start with an event rather than preamble, backstory, or (dare I say) philosophical musings, because it is the event that will grab a reader's interest. The event will be a change. It may contain conflict, internal or external. It will send the characters in a new direction. And nothing will be quite the same afterwards.
The other advantage to starting with the main character's throughline is that it gives the reader time to develop empathy and fondness for the main character before you plunge her into the overall story conflict. But this is best done by showing the character in action, coping with a dilemma.
The other thing that can grab a reader's interest is to give your main character or narrator an interesting voice - an idiosyncratic way of expressing herself that charms and intrigues the reader. Couple that with an interesting situation/event, and most readers will feel compelled to keep reading.
A little bit of mystery on the first page doesn't hurt either. For example, you could start with a sentence like, "The moment I opened the absurd looking door, I knew I was in the wrong place." Then you could proceed to tell the events leading up to the door opening, while keeping the reader wondering just what was behind the door. Just a thought.