Back when I was reading slush for PodCastle, one of the things that would get me to perk up was when a writer would introduce a clear character motivation within the first page. This didn't have to be anything major. In fact, it didn't necessarily have to be the focus of the story. I just wanted to feel a sense of purpose from the get-go. I hated reading a story and not having a clear understand of why I was reading.
The problem that kicked everything off was that I was not cut out to be a teacher.