A few months ago, I received similar feedback on my WIP not to start with action because the reader doesn't care what happens to the MC.
I'm reading MG novels and found two that start with action. I posted the first 350 words or so and I'd like to know your thoughts why both opening scenes worked (or didn't work for you). Is it voice?
From Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
“That is so not a cobra,” said Ash. It couldn’t be. Weren’t cobras endangered? You couldn’t have them as pets, not even here in India.
“That so totally is a cobra. Look,” said his sister, Lucky. Ash leaned closer to the snake. It swayed in front of him, gently gliding back and forth in tempo with the snake charmer’s flute music. The scales, oily green and black, shone in the intense sunlight. It blinked slowly, watching Ash with its bright emerald eyes.
“Trust me, Lucks,” said Ash. “That is not a cobra.”
The snake revealed its hood.
It was totally a cobra.
“Told you,” she said.
If there was anything worse than a smug sister, it was a smug sister three years younger than you.
“What I meant was, of course it’s a cobra, but not a real cobra,” replied Ash, determined his sister wasn’t going to win this argument. “It’s been defanged. They all are. Hardly a cobra at all. More like a worm with scales.”
Almost as though it had been following the conversation, the cobra hissed loudly and revealed a pair of long, needle-sharp ivory fangs. Lucky waved at it.
“I wouldn’t do that if —”
The cobra darted at Lucky and before Ash knew it, he’d jumped between them. The snake’s mouth widened, and he stared at the two crystal drops of venom hanging off its fangs.
“Parvati!” snapped the snake charmer. The cobra stopped an inch from Ash’s neck. Whoa.
The snake charmer tapped the basket with his flute. The cobra, after giving Ash one last look, curled itself back into it, and the lid went on.
Ash started breathing again. He looked at Lucky. “You okay?”
“See that? I just saved your life,” Ash said. “I practically hurled myself between you and that incredibly poisonous snake. Epically brave.” And, now that the heart palpitations had subsided, epically stupid, he thought. But protecting his little sister was his duty, in the same way hers was to cause as much trouble as possible.
From Middleworld by J&P Voekel
All was quiet.
Suddenly a flock of parrots exploded from the trees, shrieking and squawking, and three men burst out of the rainforest. One of them pushed a hostage, a young girl, in front of him. The other two shot at anything and everything as they ran across the clearing toward the steps of the pyramid.
The noise was terrifying—guns shooting, men shouting, birds screeching—but Max tried to stay calm, waiting for the right moment. He knew he would only get one chance. And, armed with only a blowgun, he also knew the odds were against him.
In the end, it happened so quickly that he hardly had time to think.
Just as the men reached the bottom step, something caught their attention high above Max’s head, and they stopped to blitz the treetops with bullets. He crouched behind a log, not daring to breathe, as leaves and twigs exploded and rained down onto the forest floor. An animal shrieked and fell through the branches, landing with a thud somewhere behind him.
It was now or never.
Adrenaline pumped through his veins as he fired his three darts in quick succession.
Yes! Yes! No!
He’d hit the hostage—again.
Max threw down the controller in disgust.
What was he doing wrong? He’d jumped over the massive tree roots, sidestepped the boa constrictor sleeping in the leaf pile, bypassed the battalion of army ants, and outswum the hungry crocodiles that lurked under the surface of the river. He’d got everything right, but he still couldn’t get past this level.
And what was that cross-eyed monkey trying to tell him?
He grabbed the case and scrutinized the small print. Nope, definitely nothing about cross-eyed monkeys. In fact, no rules at all.
Where had it come from anyway? It was just lying on his bed when he came home. The case looked new, but it smelled musty, like the gym lockers at school.