Mystery or Misery.
Exposition never feels like an enjoyable read to me and, if there’s too much of it, I conclude the author started the tale in the wrong place. Thing is, I’m not sure some writers trust their readers enough to reveal the plot in an organic way. Perhaps they just don’t trust themselves enough to keep the reader in suspense.
And that’s the rub, isn’t it? Suspense, chasing the rabbit, is a great way of keeping a reader turning the pages. But there’s a thin line between intrigue and confusion, and a bewildered reader is one who is very likely to surrender. As long as you leave them with something to cling onto, and lead them down a self-illuminating path, all is well. But leave them in a dark cave with no discernible exits, and they’ll make their way back to the real world, leaving your words unread.
Every reader is different and, as the primary reader of your own words, you’re a very poor judge. One thing I’ve taken to doing of recent is to try the opening chapter or two on a handful of new betas, the ones who’ve never read my work, and so have no reason to trust me. – Sifting through the feedback can be very painful as, particularly when using social media, many of the virgin betas are writers themselves, and a few of those will feel the urge to point out you don’t write like them. But it’s for you as the writer to make it clear what you want from these new readers. Were they confused? Did they feel the urge to read on, or was it more they lost the will to live? How would they see it improved?
Those opening pages are the ones that determine whether the reader is prepared to give you a chance. You can’t take liberties later, but you just may be cut a bit of slack if you dip a little for a chapter or two. But the opening salvo? – Get that wrong, and only your mother, your cat and your partner will read your words.