I read the first sentence of your blog post and know if I’m going to read to the end.
Same with books. If I’m not hooked by the opening paragraph, the book doesn’t get bought. Here is one of my personal favourites:
“I became what I am today at the age of 12, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking in the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past. I’ve learned about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realise I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last 26 years.”
I read those lines from ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini in a Waterstones’ bookstore and when I looked up again had read the book to the halfway point.
What makes this paragraph provocative for me is that it jumps straight in with a personal truth, piques curiosity, and then explores a universal truth we can relate to. It is also written in clear and simple language.
Let’s use parent blogging as an example. Cut the waffle. Have something to say? Say it.
Oftentimes, we get caught in the lead-up to the story we’re going to tell before we tell it. This can be especially true if we’re good with words. We like to show off those words for its own sake. But cut that verbiage, and the story already picks up in pace and interest.
Take little Johnny.
Little Johnny is being driven to see his grandmother and throws up and poops all over his best bib and tucker, and there are no clean clothes to change him into. The husband is on his mobile on a business call whilst mum drives and freaks out.
As a story, an anecdote, this will be interesting to you and the other person in the car, tops. And if it’s only you and little Johnny in the car? Yep, that leaves only you. Okay, maybe a few close friends and family who are too polite to tell you your blog story is no different from other blah blog stories.
Parent bloggers, understand this:
1) No-one cares about your kids
2) Everyone cares about an interesting story
3) An interesting story which could possibly happen to their family
4) Forget your kids per se
5) No-one cares
Your kids are adorable, you are adorable, but jump straight in and make your story adorable. And the best piece of writing advice I’ve received (especially when writing about children and family) is delete your first paragraph.
No matter how long it is or how long you’ve worked on it and love it, delete it.
Now take a look to see if pace and interest improve. With the first paragraph deleted, let’s use little Johnny again and see if we manage to capture right away a truth many parents can relate to.
I grabbed my husband’s phone and threw it to the floor of the car.
“Could you get off that bloody phone and deal with your son, please.”
“YOUR SON. He’s vomiting and crapping all over the back seat.”
“Ssh, I’m on a conference call.”
“No, I won’t shut up. Why am I always the one to clean up the mess whilst you sit there with your conference calls this and important meetings that? When are you going to get your finger from up your arse and into little Johnny’s? Yes, mate, parenting is about your finger up your child’s arse… ALL DAY.”
Even if your post doesn’t contain dialogue, a universal truth, or profanity, it can at least get to the point straight away… get to the heart of why you are bothering to publish those particular set of words. Here it is again, without dialogue:
One more second and I’m about to drag that phone from my husband’s ear. It’s always the same. I get to drive and keep my eye on Johnny from the rearview mirror, who as I look now has vomited and messed all over himself. Oh for the days when I was the one with the conference calls this and important meetings that. Days not spent knee deep in one or more of my child’s orifices.
Projectile vomiting and poo is not the interesting point of your story – kids vomit and poo. What’s the real story? And there is always one, unless your life is perfect. (Psst: no-one’s life is perfect.) If you are still wedded to your first paragraph, at least ask yourself this question: “Why am I writing this?” When you’ve answered that question, make sure it is inserted into your first paragraph.
Deleting the first paragraph (or shoving it further down a narrative) often works and is a trick I use all the time. Even when I think I’ve jumped straight into the point of my post or narrative? I go back and delete that first paragraph to see how things shape up thereafter.
It is often said no-one has time to read blog posts anymore. My belief is no-one has time to read blah blog posts anymore, so make your post people will want to read to the end by taking a red pen to your first paragraph.
Try it whilst I head back to the top of this post to…well, probably delete it.