When I start a story, I try to find something, anything that will at once place the main character in a situation that is uncomfortable or unsettling. I place the proverbial five hundred pound gorilla standing in the room with the protagonist. The bigger and meaner that gorilla, the stronger the hook.
The story that follows is how the protagonist deals with the gorilla. They may try to ignore it, but that generally means things go from bad to worse. In the end, it has to be dealt with. Along the way from the hook to the resolution the protagonist will experience twists and turns, bumps and falls, and scrapes and screams that are all part of their life. While the situation may be something from a world in a distant galaxy, and our character may be a twelve armed insectoid octopus hybrid, their actions must be believable and the situations, emotions, and resolutions must boil down to something that is relatable to us lowly humans.
The ending that settles the question, can leave everyone dead, it can find everyone happily living ordinary lives, it can leave everyone in utter chaos, but the question posed at the start, the hook must be answered. This is a story.
Of course, you as the author may wish the story to continue into another book, and that is acceptable, if the protagonist has grown, has resolved some of his issues. Here, you might decide that it’s time to poke that big mean gorilla with a big stick in the last chapter. In other words, the resolution the protagonist fought so diligently for, only resolves part of the issue. The rest smolders and blows up in their face at the last moment causing them to have to step back reevaluate maybe enlist additional help and go at it again. The author must up the stakes for the next book. And again for each additional book. Yet each book should show growth, or backsliding of the protagonist.
Walking across a bridge, you find a woman nervously looking over the side. What lies below is a rocky valley some five hundred feet below. When she sees you, she squeaks in a high pitched, stressed voice and speaking fast and out of breath says, “Did -- did you see that? That, that thing ran right up to me, spit that out,” she pointed to a nasty looking blob of blue-green material pulsing at her feet, “and then it jumped over the rail. I saw it fall but I swear it turned to smoke on the way down.”
Your Challenge is to write the next three to five pages (500 to 1500 words.) Go anywhere you like with it.