I think the opening of a story or novel is the single most important part. Well, that’s a dumb thing to say if you’re thinking in terms of getting something published. At one point in my checkered career I had access to the slush pile at Holt, Rinehart & Winston in New York. Hmm, thought I, pretty interesting opportunity. I picked up the ms. off the top and started read. With each paragraph, with each page, I kept waiting and hoping it would get better. It didn’t. Lesson 1: it never gets any better than the beginning. Lesson 2: you don’t have to read ten pages; if the first page isn’t good, the next 300 won’t be good, either.
On an exceptionally hot evening early in July, a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, toward K. bridge.
He had successfully avoided meeting his landlady on the staircase. His garret was under the roof of a high, five-storied house and was more like a cupboard than a room. The landlady who provided him with garret, dinners, and attendance, lived on the floor below, and every time he went out he was obliged to pass her kitchen, the door of which invariably stood open. And each time he passed, the young man had a sick, frightened feeling, which made him scowl and feel ashamed. He was hopelessly in debt to his landlady, and was afraid of meeting her.
The day broke gray and dull. The clouds hung heavily, and there was a rawness in the air that suggested snow. A woman servant came into a room in which a child was sleeping and drew the curtains. She glanced mechanically at the house opposite, a stucco house with a portico, and went to the child’s bed.
“Wake up, Philip,” she said.
She pulled down the bed-clothes, took him in her arms, and carried him downstairs. He was only half awake.
“Your mother wants you,” she said.
She opened the door of a room on the floor below and took the child over to a bed in which a woman was lying. It was his mother. She stretched out her arms, and the child nestled by her side. He did not ask why he had been awakened. The woman kissed his eyes, and with thin, small hands felt the warm body through his white flannel nightgown. She pressed him closer to herself.
“Are you sleepy, darling?” she said.
Her voice was so weak that it seemed to come already from a great distance. The child did not answer, but smiled comfortably. He was very happy in the large, warm bed, with those soft arms about him. He tried to make himself smaller still as he cuddled up against his mother, and he kissed her sleepily. In a moment he closed his eyes and was fast asleep. The doctor came forward and stood by the bed-side.
“Oh, don’t take him away yet,” she moaned.
Both openings do two things that I think are absolutely essential: establish the plight of the main character in a way that draws the reader in. But just the fact of showing (as opposed to telling about) the plight from the character’s pov tends to accomplish this. This assumes that the plight the writer has chosen is sufficiently serious and of a nature and with a character that is appealing.
Maybe you don’t have to know the point and the direction when you first write it down, but I think you certainly have to be working from that pov when you go back and edit your stuff.