I’ve been working on a short story until the only thing I had left to do is to figure out how to start it. I had settled on the scene, but the first paragraph left me cold. I knew it was a mistake to begin with the setting and the sensations. They count certainly, but they’re not the thrust of a story which is about a man sitting on a deck with his old friend whom he knows is about to commit suicide, and he’s not going to stop him. (It’s an end-of-life situation. The story ends very positively for the protagonist, and for the person who took his own life too in a poetic sort of way.
I needed to lead with the dilemma; the paradox, if you will that explains what men do when nothing can be done. So I took a sentence I had buried in the second paragraph and placed it by itself at the beginning of the story.
“Luther and I spent nearly an hour talking about the many things that didn’t matter to avoid the one that did.”