I was blogging about opening lines the other day, and looking for examples. I came across the opening to American Gods, and realized that it's neither flashy nor something that will grab the reader in an obvious way, but it's quite effective and hooks the reader into the story very well. I'm just not sure how it's doing this. Far from being a traditionally attention-getting opening, this one is a slower, gentler seduction of the reader into the book's world:
Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough, and looked don't-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.
The best thing--in Shadow's opinion, perhaps the only good thing--about being in prison was a feeling of relief. The feeling that he'd plunged as low as he could plunge and he'd hit bottom. He didn't worry that the man was going to get him, because the man had got him. He did not awake in prison with a feeling of dread; he was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, because yesterday had brought it.
It did not matter, Shadow decided, if you had done what you had been convicted of or not. In his experience everyone he met in prison was aggrieved about something: there was always something the authorities had got wrong, something they said you did when you didn't--or you didn't do quite like they said you did. What was important was that they had got you.
He had noticed it in the first few days, when everything, from the slang to the bad food, was new. Despite the misery and the utter skin-crawling horror of incarceration, he was breathing relief.
Of course, whether this is good writing or not is subjective, but I'd be interested in learning why this works on these terms. Why do we want to know more? What's keeping us reading? Is the informal language part of that? Is it Shadow's self-acceptance and confidence that's so attractive?