- Books, Literature, and Writing
How To Write A Dynamic And Captivating Introduction
What Not to Do
This is an article that will help you to write great introductions.
If that first sentence had been my real introduction, it would have been insulting to the extreme because you see, I already told you that in the title of the article. Seems so obvious, right? And yet daily….daily…I read articles with introductions like that example I just gave you.
Number one, when I’m reading I don’t want to be treated like an idiot.
Number two, my time is too valuable to waste on an article that shows the dramatic flair of a toilet flushing.
I have written about this before but quite obviously I need to write about it again.
Let me introduce you to the Ten Second Rule. This rule states that if you don’t capture the attention of the reader in the first ten seconds you will lose the reader. This is a fast-paced world looking for instant gratification. Instant gratification in writing means a dynamic introduction. The average reader has the attention span of a fruit fly, and they move around just about that quickly. You have ten seconds to make them interested in your article or forget about it.
This is an article that will help you to write great introductions.
Well gag me with a spoon!
Now it wouldn’t be fair of me to give you a suggestion without modeling that suggestion, so what I’m going to do is write three introductions for you to compare. The introductions will be about a fictional recipe. Why? Because I don’t write recipes. I am an essayist and novelist by trade and recipes are way out of my comfort zone. So, if I can write an interesting introduction about a recipe then the logical conclusion is that any writer can. Are you with me?
I’ll start with the type of introduction I see so often on recipe articles, and then I’ll follow that up with two examples of introductions that are actually….well….interesting. For these examples, let’s say I’m writing a recipe article for Cioppino.
The Boring Example
I can’t tell you the number of times I have read a recipe that starts off something like this:
“One of my husband’s favorite dishes is Cioppino. He has raved about it so much that it has now become a traditional meal in our household. I hope you like it.”
Well, Houston, we have several problems with that introduction. First of all, I don’t much care if your husband likes it. He’s the same guy who eats Spaghettios out of a can, so how much credence am I going to give to his opinion?
Secondly, when I was growing up, our family ate cow’s tongue about once a month. Why you ask? Well, times were tough and it was cheap. There was no way I was telling my mother that her cow’s tongue recipe tasted like dried cardboard, not with dad around, so once a month I choked it down and told her how good it was. Thus, it became a family tradition. Do you see my point?
Third, and I hope this doesn’t sound too brutal, but I don’t much care if your family likes it. I mean, it’s not like your family has their own syndicated show on the Food Network, so that really isn’t a ringing endorsement for your recipe.
Now let’s see what I can do with the introduction to “spice” it up a bit.
- The Ten Second Rule of Writing
If you don't have a hook at the very beginning of your work, you will most likely lose your reader. If you needs examples, here are seven different types of hooks.
Let’s try this approach:
“In the late 1800s, in the North Beach section of San Francisco, famed Italian fish wholesaler Achille Paladrini, known as the “Fish King,” made a soup consisting of the left-overs from the day’s catch by local fishermen. The inspiration for this soup came from his childhood home of Ancona, Italy, where a similar fish stew was prepared. In Italy this soup is called ciuppin, meaning “to chop,” which describes the process of chopping up the extra’s from a day of fishing the Mediterranean Sea. Today we know it as cioppino and it is a staple in seafood restaurants on the west coast of the United States.”
With this introduction we have a little history. With this introduction we have an interesting fact or two about the recipe. This introduction is not dependent upon the questionable tastes of my family members and thus has some validity to it.
Now let’s try another approach.
“Before you ever see it, your nose is aware. The rich smell of seafood entices as you enter the room. The sensory stimulation signals the brain and the brain sends signals to the stomach. Immediately the word ‘hungry’ comes to mind, for hungry you now are. You sit down at the table with great anticipation and the dish is placed before you. There, in a luscious broth, sits large and small pieces of seafood, a veritable cornucopia of the ocean’s bounty, all awaiting that first bite. You bring the spoon slowly to your lips, the saltiness touches your tongue, slides down your throat, and you close your eyes and thank the gods for this wonderful taste treat called cioppino.”
What have I done with this introduction? I have called upon the senses to describe the experience. Since we all share the same senses, I have used that knowledge to appeal to the commonalities of all my readers.
And That’s How You Do It
“I'm really passionate about pantomime because it is often the first introduction for a child to theatre, and if that child has a great experience at a pantomime they will continue to come year after year.”
There will be those who say “big deal, it’s only a recipe; why should I waste my time shooting for gold when silver will be good enough?” They will say that those who are looking for a recipe won’t care about the introduction; all they want is a recipe so why bother with a great opening paragraph.
Well, I don’t even know where to start with that kind of attitude.
I begin with the assumption that all writers, whether they write recipes or novels, have the desire to be better writers. They want to improve their craft. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe there are those who could care less, and all they want to do is fill the internet with the basics and quality be damned. I hope that isn’t the case, and for those who truly care about quality, a dynamic introduction is a huge step in the right direction.
But for those who don’t care about quality, let’s discuss the desire to have more readers checking out your articles. If that is your goal, greater viewership, then an outstanding introduction will give readers a reason to return to your articles. If they liked one they will like others, and they will seek you out when they again are looking for a good recipe.
I just did a Google search of cioppino. I was greeted with 821,000 hits. That, my friends, is competition. How are you going to beat that competition? I submit to you that a good step in the right direction is a great introduction. Remember, you only have ten seconds. Make them count!
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”