You probably hear this from every serious writer, but itís worth restating: it all begins with a character. It doesnít have to be a likable character, or even someone you would want to talk to in real life. Characters become interesting from the way you develop them, the amount of empathy you invest. All the other elements of the storyóplot, theme, setting, point of view, etc.ówill follow from there, in one way or another. I donít like rules per se, because most interesting stories bend them. But I donít recommend that new writers try that: before Picasso invented Cubism, he had his Blue period. You have to know the rules before you can break them effectively.