Too many mediocre stories begin with a long meandering morning, or a dry reflection on what the story means or what the character’s personality is. Instead, we need a strong moment of action to get pulled into the story. It doesn’t have to be a guy leaping from a helicopter as it explodes, but it should be something visual, strong, and striking — a character making a surprising decision, or a moment of subtle violence (cutting oneself while chopping vegetables, or almost getting in a car accident). Any action that gets the reader’s attention is welcome in a story’s beginning, as long as it matches the tenor of the rest of the story.
This is probably the most crucial element of a story, and so it should be emerging strongly in the beginning. Too many beginning writers begin by describing an empty setting, like the house without a mention of who lives there, or what a beach looks like with no mention of who will be tanning on it. In reality, these settings might be beautifully described, but we don’t read for the setting — we read for a person’s interaction with the setting.