It doesn't have to be a point of big change. The change could be small or internal, but with big consequences. Here are some examples of points of change, big and small, where you could start your story:
- Coming home from war
- Going off to war
- Diagnosis of disease
- A fist fight
I have a background in business, and I specialize in building presentations. The rule of thumb with presentations is: Tell your audience what you're going to tell them (intro); tell your audience what you came to tell them (body); tell them what you've told them (summary and conclusion). You do the same thing in works of fiction, just in a different way. You still have an intro, a body, and a conclusion, and all three parts must relate to one another. If they don't, your message isn't cohesive, and you will confuse your audience.
A couple of examples of books that went way wrong with their beginnings and how readers reacted:
I recently tried to read a story that I had heard good things about. The first 10% of the book (the intro) focused on Character A and his attraction to Character B. But the story was supposed to be about a romance between Character A and Character C, who the author didn't introduce us to until around 15% in, and who, at 50% in, still wasn't clear would be the character that A ended up with.
Furthermore, this book did not start at a point of change. It started with Character A and two other non-crucial characters having lunch. Lunch, lunch, lunch, lots of conversation about Character B, and then Character A going about his daily routine. No change whatsoever. It was boring as hell. The only reason I kept reading was because other people had said the book was good (but I wasn't seeing it at all, making me wonder if these other people were just friends of the author trying to tout her book for her). After the blah beginning, the story led me down every road EXCEPT the one the story was allegedly about: the romance between Character A and Character C. I ended up ditching the book at 50%, unable to read another word because I was so frustrated. I mean, I don't want to have to wait until the end of the book to read about the blossoming relationship between my destined-to-be-together main characters.
So, find a point of change, open with that, and guide your readers to your conclusion through cohesive, plot-aware writing that maintains the integrity of your opening, and you'll be on your way to a well-received book.
Happy Reading and Writing!