Will the first few sentences of your chapter grab the attention of your reader? It should you know. We can take example in principle from good journalism, newspapers, speeches, even movies. They all seek to grab your attention in the beginning to spark interest.
It’s a universal principle that if you don’t start well it lessens your chance of finishing well. So, in this tutorial I talk to you about carefully crafting opening statements or the lead paragraph of your chapter. In your first one or two sentences tell who, what, when, where, and why. Try to capture the interest of the reader (hook) by beginning with a funny, interesting, or surprising statement. Throughout your chapters start in a variety of ways. A question or a provocative statement are good ones to begin with.
I don’t want to make it sound more complicated than it is. For instance, you are writing a complex scientific book; you read my tutorial and decide you need a more dramatic opening. You probably don’t; use a simple question or startling statistic. So, let’s just keep it simple. Remember the opening statement or paragraph is designed to get the reader’s attention. It’s up to you to write a chapter that keeps their attention. Here’s five tips to create attention grabbing opening statements in all your chapters.
1. Startling Statistics. Supporting statistics can make a great opening statement. Use the statistic to expose the need for your solution presented in the book. For example, a friend of mine opened his chapter ‘Pushing Past the Pain of Fatherlessness’ with a mix of the question and statistic statement. The chapter was about fatherlessness and alcoholism. The opening was, “Did you know an estimated 43% of US adults have had someone related to them who is presently, or was, an alcoholic?”
2. Question. When opening your chapter, seek to call attention much like you would when a speaker hits the desk with a gavel to call a meeting to order. At the gavel sound, everyone looks up to see what the person has to say. In a similar way, seek to strike attention with a poignant question. For example in an author’s book about middle-aged couples and sex she opened with the question, “Are you getting enough sex in your marriage?” Most times people unconsciously answer the question you pose in their minds. The key is to provide the answers in your chapter including statistics. Another quick example of an opening paragragh with a question and startling statistic, “Have you felt afraid to buy online? Like it or not, many are still cautious of buying on the web. A Boston Consulting Group Consumer Survey found that 70% of respondents worry about making purchases online.”
3. Provocative Statement. Merriam-Webster.com online dictionary defined provocative with words like provoke, excite, or stimulate. Provocative questions or statements are great ways to open your chapter. Even so, use this principle with caution. For you might receive a fair share of unwanted responses along with your most wanted responses. For intance, this real estate author wrote in her chapter’s opening statement, “Did you stamp loser on your house interior before your first open house?” You, the reader might ask, “Are you saying I’m making staging mistakes that stamp loser on my house before the first potential buyer walks in?” You would want to know especially, if you’ve been working hard to prepare your house to go on the market. Provocative statements are designed to pull at our attention like an electric shock. They make us curious. They sometimes make us mad. They make us feel a lot of different things but most of all they make us read.
4. Interesting story. Good stories grab the attention of your reader. It should be a short story if you are using it to open the chapter. One to two paragraphs should do it. If you have a good story to capture the interest of your reader, but feel you can’t make it shorter. Practice cutting it down to bare details. Write it out fully; then cut a few sentences. A little later, cut some more. Trust me; each time you cut you get less attached to telling it the old way. Until finally, you have a short, succinct but powerful story to draw your reader into the chapter.
5. Bait. Hold out an intellectual carrot or red string to entice your reader. Our human nature compels us to reach for the carrot or pull on the string. As you may know the baiting principle works in many different areas. As an opening statement, give away a part of your valuable content in the first few sentences. If your reader is interested in your topic at all she will most likely continue reading a part of your chapter to get the rest of the information. Don’t forget to follow the journalism principle, best first. Don’t bury your best information deep in the chapter. Write in all your best information first and lesser important information goes in last.
Practice writing great opening paragraphs for each chapter in your book and set the stage for your potential readers. Add the above valuable skill and you add magnetic pulling power and punch that gets your reader’s attention and makes them want to read your important message. Open well and prosper as a book author!
Read more Opening Statement tips at First Chapter Challenge: http://firstchapterchallenge.com