Spark Creativity with Fresh Story Starters

Posted on Jan 13, 2015


You’ve got the interview. Now it’s time to write. But how do you start? The strength of a lead makes (or breaks) a story. Hook readers with four fresh lead styles.

Set the Scene

An explanatory lead paints a picture of a person, place or group. What images, sounds and smells struck you during the interview? Use two to four paragraphs to create a sense of place.

Examples:

The outlaw tore out of the bank and leapt onto a waiting horse. With a glance over his shoulder, he raced from town into the sagebrush hills. Within minutes, a posse gathered and galloped after him, dust rising from the furious pace. —From Wasco County Sheriff’s Posse by Susan Hess, Northern Wasco PUD, Oregon

Dinner Belle, a Jersey/Holstein cross, clamors into her stanchion, eager to munch grain and be milked at the Old Almo Creamery south of town. —From Hometown Dairy by Dianna Troyer, Raft River, Idaho 

Anecdotal or Narrative

Some topics can be hard for readers to grasp. An anecdote provides a visual to hold onto while reading a story. Narrative leads use a quote or two to set the scene.

Example:

It is a good thing to be able to take a bad situation and turn it around to make a positive difference. That is what the Clatskanie People’s Utility District did when they decided to remove some trees that were threatening the Rainier Substation, and cut them up into firewood to help local families.—From Delivering Hope by Sarah Rossi, Clatskanie PUD, Oregon

Surprising Statistics or Trend

Do you have a fact that would startle readers? Use statistics to grab attention.

Example:

On a recent weekday, more than 40 mud-splattered cars and trucks are scattered around the Green Energy worksite off Kaumuaali`i Highway. At least twice that many workers are on the job. —From Renewable Energy as a Job Creator by Jim Kelly, Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative, Hawaii 

Contrast

Sometimes the best way to hook a reader is to share a before and after image or show a stark contrast. The rest of the story explains the change.

Examples:

A love of kayaking brought Brian Shaw to Hood River County. These days, it’s sauerkraut that floats his boat. —From A Bank of Brine Barrels by Stu Watson, Hood River, Oregon

When Joshua Cope signed his U.S. Army service contract, he never could have predicted the explosion that would claim his legs. —From Where Heroes Gather by Liesel Schmidt, Gulf Coast Electric Co-op, Florida

Got your lead? Great. Don’t forget to follow it with a “nut” graph: a paragraph that ties the lead into the larger scope of the story. Let the creative sparks fly!

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  1. Pack Your Lede with Promise - Ruralite Services is now Pioneer Utility Resources - […] more story-starter tips? This gem from our archives shares four different ways you can tempt readers to dive into…

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