How to Begin a Nonfiction Article

Much has been written on the subject of how to begin an article (the lead). I have long been a fan of the following short piece about nonfiction leads, and I’ve turned to it many times when I had trouble beginning a writing project.  I first found this bit years ago in a small publication called “The Writer’s Survival Guide,” published by the Writer Magazine.

These words were written by Arthur Plotnik, who has also written scores of magazines articles, columns and books. One of his latest books is Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language & Style (Random House Reference).

Here’s his take on the subject of writing nonfiction leads:

“….Inventive writers have devised dozens of approaches, but much of their work falls within six of (editor Robert L.) Baker’s ways to open a story: someone’s remark, an intriguing question, a striking or startling statement, descriptive stage-setting, storytelling narrative, and a one-line attention-getter called a ‘capsule’ (as in crime writer Edna Buchanan’s lead: “Gary Robinson died hungry.”).

If you ever have trouble getting started writing a nonfiction article, you might zero in on one of these six approaches.  Your problem just may be solved.

© 2009 by Laverne Daley

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