Once upon a time (Too cliché) In the middle of the forest (no, that's not right….) There once was (don't like that one either)
The house stood in the middle of the a forest. The house was empty and very lonely.
Oh! I got it!!
Once upon a time there was a story. It took place in a mysterious forest where a house stood. But the story, while exciting, couldn't get started. You see, the story was missing something very important. It didn't have any characters in it. The house and forest were empty, devoid of life. The author who looked upon her work (too formal) decided to change this.
It was then that the Author began to look outside of her own world and into the galaxy of universes surrounding it. With a bit of effort the Author discovered that she could break through to these universes.
And it was this way she populated her story, taking characters from their worlds and placing them in her own. And now, she was ready to write. And now, the stage was set. And now, the real story could begin.