When readers first approach a story, they typically look for the following key information:
1. Where are we?
2. Who are the important characters?
3. What’s the initial problem or conflict?
Writers who neglect any of this situating information in the first few paragraphs can leave a reader disoriented, frustrated, and in danger of walking away.
People are accustomed to interacting with the world around them through the senses, and the imagined world of a story is no different for readers. In fact, when the conflict is still taking shape, and the characters and their motivating desires are still emerging, the physical world is often the first foothold.