It should really start with something memorable. Evocative. That’s the word we’ll use. So it’s either a café in a busy street—maybe business suits sharking by on the footpath, maybe a Sunday crowd of bare arms in tank tops—or it’s the outback: a dusty pub, a harrowingly pretty sunset, flies on baked bread. Our main character begins as a voice, with a feeling. An observance manifested in a situation.
At least we can decide on the light. That’s a good starting point. Shafts of it, delicate fingers of it, honey-loaded buckets of it. Use the word glow. It works equally well with steel or cane fields. So the light falls on and bounces off our natural setting or our urban analogy for it. Beautiful.
But what does the main character notice, and what does this represent? Something about hegemony, but don’t actually say it. It’s implied, and that’s the clever bit. We’re shown silhouettes of trees, we’re told of generational tensions. We’re shown a street sign clapped with rain, we’re told of class divisions.
So let’s say we start with the senses. The bitter coffee grounds or tea leaves under your tongue. The sound of a crop-duster, or a percolator. Something to put us in the moment. You smell someone’s nail polish, or a watered down abattoir floor. You sense another person’s presence.
This is the other character in the story. Let’s say they interest our main character; let’s say they stand out from the background noise and the visual wallpaper of an everyday existence (please note the metaphor; you will need to become familiar with these). This other person is attractive to our main character. They could just be interesting, but that’s not conflict. Not yet. Let’s say we describe one small part of their behaviour or anatomy, and we let the reader extrapolate the rest. We could describe their face in detail, but why do all the work?
Now, don’t forget context. This can take up the majority of our exposition. Filling in the gaps is important. Historical, social, psychological, etc. Have a TV playing or a radio on. Put us somewhere. Make a reference to something. Don’t be somewhere that doesn’t exist. It’s fun, but no one takes it seriously. Context can be hard work, but it’s like a simile: you have to know two things to understand just one.
But we’re getting off the point, and we’re losing our reader.