Writing a strong opening paragraph on a feature story is a challenge, even for great writers, because making it interesting enough to engage readers is a high standard to meet. Asking yourself some questions about your topic can be helpful.
What writers frequently do is sit down and they randomly pick a place to begin, but that doesn’t make the subject interesting. Here is one example:
Cynthia Shelton’s Girl Scout troop is a lot like other Girl Scout troops. Along with co-leader Pam Sawyer, Ms. Shelton and her charges engage in leadership activities and crafts, talk about self-esteem and ethics, and go on special trips and outings.
But one particular outing makes their troop stand out …
If you open by telling readers that the subject of your story is similar to other Girl Scouts, the reader is likely to think she knows what other Girl Scouts are like. So she is likely to turn the page and read something else.
News stories, media releases, and even most email messages are built around a central point, which is delivered in the opening paragraph and the rest of the information flows from that. But a feature story has no core news element, so whether the reader stays on the page depends on whether the first paragraph makes her want to continue.
The first step in crafting a strong lead is to ask yourself a few questions:
What is the story about? (Capture the thought in one short sentence, perhaps just a phrase.)
- What is this story really about? Why is it significant?
- What details do you have in your notes that distinguish this person or this topic, details that encapsulate why the subject is unusual?
- Why would anyone want to read about this person, program, or issue?
Sometimes you will prefer to use a direct lead. Even though there is not compelling news point, you can still take the reader quickly to the heart of what the story is about. This often is your wisest approach because your information is not strong enough to write a tantalizing lead that draws the reader in slowly.