I just posted a craft essay that in fact started out as a preamble to this writing experiment but then grew too long. In it, I discuss the importance of a narrator in fiction, and how the narrator can sometimes be neglected. I mention ‘Once upon a time’, which emphasises the idea of a narrator more than perhaps any other thing; these words invite some of the strongest narrating we can imagine. Plus: they make writing easy. They make stories accessible.
For this week’s writing experiment: write a story or a poem or an opening chapter of a novel that begins ‘Once upon a time’.
It does not have to be a fairy tale. And you might want to tack this start on to an existing idea you’re a bit stuck with to see how you might launch yourself afresh with this sort of narratorial projection (though, of course, start your story over again – the whole point is to tap into that instinctive storytelling beginning).
And if this is a bit too open-ended, also start off by writing a last line too. It could even be ‘And they all lived happily ever after.’
(Which reminds me of a lune of my own composition that I was very proud of:
Once upon a
time we all lived very
happily ever after
See: the simplest things are often the most satisfying.)