In the first part of this series, I examined how a striking contrast or an important statistics can be used to write a gripping introduction to an essay. While there can be one thousand and one methods of scribbling a compelling opening to your essay entry or article, the ones presented here are tested-and-trusted techniques that can make readers forego eating and drinking, wrestle or neglect sleep, omit to read their text messages or pick their calls just that they may keep following your line of argument and presentation.
I recall resisting the impulse to take some minutes’ break off an article I was reading to attend to my burning pot of rice! You wonder if I couldn’t have taken the rice off the cooker and resume the reading? Of course I could, but I anxiously wanted to find out what happens next, and I wouldn’t postpone that for even a minute! That sounds foolish, but it only shows how magical some writers – and how endearing their pieces – can get.
Aside the methods discussed in the first part, other sure ways to notch up the interest for your readers right from the first few sentences are examined below.
1. Use a mind-boggling question which makes your reader think that without finding out the answer (I mean your own answer) he’d be the most ignorant man on planet earth. The question might be shocking, it could be humorous, but ensure you would, if you were the reader, want to find the answer to it. Find examples below:
Did you know that BBC correspondent, Jane Standley reported the attack of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001 some twenty-seven minutes before the incident actually happened? Yes! It’s incredulous but that’s the reality – the bitter truth the U.S. and its allies would rather you never knew!
(NB: notice how the question raised here poses a pointed challenge to the mainstream explanation of, and belief about, the 9/11).
B. Nigeria’s Abysmal Olympics Performance
Has anyone come to think of it, that if the games at the Olympics had been kidnapping for ransom, systematic embezzlement of public funds, rigging of election with unmistakable mathematical precision and detonation of bombs on hapless masses, Nigeria would certainly have won the most gold medals, instead of the zinc, copper and aluminium medals we bagged?
(NB: comically, the opening query mocks the woeful performance exhibited by the Nigerian team at the 2012 Olympics. But more important is how the disgraceful rot in public life has been satirized).
2. Use a weird assertion that isn’t just outrageous, but also seemingly biased, so that your reader wants to prove you wrong. Of course he has to read on if he must be able to rubbish your claim. His curiosity is aroused, he’s suspicious of the sincerity of your intent and that’s a plus for you: he must read your “prejudiced piece”. Let’s see some examples:
A. Leadership Problems in Africa
Africa has long been saddled with poor, even malevolent, leadership: predatory kleptocrats, military-installed autocrats, economic illiterates, and puffed-up posturers. By far the most egregious examples come from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (sic), and Zimbabwe — countries that have been run into the ground despite their abundant natural resources. But these cases are by no means unrepresentative: by some measures, 90 percent of sub-Saharan African nations have experienced despotic rule in the last three decades.
(Source: “Strengthening African Leadership”, an article published in “Foreign Affairs” in 2004 by Professor Robert Rotberg, the leading African politics professor at the Harvard Kennedy School).
B. Inefficiencies of President Jonathan
If expertise at telling lies, clueless approach to governance and the love to passionately embrace controversies were the three hallmarks of success, the administration of President Jonathan would obviously be nothing short of being impressive.
(NB: the claims of the writer appear jaundiced and lopsided. The opening suggests the writer is an ardent, perhaps sponsored, adversary of the president, and that leads the reader to want to find out if the claims can be justified).
This piece is the second part of the series. If you haven’t read the first part, you can read it here and please check back for the third part.