The narrator begins by stating his argument or theme, invoking a muse or guiding spirit to inspire him in his great undertaking
Then the narrator addresses the muse with the epic question, which begins the narrative story
The narrative begins in media res ("in the middle of things") at a critical point in the action, i.e. in Paradise Lost, at the opening the fallen angels are in hell gathering their forces to determine revenge against God.
Principal characters are catalogued, introduced in formal detail. Often these characters are given formal speeches which reveal their personalities