The first two pages of my latest novel, The Things We Said Today, are not the original beginning. As many writers discover while writing long fiction, I began somewhere else and realized after I had completed what I thought was the entire novel that I needed more at the beginning.
What begins a novel is a promise to the reader of many different things. A story-line, for sure, especially in plot-centric stories like mysteries or suspense. A promise of what and where the story is about. But also it describes a bond with a character, a person whom the reader can connect with, who will be with them, representing the reader throughout the novel. A compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic character, a friend whose corner we crouch in, hoping for the best.