I’m asked this question a lot. It’s an important question to consider because if you put your reader to sleep in the first few sentences, well…
So how do you make your first paragraph interesting?
Easy. Grab the reader’s attention. Entice him into wanting to read more. Make her excited enough to read beyond your first few sentences.
You just have to know three solid writing techniques, then choose the one that’s best for you.
1. Ask a Question.
“Why did I quit the football team?”
Asking a question grabs the reader’s attention. Why?
Because when you ask a question, the reader will want to know the answer. (We’re all curious creatures, after all.) The reader wants to keep reading to see how it all turns out. (Hooray!)
Let’s take the example I gave you, “Why did I quit the football team?” This question works because:
- The question itself is interesting.
- The writer hints at only part of his story (which is sometimes called a “tease”).
- By not revealing why he quit, the writer builds anticipation for the story he’s about to tell.
When you ask a question, you grab the reader’s attention. You entice the reader into wanting to read more. It can be an interesting and effective way to begin your college essay.
2. Start With an Intriguing Statement.
“I’m done giving up.”
“I hate taking showers.”
What do you think about these statements? Do you want to know why the student stopped giving up (or why he gave up in the first place)? And what kind of person hates to take showers anyway????
Just like starting your essay with a question, an intriguing statement works because:
- The statement itself is interesting.
- It tells the reader only part of the story.
- It builds anticipation for the story to come.
- It grabs the reader’s interest, and makes the reader want to keep reading to find out more.
2. Start Where Your Action or Conflict Begins.
“My body tenses, the anticipation prying doubts from my head, forcing me to tighten my grip and lock my jaw in preparation.”
“I plant my Giant Slalom poles into the snow and push my shivering body through the starting gate.”
Starting with your action or conflict is a super way to start your essay.
It works especially well when you’re telling a story.
But I’ll tell you something — many students make a mistake. They start writing their stories from the beginning — at the first day of school, when they get into the car to drive to a friend’s house, or when they walk in the doors for the robotics contest.
Nothing interesting is happening yet.
When you start your story at the beginning, that’s like reading a fairy tale that starts at “Once upon a time.” You’re forced to wade through the descriptions of the deep, dark woods and the creatures that live there before you get to the interesting stuff — when Little Red Riding Hood meets the wolf, or the witch shoves Hansel into her oven.
Shove Hansel into the oven right away — start where the action begins. (Hint – that’s usually somewhere in the middle of your story.)
Here’s a Before and After Example:
Before (no action is happening): “I spent my summer vacation interning in the emergency room of a hospital in Seattle.”
What’s wrong with this example? There’s no action. There’s no interest. The writer doesn’t engage his reader. He doesn’t give the reader any reason to want to see what happens next.
After (starting with action): “The bloody gurney wheeled past me. I closed my eyes and prayed for the strength not to pass out.”
Fantastic! The student located the start of the action in his story and rewrote his introduction. Now, the reader is plunged into the middle of what’s happening. There is both physical action (a rolling cart), and there’s mental conflict. (He’s trying hard not to faint.) The student paints a vivid picture of being in the E.R. Any reader would want to see what happens next.
Tip: If you’re not sure where your action begins, write down your story from the beginning to the end, then take a look at what you’ve written. Find the place something interesting starts to happen, and begin your essay there. It’s often several paragraphs after the beginning.
Grab your reader’s attention right away.
And that’s a great way to write an interesting essay.