Don’t let boring details and mind-numbing titles get in the way of a good lead
I’m a nut about first sentences.
In books. In journalism. In corporate journalism, though, great openings can be harder to find.
First sentences set a tone, convey a feeling, tell you what’s in store without telling you everything, or even anything.
They can be simple and declarative: Call me Ishmael (“Moby Dick,” Herman Melville).
They can offer great insight to come: I am an invisible man (“Invisible Man,” Ralph Ellison).
They can be playful and teasing: All this happened, more or less (“Slaughterhouse Five,” Kurt Vonnegut).
They can even get us all hot and bothered: Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins (“Lolita,” Vladimir Nabokov).
Can you name the source of this great opening line? All children, except one, grow up. (The answer is at the end of this column.)
Journalism offers wonderful opportunities for opening lines. A friend of mine who works for the Philadelphia Inquirer sent me story not long ago. He started it this way:
Death came to Donora, a small steel town in western Pennsylvania, in the form of a black fog.
Kind of makes you want to find out what’s next, doesn’t it?