Picture sources: http://gangles.ca/2010/09/20/beginners-guide-to-minecraft/
When you first start of Minecraft the very first thing you will see is a randomly generated landscape. Chances are you'll see something along these lines. This is a guide to quickly set up a base of operations to avoid those horrible days of being unprepared at night. Now, your first action will be to find a small cluster of trees and begin chopping them down. You'll only need to cut down a single small tree because you only need 4-5 blocks of wood to get you started.
Now that you've collected the wood, you'll need to open your inventory by pressing the 'e' key. This will open up your inventory shown above. You'll want to first create planks, and then create 4 sticks. The illustration above shows you how to place the wood, to create planks, to use to create sticks.
The next item you will create will be the most fundamentally important block in the entire game. A workbench, in order to create one, put planks in a 2x2 formation as illustrated above, and simply place down the block by putting it in the bottom row and left clicking where you want to place it. A workbench allows for a 3x3 work space which opens you up to almost every single other possible creation in this game.
The next thing you'll want to do is create a wooden pickax and nothing more, use the crafting formula above to create it. With a pickax you'll be able to mine cobblestone, an essential building tool and the stepping stone into greater things. If you spot coal, which is the blocks with the black strips running through it labeled above then you should mine it up as well.
You should now begin building a base, either create a small cave for yourself, or a hut. One important thing you'll need before I set you off on your journey is torches. Very easy to make, the only thing you need is coal. With that you'll be able to work at night, as well as day and slowly expand your kingdom. Those are the basic survival skills needed to survive your first night at minecraft.