Writing A Great Introduction
Never Do This
In this article I will tell you……STOP RIGHT NOW AND DELETE ANY ARTICLE YOU HAVE EVER WRITTEN THAT STARTED LIKE THAT!
Now that I have calmed down, let me explain why you never want to begin an article with those infamous words……simply because the title already told the reader what the hell the article was about, and I really don’t want to treat my readers like they are idiots.
And yet so many writers do exactly that.
I don’t care if you are writing a recipe or you are writing a creative story, if the introduction is not interesting you are going to have readers leave your site in droves, and you will forever be known in writing circles as a writer who could not be bothered with going the extra mile.
Is that what you want?
Let me take this a step further: your introduction should not only be interesting but it should also be a powerful attention-grabber. It should be so interesting that the reader can’t wait to read the rest of the article or story.
There are still some who believe the sole purpose of an introduction is to tell the reader what they are about to read. To those I say “BALONEY.” The purpose of an introduction should be to grab the reader by the throat and not let go. An introduction should be a choke hold, rendering the reader helpless and gasping for breath, and anything short of that is just so much dog doo-doo on the junk pile of literature.
Now, do I have your attention?
So how does one achieve this? How do we write something so memorable as to leave our readers begging for more?
I’m glad you asked. Read on and we just might be able to help you and propel you to stardom.
Do you need help with introductions?
USE A DRAMATIC INCIDENT
Instead of me trying to explain this technique to you, let me use an example from the movies. How many of you have seen “Saving Private Ryan?” If you have you will remember the opening scene of the Invasion of Normandy with the bullets buzzing by, the destruction of bodies and the frenzied efforts to find some shelter from the rain of lead.
If you can write an introduction like that then you have a winner.
BEGIN BY TELLING A STORY
Many writers are natural story-tellers. Each of you has experiences from your lifetime that will aid you in writing an introduction. Think of one that relates to your story or article and use it for an attention-grabber.
If you cannot think of a personal experience then get creative and make up a story that applies to your article.
SETTING THE SCENE
I’m going to let Maya Angelou set the scene from her story “Hope.”
“The last inch of space was filled, yet people continue to wedge themselves along the walls of the store. Uncle Willie had turned the radio up to its last notch so that youngsters on the porch wouldn’t miss a word. Women sat on kitchen chairs, dining-room chairs, stools, and upturned wooden boxes. Small children and babies perched in every lap available and men leaned on the shelves or on each other.”
What is her story about? Even if you don’t know I’m willing to be you are intrigued, and if so then her introduction is the reason.
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I enjoy this lady but I wish she smiled more
USE A QUESTION, QUOTE OR POLL
I love quotes and use them often in my articles. You can go online to “Brainy Quotes” and find a quote for any topic.
Beginning with a question can also be quite effective.
Let me pick a subject….let’s say, sex trafficking. I could start the article with this question: how many of you have had your son or daughter stolen off the streets, drugged, beaten and sold into sex slavery?
If that opening question did not get your attention then you ain’t got no soul. J
DESCRIPTIONS ARE NICE
If you are writing about the homeless you could begin by describing a homeless man or woman sleeping on a park bench. If you are writing about conservation then begin by describing an incredibly beautiful scene from nature. Name a topic and think of a description….cancer? Alzheimer’s? poverty? Christmas?
In other words, rather than begin by talking about the impersonal statistics of cancer, describe the physical effects of cancer on a real life human being. I promise it will be much more effective.
UNUSUAL FACTS OR FIGURES
I am going to turn to Shirley Chisholm for this example, from her article “Unbought and Unbossed.”
“There are 435 members of the House of Representative and 417 are white males. Ten of the others are women, and nine are black. I belong to both of these minorities, which makes it add up right. That makes me a celebrity, a kind of side show attraction.”
Isn’t that better than some boring intro about making it in Congress as a black woman?
USE THE POWER OF THE SENSES
Most people reading your articles have five senses. Why not write to those senses?
How many of you remember the smell of homemade apple pies in the fall? The brilliant colors of the trees and the crispness of the air? The delight of falling into a pile of leaves and feeling them crunch underneath you?
If I’m writing an article about Fall in New England you better believe that’s how I’m starting my article, because it appeals to most readers. It is something we all have experienced to a certain degree, whether we have ever visited New England or not. It is a universal call to the senses and it is a highly effective way to get your readers invested in the rest of the story you are telling.
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There Are More but That’s Enough to Get You Started
That is more than enough to get you started. Please consider it and experiment on your next article. If you are a writer then I will assume that you have a desire to be the best writer you can possibly be, and having a strong introduction is a step in the right direction. I want you to succeed, and this is definitely a step in the direction of success.
One final note. Closely related to the introduction is the conclusion, and I would be remiss if I did not mention that the conclusion should refer back to the introduction. It closes the circle if you will and brings closure to your story or novel. Never and I repeat never end a story or article by saying "in conclusion."
A man walks into a bar. He orders a beer from the bartender and then says hey, have you heard this joke?
But that’s an introduction for another day.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”