Written by: Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin
You have most likely read engaging, page-turning articles before and marvelled at, or be intimidated by, the exceptional genius and language-mastery expertise with which the writer crafted the piece. You might have taken the essayist for a wizard – one whose talent and skills you do not possess and may never develop – but wait a while: you might be mistaken! What if I tell you the gimmicks behind such fantastic introductory pieces can be learnt, and mastered, too? What if you could be taught the practical, step-by-step secrets to write as good as, nay, better than that? Learning to write such opening attention-grabbers is possible. It always has been; always will be, and below is how.
The essence of the introduction is to provide background information. Your motive is to convince the reader that the piece is worth his precious and limited time. If you cannot make him feel he would be missing a lot by omitting to read on, then your introduction isn’t effective. Your opening statement should be enthralling; it should be capable of arresting the interest of the reader. The first paragraph is the most important paragraph of any type of writing because most readers stop if the first paragraph does not grab their interests. There are a number of ways in which you can achieve this:
Use a striking contrast that leaves your reader’s eyes glued to your write-up. This entails presenting facts that conspicuously contradict one another; facts your readers or any sane person at that would believe shouldn’t co-exist. Consider these suggested opening sentences for different issues in Nigeria:
Poverty: Although Nigeria is the top exporter of crude oil in West Africa and the kitchen allowance of the presidency in the 2012 budget signed into law on March 15, 2012 is a staggering N1 billion Naira, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) found in January, 2012 that 112 million Nigerians constituting 61.9% live on less than 1 dollar (about N155) per day.
(NB: the abundant wealth of the nation and the staggering feeding allowance of the presidency are sharply compared with the abject penury of the teeming population).
Insecurity: In the 2012 budget signed into law on the 15th day of March, 2012, a whopping 25% of the planned spendings of government is allocated to security; yet, terrorism, insecurity, wanton wastage of lives and indiscriminate spillage of innocent blood are commonplace.
(NB: the incredibly-high sums invested in security makes a distinctive contradistinction with the gross escalation of criminal acts).
Use an important statistics that’s so outrageous and incredible as to turn your reader into a doubting Thomas. Hook him with a feeling of “Wow! I never knew the situation’s that bad!” But this is not a license for you to make a bogus claim! So, work this out only with facts and figures. For instance:
Polio: In 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that northern Nigeria is the largest reservoir of the dreaded bone-crippling disease, polio in the world.
Poverty: The World Health Organization (WHO) in its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems declared that extreme poverty is a behavioural disease, showing that the 112 million Nigerians who live on less than a dollar each day are ‘insane’.
This piece is part of a series. You can find the second part here.
*Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin is a professional Nigerian freelance writer, writing tutor and the CEO of Naija Writers’ Coach. He blogs at www.NaijaWritersCoach.wordpress.com. You can find him on Facebook via www.facebook.com/oxygen.mat or follow him on Twitter via @Oxygenmat
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