Are you struggling to get your readers engaged? Check out these six tips to ditch those weak introductions for engaging ones.
Imagine you are sitting at home with your choice of tea or coffee in one hand and your preferred electronic device in the other. You scroll through your favorite blog or website, searching for something to quench your thirst for entertainment. You open up an article, and it’s drier than burnt toast. You choose another, but it starts out so slow that you resist the urge to move on.
The next post starts out with the same, tired intro everyone uses. Another post has a promising title, but it’s no better than the rest. Over and over, not a single post draws you in. You’ve encountered weak introductions.
Don’t get stuck in the rut of boring introductions. Try spicing yours up with one of the six tips below.
Some introductory questions are considered lame. That’s because beginners start their writing with an unmoving question. A question with real significance encourages the reader to think on the same query the author has at the same time as the author. Don’t start with a question that has an obvious answer. Start with a question that gets the wheels turning but that is answered in the conclusion.
Use sensory details to drop off your reader in the setting. They may not be there physically but don’t underestimate the universals of the human experience and empathy. For example, imagine we are in a desert. The sun beats down on our necks. The sweat sticks our clothes to our bodies. It goes without saying that our throats are probably dry. Our teammate just drank the last bottle of water. But worst of all, there are bits of sand and rock in our shoes. Suddenly, every reader is emotionally attached to the situation at hand because they have likely felt one or more of those scenarios before.
Sometimes our drafted introduction contains all the information we need. It should be great, but something in the delivery seems off. Cut a word out. Cut a sentence out; chop it down. Play around with how concise your introduction can become. This clarifies the connection between your ideas and saves your reader time. Attention spans are short, so don’t risk losing them with a long introduction!
No one likes to be told what to do. How many times have we been told, “Don’t look” and we do, or we see in big red font: “Don’t read this” but we can’t look away? It’s the lack of permission that makes it so much more appealing, only for the small print below to be harmless. Address your reader like they won’t be interested, or they don’t need to read: “Why do you look at this story with so much disapproval? It hasn’t begun. You can take your attitude elsewhere; this story doesn’t need it.” Now, they are hooked.
Too much background information in the beginning can also lose a reader’s attention. Suddenly they’re back in the lecture hall--sleeping. Background information is important, and we want the reader to care about the little pieces. So try dropping them amid a potential situation and have them wonder what brought them here. A red light is flashing as a spacecraft is being hurled to the sun. Who pressed the emergency red button? What needs to be done next? In order to know that, they’ll need to invest in the background information. Congrats, your introduction has lured the reader into caring before you can finish the paragraph.
Some topics come with misconceptions. If you write about cats, plenty of people will not be interested because they think cats are unfriendly. Someone will be sure to comment that cats never approach humans, but just stare at them from distances, and staring is rude. However, if your introduction states that cats are introverted and distant staring is their own way of asking to come over, suddenly your audience is opening up to what you are going to say.
The key to these strategies is knowing what your audience will be most attracted to. Since you’ve already developed a sense of what grabs your own attention, use it! Enjoy these tips and more by signing up for my email or checking out my writing courses at www.marthawarner.org.