To give the reader the right image of what is happening, you should always be specific. This is particularly important in the first description of a person, place, or thing.
Look at the sentences below, and the introduction of the heroine’s dog, Digby.
Eager for their run, Digby whined and tugged on her leash.
Jane laughed and began to jog down the greenway that ran behind her apartment.
The dog kept pace until they reached the wooden bridge across the creek, then the golden retriever jerked to a halt and growled.
Sentence one is fine. “Whined” and “leash” tell the reader that Digby is a dog; however, the reader has no sense of what the dog looks like. It could be a poodle or a Great Dane.
Sentence two is okay if bland.
Sentence three, however, starts with the general term “dog” which still doesn’t give the reader a clue about the dog. Not until the end of this sentence does the reader learn that the dog is a golden retriever. By this time, the specific jars the reader who may have already visualized the dog or has decided the dog isn’t important because of the vague description.
How could these sentence be improved?
Eager for their run, Jane’s golden retriever Digby whined and tugged on her leash.
She laughed and began to jog down the greenway that ran behind her apartment.
The dog kept pace until they reached the wooden bridge across the creek then jerked to a halt and growled.
The reader instantly knows Jane’s dog is a golden retriever so the writer can now use more general terms like dog.
Just a few words used at the right time makes a difference between pulling the reader into your story or throwing them out.