So there are many, many ways to begin a novel. Some people start with ideas--I do sometimes--and their process is to attract other ideas and build characters and story from this idea beginning. Others start with a bit of story--this happened so... They make up characters that will help them build their story. They develop them Or maybe they already have characters in mind because the origin of the story is an article or a some spin off a movie or something that happened to them or someone they knew. Some writers begin with a single scene idea or even an image. I read one novelist say he began a novel with someone he once saw--a girl on a boat leaning on a rail and looking down at the sea.
Point is--writers work differently. Not only that but sometimes a writer will use different methods for different stories. Creative types are that way. T I've started a novel with an idea. Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences started with a simple idea--what if aliens invaded the earth and killed off almost all the population? What would happen to the survivors? And the story, beginning with that premise, took off for me.
BUT most of the time I start with a character first and a situation. Let me give you some examples.
A boy and a girl fall in love but their families are at war.
A young man thinks his uncle killed his father but his uncle marries his mother and the young man struggles with taking action against the uncle.
A ship captain becomes obsessed with hunting down a big water mammal.
A girl must compete in a state ordered game to the death; if she doesn't kill everyone, including a boy she's known since she was a child, she will die.
These may look a little familiar but, hey, most stories have been told. It's your particular spin on them that makes them completely new. But really--there are an endless number of situations you can imagine characters in. Be creative.
This is just the beginning. Some hard work--developing the character in the situation-- is ahead. There are many ways to approach this too. That's kind of a theme of mine when I talk about writing. THERE IS NO ONE WAY. Find the way that works for you. I'll get to some approaches on developing an initial situation and character next blog.