In the beginning, as it were, there was no form or force to the universe. In fact, talking about the universe was meaningless because there was nowhere to talk about it. Space and time literally did not exist and neither did matter in any form. The universe simply was not; nothing was.
Then suddenly there was an explosion of epic proportions. We can’t even say that it happened later because there was no time, no anything, even ideas. This explosion was so energetic that particles by the insurmountable amounts were created. Einstein taught us that energy and matter are equivalent; only different manifestations of energy. So with all this energy came matter.
At first this matter was terribly dense. It was essentially all the matter in the universe crushed into the size of a pea. It quickly expanded into the vast universe it is today, but because of its incomprehensible density, the matter was billions of times hotter than the center of the sun. And so the matter in that ball acted very diffferently than the matter we are used to.
Electrons existed as they do today, but with a whole lot of energy. Protons and neutrons though, are actually made of much smaller parts called quarks. Because they contained so much energy, they couldn’t coallesce and become the subatomic particles we know today.
In fact, it actually took 100,000 years before the universe was cool enough for quarks to stick together. When quarks get really close to each other, they stick together like magnets, but when they contain too much energy, the force of their momentum outweighs the force of their attraction.
Once this finally happened we finally had protons neutrons electrons and still lots of energy to go around. But now, with actual subatomic particles, the universe was able to form the basic elements of helium and hydrogen. Of course this too was a difficult task because the universe had to expand yet further so it would cool enough such that the energy of the protons, neutrons, and electrons was low enough that they would actually combine instead of flying past one another as they had for eons.
This was finally the point that the universe was cool enough that matter began to exist. Once it gathered together into dust clouds as a result of gravity, the universe was finally prepared to give birth to life. Of course many billions of years would be required for stars to form, burn out, and explode the elements of life throughout their respective galaxies.