“This [inciting] incident should make the character have to act. Here's where the story begins. The sooner the writer gets to this point, the sooner the story can get started.” -- Randall Brown in Thursday Flash Craft: Writing the Monomyth into the Short Short, Part II, The Inciting Incident.I often read unpublished stories that begin in the wrong place. The author feels it’s important to provide the details of the setting, or give the reader background about a character, when what the reader wants is to get started with the story.
In my beginnings, I introduce the main character and give him a problem to deal with. It doesn’t have to be a matter of life or death, but it should be important to the character. I opened one story with a wife nagging her husband about finally starting his diet. Another opened with a teenage boy upset about being forced to move to a new city. Neither is an earthshaking event, but both are problems the characters must deal with in some way. The reader knows what to expect, and, hopefully, I haven’t put her to sleep with rambling descriptions and unwanted -- at this point --backstory.