Why (and How) to Write a Better Lead
“Mom … next time we go to the park, can I bring a pillow case?”
My kids have figured out the power of a good lead. A lead is meant to pull at a reader’s sleeve. It’s meant to pique his curiosity. And my kids have figured out that leading with “Mom, I have a question” or “Mom, can I ask you something” won’t really get me to look up from the paper or stop listening to the reporter on Morning Edition.
But jump right in with something intriguing like, “Mom … next time we go to the park, can I bring a pillow case?” and I’ll usually take note. This particular lead continued, “Because it’s the perfect thing to carry snakes in … “
Asking an intriguing question is just one way to grab your reader’s attention.
Another effective one – and a fun one to track down when you’re the writer – is to begin with an unusual fact, something that will arrest your reader instantly … make him curious.
For instance, did you know that in Bali, Indonesia – which has been on my mind since we have a workshop headed there in a few months —
- Every village is obligated to construct and maintain at least 3 temples.
- Every Balinese person receives 1 of 4 names, based on his or her birth order (“Wokalayan,” “Made,” “Nyoman,” and “Ketut”).
- The word “ketchup” comes from the Indonesian word “kecap,” which means “sauce.” The letter “c” in “kecap” is pronounced “ch.”
You could start an article with any one of those facts, and I know I’d read on. You’d have my attention. And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.
The message here? When you’re researching a place – whether it’s book work or you’re there on the ground – seek out astonishing facts. Look for statistics that seem crazy. Pay attention to those moments when you find yourself saying, “No way!” Because right there might just be your lead.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]