...is reportedly the amount of time you have to grab the attention of an editor reading your slush pile submission.
Obviously, this varies by editor, but even if an editor is willing to give you more than a few minutes of their time, the idea is: DON'T WASTE THE OPPORTUNITY.
I have only a few new insights to add to those, and they come after having re-watched IRON MAN (the movie, as opposed to the animated special, which I also have) last night. Those of you who have seen the movie -- or, like me, read the comic books first-- know that, in terms of a "sympathetic character," Tony Stark is a bit of a hard sell. He's a drunk (though not so obviously in the movie), a military-industrialist, a womanizing playboy, filthy rich, and arrogant. But those character defects are also crucial to the plot, i.e. Tony's transformation into a hero.
I noticed last night that those clever screen writers did something very sneaky. They didn't start in chronological order, instead, they very briefly introduced Tony and then had his convoy blow up. As viewers we didn't really have time to decide if we LIKED Tony or not, but we sure could sympathize with what is quite obviously a horrible plight.
Then they showed us what a jerk his was in a few short brief, and mercifully funny scenes. The funny deflected some of his jerk-itude, but, as they quickly brought us back to the NOW, those scenes served to really illustrate his change in character that takes place while captive in Afghanistan (which in the original comics was Viet Nam).
I was surprised, too, how effective it was. Frankly, I went to that movie not already not liking Tony Stark very much. I'd just finished reading CIVIL WAR and Tony is not portrayed as a very sterling good guy, shall we say. And, I was completely and utterly charmed by Robert Downey, Jr. (whom I normally don't like either) by this very clever and subtle writing trick.