Writing blog introductions: Challenges

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.

Needle in the haystack
Needle in the haystack (Photo credit: ScaarAT)

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!

Speed dating
Purpose 1 is like speed dating. Arrrgh!  (Photo credit: ☺ Lee J Haywood)

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.

English: photographic portrait of Brad Pitt fr...
Don’t bring the clever, witty friend to the first date.

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?

Vitamin Pill Chan Plush Key Chain (Pink)

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.

Desperate Dan
Desperate Dan (Photo credit: Màrtainn)

So what is a blogger to do? How is a blogger to start a blog?

Advertisements

27 thoughts on “Writing blog introductions: Challenges”

  1. Hi – I think that voice is the most important element throughout a post, but especially at the beginning. If you haven’t got a distinctive voice that sets a comfortable tone, you can’t hope to get regular followers. The blogger is a virtual friend, in a way, and who wants a friend w/out a distinctive personality? I have to say that my title today is probably the best I’ll ever come up with: “Rubber Ducky Exposes CIA Sexual Harassment.” I think I title-peaked after less than a month of blogging – all downhill from here : -)

    Like

  2. Love this post, you are so right, it’s very important how you present your very first one. 🙂 I think the best was is to just be You. Whatevere that means. Because if you are real you, there will be no confusion later. 😉

    Like

  3. If there’s anything a new WordPress blogger needs, it’s a like on her first ever post from a blogger of your caliber. Thank you for that little pat in the back.

    I’ve come across numerous articles explaining the importance of immediately capturing a reader’s attention with the opening paragraph, much like Renee Zellweger’s “You got me at hello” in Jerry Maguire (oops … cheesy, eh?). Well, like anything – science or art or in between – it’s easier said than done. In my case, I think and write. If my first paragraph ever caught anyone’s attention, nobody’s saying. 🙂

    Like

  4. Thanks for visiting Poet’s Paddock and liking Sonnet XVIII. Your feedback is appreciated … And you are right, there’s nothing worse as a writer than to sound desperate for an audience. It’s a real turn off. … Thanks for sharing … Be well and see you anon at Poet’s Paddock … Dorothy and Shakespeare 🙂

    Like

  5. I admit that the screen taunts me. I want the beginning to be engaging. But I also tend to write a thousand (or two, or three) words because I want to create an environment for my stories. I can’t assume that people know who I’m talking about because I’m creating these characters as I go. The best I can do is add a few more pictures to break up the text so the massive chunk of text isn’t so intimidating. I too fear the, “hook ’em and keep ’em hooked!” concern. If only I could use bullet points in stories… sigh.

    Like

  6. I think the title of any blog is so important, like a newspaper headline. If it sounds interesting, controversial, topical, or just plain weird or different then I for one will likely look at it, if it sounds boring ( to me) I wont unless its someone I am already following. Its just not possible to write a killer blog every day but a good well thought-out blog title should certainly help.

    Like

  7. Thanks for coming over and liking my blog. I’m glad you did, because I’ve definitely picked up some helpful tips from your article and others’ comments which will hopefully help me in the future. Thanks! 🙂

    Like

  8. I don’t do very well if I try to grab attention in the first paragraph. For some reason my attempts just feel like desperate pleas for love (I AM a child of divorce, I can’t help it).

    But with my blog, I try to write for myself, really – something to amuse Future-Me if she gets bored. Since having that goal in mind, I’ve found it much easier to write – and this includes keeping a balance across the entire post. Wouldn’t want Future-Me to get a fright!

    Like

  9. I’ve made the mistake of starting my blog with a funny cartoon or picture many times. It surprises me that I didn’t learn from it. You do have an interesting point when you say that the rest of the blog post has to follow through. It cannot lose the zing promised by the introduction. Also, due to the highly nebulous nature of the blogosphere, there’s no way to know if a minor tweak you did to an introduction or a change in pace of your narration made any global change at all.
    Nice thought-provoking post!

    Like

  10. Really good points here. Just starting out, I’ve kept it simple….roll with it! It’s how I wrote my fiction too. Need to go back and tweak but usually it’s better if I don’t over-think it! (I do put effort in the “grasping the reader” but don’t focus on getting the “second date” ; )

    Like

  11. I like the mantra a lot of fiction authors use for writing punchy scenes: “in late, out early”. Whenever I re-read the first draft of my new blog posts I nearly always find that the best first line is at the start of my second paragraph. Nine times out of ten I will scrap the first paragraph and jump straight into the action in paragraph two.

    I think it takes me a few lines to feel my way into a new post and so the first paragraph I write tends to be very dry. What I really want to start with is a relevant hook or metaphor that immediately introduces the subject of your post in a distinctive way. This gives your post a unique angle that can grab the attention of readers and helps you shape the rest of the post so that it stays internally consistent and interesting.

    Chances are, even if it’s not in your second paragraph, you’ll have included a good metaphor or quote or anecdote somewhere in your post that neatly sums up the main idea of the article. Don’t bury it – lead with it.

    And guess what, I did the exact same thing with this comment – my first line actually started as the lead off sentence of my second paragraph.

    Like

  12. Nice thoughts. In your opinion, should blogs contain images to attract readers? The vast majority of my blogs are informational regarding writing and collecting. I’ve heard opinions on both sides. I tend to believe if blogs provide information people need, images aren’t required. Aside from that, Kind of hard to find images relating to writing styles and mechanics.

    Like

    1. That’s a tough question. Since blogs do have the option, I like at least one image. It helps me remember the piece somehow. But I don’t think they are necessary and can prove a hindrance if unnecessary but a lot of people would disagree with me. Yes, hard to find images on style and mechanics except the standard pen on paper image! Thanks for reading.

      Like

Comments welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s