Why's It So Hard to Write a Hook-y First Line?
Think about the title you just read and you'll know.
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Why is it so hard to come up with a clever opening?
Whether it’s a speech, or a brochure, or an essay, or even a letter, why is it so difficult?
Now – stop.
You just experienced what I want to show you.
Here’s how most communication begins: Today, I’m going to tell you BLANK, as in, Today, I’m going to tell you how to save money on groceries, or Today, I’ll explain why we need a lower gas tax.
When you hear or read that, you have to stop, then decide if you’re interested, then decide if you’re interested at this particular moment. It’s a decision of the head, not the heart.
But there’s another way.
Don’t you love it when you run into somebody who is working on the same problem you are? Big or small, it's instantly attractive: What’s wrong with the Redskins this year? Or Why isn’t the boss fixing this problem? Once you hear something that connects with your heart, not just your head, there’s no decision to be made. You want to hear more.
At the top of this essay, I asked Why is it so hard to come up with a clever opening? Most of you who receive this newsletter have asked that question and felt that frustration so I had your attention immediately.
But if I had only identified the topic – Here’s an alternative way to start a document – you would have had to stop and think about it whether you wanted to read anymore.
I didn’t want you to think about it, because you might have decided not to continue reading, so I caused you to feel something that would reflexively drive your response. You might say I took your choice away. If you’ve heard me lecture, you know that’s a primary goal of speaking and writing. The hardest part is getting and keeping your attention.
But once I have it, I can tell you anything I like.
Don't name the topic. Share the problem.
Remember: one of the best ways to hook people is to ask about a problem they already feel.
Why is this tax so high?
Why is this road still filled with potholes?
How low are interest rates going to go?
Don’t name the topic, share their problem – and share it by asking a question that makes them feel, not think, about a frustration they know well. At that point, they’re all yours.
I take on occasional one-on-one writing students. It's a good time for that. Let's talk. Email me.
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