Effective Beginnings Begin Today!
The beginning of your feature is vital to drawing your reader into your piece. If you make us snooze, you’ll lose. Good writers win when they capture their readers’ interests and keep it. So, let’s get you thinking about an effective start! There are many ways to begin without killing the life out of your subject and reader.
Choose three (3) of the methods from below and write the beginning to your piece following the format for each. LABEL the type of intro it is (dialogue, analogy, etc.).
Please print your intros when you have finished and ask three other students to rank them from 1 to 3, most interesting to least. Also, ask your readers to COMMENT on the intros. Is the purpose clear? Is it free of error? Should anything be cut? When your intros are returned to you, please make any changes and hand in completed work.
Email/save your work. For homework, you should work further on your essay, completing at least “half” of what you expect your final essay will be.
While there is no formula on the length of an effective intro, remember that your goal is to try and gain our interest. An introduction CAN be more than one paragraph and it is certainly more than one sentence for our purposes today. Use vivid and descriptive language, and don’t be afraid to be creative.
These are potential introductions, and they are not written in stone. Nevertheless, please note that your introduction will set the tone of your piece as well as set the groundwork for what will be covered.
CHOOSE THREE OF THE FOLLOWING
Introducing your feature with a brief narrative drawn from current news events, history, or your personal experience can be an effective way to capture your reader’s interest.
A couple of nights ago, someone offered me a cigarette at a party. I started to say no, but I had to reflect for a minute. Why don’t I smoke?
I looked around the room and could barely see across the basement, not because it was dark or because of the low ceiling, but because of the clouds of smoke billowing around the masses of teen groups. I saw a really good looking girl light up, and all I could think was, “What a shame” and “How disgusting.” I imagined her lungs filling with smoke, tarring her young, pink lungs. I pictured her 30 years from now, no longer beautiful, but yellow and haggard, coughing up juicy bits as she strolled the supermarket aisles, aching for her next cigarette. I imagined her wheezing into an oxygen mask.
I looked back at the generous soul dangling his cancer my way. I said, “No thanks, I don’t smoke.”
An analogy or comparison can be useful in getting readers to contemplate a topic they might otherwise reject as unfamiliar or uninteresting. By pairing seemingly unrelated concepts, you introduce an idea and illustrate it.
The gods, they say, give breath, and they take it away. But the same could be said—could it not?—of the humble comma. Add it to the present clause and, all of the a sudden, the mind is, quite literally, given pause to think; take it out if you wish or forget it and the mind is deprived of a resting place. Yet still the comma gets no respect. It seems just a slip of a thing, a pedant’s tick, a blip on the edge of our consciousness, a kind of printer’s smudge almost. Small, we claim, is beautiful (especially in the age of the microchip), yet what is so often used, and so rarely recalled, as the comma—unless it be breath itself? (Pico Ayer)
Opening your feature with brief dialogue can attract a reader’s attention and can succinctly illustrate a particular point of view you want to discuss. It shows rather than tells, and it appeals to our innate curiosity about what others say. Be careful not to sound artificial or contrived.
“This would be excellent, to go in the ocean with this thing,” says Dave Gembrius, fifteen.
He is looking at a $170 Sea Cruiser raft.
“Great,” says his companion, Dan Holmes, also fifteen.
This is Herman’s World of Sporting Goods, and Gembrius and Holmes are two of this nation’s fastest growing sport, ocean kayaking.
Begin with brief facts of statistics that support the purpose of your story. These facts or statistics will drive your piece. While shock is an effective attention-grabbing device, don’t lie! Don’t be Fox News either and exaggerate ad nauseum.
Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln
were born on the same day –
Twenty thousand teens will die this year from AIDS. Twenty thousand thought it couldn’t happen to them.
Irony or humor is an effective way to begin. Humor, especially, signals to the reader that your story will be entertaining to read, and irony can indicate an unexpected approach to a topic.
The desk is so untidy, the student thinks. I must do my laundry. Maybe I need to mow the lawn? He goes downstairs and starts talking to his mother, helping her put the groceries away. “Mom, you want to watch Seventh Heaven with me?”
Sounds like a great person, right? Considerate? Think again. This is the procrastinator extreme. He would rather help around the house than complete his homework!
AVOID IT, BUCKY