I must confess that amongst different kinds of writings, the introduction to blogs have posed some very special challenges. A blogger has to achieve a myriad different goals and effects within those first few lines. Otherwise, s/he gets shoved into oblivion without a second glance. Or a second chance.
The pool is big. It’s not like people are reading entertaining blogs with a specific purpose in mind. When they are, there are a hundred other blogs providing fun or food for thought. (And I’m talking about reflective/ speculative/ argumentative blogs here, not the blogs that supply useful information or DIY stuff.) Even when the purpose is clear, as in those DIY blogs, there is so much competition!
A blog introduction has to achieve two purposes which seem to be at odds.
Purpose 1 is to grasp the reader’s attention in any way possible, be it through surprise, shock, humour or any other means much like an advertisement. Reading blogs is a semi-casual process people indulge in when they have a few minutes. Stop ’em scrolling and get ’em reading is a motto to follow here! Whew!
Purpose 2 is to hold the reader’s attention after drawing ’em in so that they read on till the end much like any other longer piece of work. So if you’ve raised expectations here for shock value (to grab attention) that you’re not going to meet, this is likely the end of the road. No hope of that second date.
If you’re going to use a super witty cartoon or a great poetic quote right at the beginning and your own style is a hundred times more bland or prosaic than the writer you quoted, you’re going to come off looking much worse than you’d look standing by yourself.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the first few lines have to bear the burden of usual introductory material. Which means they have to provide the basic point of the rest of the piece, much like a thesis but in a much more palatable fashion.
You struggle with all this and write a good intro. But is that a problem too?
If you’re at your funniest in the first line, won’t you appear anticlimactic in the rest of the piece?
If you’ve summarized all the good points in the first three lines, what new ideas will you have left in the rest?
Your idea is serious. How could a serious thought be made to look palatable?
You might say just sugar coat the pill but that is very hard. Since most blogs are around 500 to 1000 words, there is little scope for development or reversal of expectations. Now this means if you start with the sugar coat, people think it’s sugar all the way.If you start with the bitter part, most poeple are not in the mood for serious thought in 500 words, so they will scroll on. People’s moods are not likely to change so fast between the introduction and the next few hundred lines.
The tricky part is that most readers will assess you within those first few lines. So the quality of those lines have to be good. Some readers will not read beyond the beginning. When your blog appears in feeds, shares and a myriad other places, those are the words that people will associate with you.
You will also do the same to yourself. You’ll place the “more” tag on your own blog so that only the first few lines will be visible on the home page in the future.
I’ve seen blogs start with lines like “Stop! Don’t scroll further!” No!
You must not appear desperate for attention in the introduction. Nothing so off-putting during a casual browsing session as desperation.
So what is a blogger to do? How is a blogger to start a blog?