More than once I've heard a writer say that beginning the story is the hardest part. Where do you start? How far back should I go? Should I start with a flashback? Or start in the middle of the story, then have the next bit flash back to the actual beginning?
I think the question more worthy of an author's asking is this: How do I introduce my story to the audience? How do I make the promises I am going to keep with this story?
The tempo and subject of the first few pages set the reader's expectations for the rest of the book. The same can be said of the first few minutes of a game, the first scene of a movie, or the first episode of a TV show.
When the reader/viewer/player's expectations are not met, there is an increased chance for disappointment. Should that disappointment be severe enough, then the reader/viewer/player may simply quit the story. (I have done this myself with more books than I care to admit.)
So, how do you ensure that the promises you make in your introduction match the promises you fulfill in your story? There's really only one sure way, and this might seem a little backwards, but there you are:
Write the introduction last.
When recording narration for a book, or podcast, we are recommended to either warm up thoroughly beforehand, or record the entire segment we're working on before returning to the beginning to record the beginning. This ensures that the entire recording is of the same quality.
The same principle can be applied to a story. Construct the story in question first, then return to the beginning and write the introduction to match the tone, tempo, and message of the rest of the book.
If you ever read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, you'll notice that the prologue is a scene from the last quarter of the book, which is skipped over when the characters finally catch up to the reader. (I don't recommend that book, despite its excellent form, because its function and message are less than desirable and I make it a point not to recommend depressing books.)
In the last book you read or game you played or movie you watched, did the introduction provide a good measure of what to expect in the rest of the experience? I'd love to hear what you have to say!