“Oh no!” thinks Henry Green.
“I’m screwing this up.”
Henry has written his most in-depth post ever about starting a coaching business.
His blog post includes his very best tips—almost too good to give away for free. He’s also showcased other coaches, included quotes and drawn cartoons. Some might even call the post “epic.”
But doubt has crept up.
“What if nobody wants to read my post, because my opening lines are crap?”
Henry has read opening paragraphs that truly captivated him, and made him eager to read on. But now he has to be honest with himself … his own opening is not that good.
How can he change it? How can he avoid people clicking away? How can he entice people to read his precious tips?
What makes an opening paragraph irresistible?
Everyone is flitting around the web, skimming a few headlines here and peeking at a few opening lines there.
Your task as a blogger is to capture the attention of these restless eyes and engage readers so they stop scanning and start reading your content … with their full attention.
In your blog posts, you might aim to share useful tips in an entertaining way. But the online world is about more than information and entertainment. Readers also want to be comforted. They’re looking for connections, for like-minded spirits. They want to feel understood.
The most seductive opening paragraphs empathize with a reader, and make him feel less alone.
So show your reader you understand him and you’ll help him.
Shall I show you how?
Option 1: The “you” opening
This type of opening paragraph addresses the reader directly, and it often (but not always) starts with a question.
This is the easiest type of opening paragraph to write; I use it most often.
Here’s an example:
Red-cheeked, you thought your draft was complete. You felt excited. Brimming with enthusiasm. You knew it … this was going to be superb. Probably your best-ever blog post. Yay!
You poured yourself a beer, feeling elated with your success.
Any minor editing and proofreading could wait until the next day.
But, the next day … you feel disappointed. Your writing sounds bland. Your sentences seem to stutter.
What can you do?
How can you create a smooth and enjoyable reading experience? How can you make your content dazzle and dance?
Let’s explore four ways …
The example opening lines above contrast the excitement of finishing a first draft with the disappointment when reading it again the next day; it then entices readers to check out the tips in the article by promising four ways to make a drab first draft dazzle and dance.
To write a you-focused opening, picture your ideal reader in a scene. What’s bothering her? What’s going wrong? Describe this scene in your opening lines, and address the reader directly by using the word “you.”
Option 2: The story approach
My favorite story approach mimics the you-focused opening.
Instead of addressing the reader directly, describe a scene in the third person and conjure up a feeling your reader recognizes.
“Hasn’t everything been written already?”
Helen checks her Twitter stream and answers a few emails. She doesn’t feel like writing. Not yet. She googles the word “leadership.”
756 million articles. Ouch. But still … Helen knows she can help, encourage, and inspire her readers.
While sipping her green tea, she leafs through her notebook with article ideas. Nothing feels right. Everything feels bland.
She doesn’t want to write a humdrum article. She doesn’t want to dump her ideas online. She wants to write with power, passion, and pizzazz.
She wants to wake up her readers, electrify them with her words, and jump-start them to change the world.
Why write if you can’t inspire change? Why write if people only skim your subheads before clicking away? How do you choose vivid words that make readers not only remember — but also love — your ideas?
Do you recognize the despair of having to write a blog post when you feel everything has been written already?
Note how the example paragraph above uses specific details to sketch the scene; we can picture Helen switching on her PC, we hear her deep sigh, and we can sense her resistance to writing her article; we empathize with her procrastination.
The danger of the story approach is that we get too focused on telling the story. We start rambling, including too many details. When editing your opening, try to cut the number of words. For a 1,000-word post, for instance, limit your story to 150 words at most, then transition quickly to your tips.
Option 3: The “me” opening paragraph
I’ve always been nervous about using “I” and “me” in blog writing.
Wouldn’t it sound like I’m being a sissy, a silly blogger sharing her doubts? Or even worse, could it sound like I’m bragging?
To make the “me” focus work, consider it as a variation on the story approach. Instead of writing about a third person, share your own story of a problem. Make sure your readers recognize your feelings. For instance:
I used to feel the same way.
I didn’t understand why people would read my writing tips when the web is awash with writing advice from people more experienced, more knowledgeable, and more authoritative than me.
Why would anyone listen to me?
I’ve learned that mindset was flawed.
When I learned how to write well, a new world opened up. I connected with people across the world. I built a thriving blog. People started listening to my advice — and more importantly, they acted on it.
Can you make an impact with your words?
Blogging is not about writing monologues.
An engaging blogger writes like he’s having a conversation with you. You may even nod your head when he poses a question.
And just like in face-to-face conversations, it’s okay to use the words “I” and “me.”
The art of writing irresistible opening lines
You might think you’re a blogger, sharing valuable tips. You’re educating your readers.
But to write irresistible opening lines, you need to become a psychologist.
Sneak into the minds of your readers. Know exactly what they’re struggling with. Understand their feelings of frustration, worry, and despair.
Writing a good opening means persuading a reader that your post is for him—you understand him, and you’ll share your best advice to help him, guide him, and comfort him.
So, empathize with your readers.
And promise to be generous with your advice.
That’s how you write seductive opening lines.