Getting started is one of the most difficult tasks for every writer. Yes, there are times when the words flow on to the paper. However, usually, finding a good beginning is tough.
There are several tricks to writing a good introduction. For articles, the key is your audience and getting them interested. For example, starting with “High-density, polymetric, phase-change materials may provide answers to maintaining consisted temperature control for construction projects,” might work for industrial engineers and chemists. However, for the general public, they are completely confused and moving onto the next article. But with a starting sentence such as “Science has discovered the ice cube may help heat your home,” may gain their interest. It’s not logical, but people are now interested. Another example is “Every military unit has a mascot; and each mascot has a story.” It’s obvious what the article is about, but it doesn’t sound that interesting. However, “He’s parachuted behind enemy lines, is a real attraction to the ladies, and stands only 30 inches tall. He’s Mach Atlas, the heroic mascot of Marine Corps Aviation Squadron ###.” The key is to gain the readers’ interest, not introduce the article.
A personal suggestion, don’t start article with rhetorical questions. “Do you suffer from bad breath? Then here is the answer.” A better introduction might be “When bad breath starts to knock buzzards on a garbage truck unconscious, it’s time to take action.”
Another popular literary trick is called the Hemingway Introduction. This is where the writer describes the scene, then brings the reader into the action with the rest of the article. This works well for narratives, but rarely for anything else. For example, “Even before the sun rises, Mr. Smith walks down the creaky pier to his 22-foot wooden boat to start a voyage that will take him miles out to sea in search of one of nature’s largest creatures—a whale. He remembers the years he spent, since he was a high school student, searching the waters off of this island for whales, which would bring him a rich payday. He still searches the same waters for the same creatures, only now it is to provide passengers on his vessel the opportunity to see one of these majestic creatures in the wild.” (550 spaces) Yes, this is a good introduction. However a good variation might be “Mr. Smith used to make his living hunting whales for their oil. Now he makes his living hunting them for tourists.” (117 spaces) Remember, space is limited in print and many publications simply don’t have the room for a lot of description.
A good introduction is just as important for novels. At a recent conference, Chuck Sambuchino, a writer for Writer’s Digest, pointed out many agents will not go beyond the first page of a novel, unless it interests them. These agents believe the first page should contain tension, a problem, conflict, or trouble. The key is to make the reader interested in what is happening. Too many writers start with too much description of back story before introducing the events of the novel. One novel I recently read had a description of a murder in the first paragraph. Then the author introduced the back story of the main characters. Several pages later, he went back to the homicide in the first paragraph. At another conference, all of the editors and agents wanted only the first three pages of the novel. Their point of view, if they weren’t interested in the story by the third page, then their readers wouldn’t be either.
So the question now becomes how to improve your introductions. One of the best suggestions is one many have heard before—read. Read the books and articles you like and take note of their introductions. See what engaged your interest. Also, look at books and articles you think are poorly written. You can learn from others’ mistakes. Above all, think of your audience. Your goal is to get them as excited about the subject of your writing as you are. So think—what got you excited about the subject.