I’ve always found introductions to be the most difficult part of writing, and I’m sure quite a few people would agree with me. I find it easier when writing fiction. I usually start in media res with an especially interesting first sentence. I’m a firm believer in the idea that, especially for free short stories, you need to hook the reader pretty quickly, whether that be through mystery, sex, or some other hook.
Where I have real difficulty is with writing non-fiction. You can’t really begin in the middle of an essay, unless you want to confuse everyone. A pattern I eventually settled on is one I got from Plutarch. In his Lives, he usually opens each life with an anecdote that he uses to segue into his main topic. I like this approach for a few reasons. One, I love anecdotes, and this gives me a chance to share and use some of my favorites. Two, it can connect your topic to a wider world. Three, it’s extremely flexible. It’s pretty hard to find topics that you can’t use this for.
Right now, I’m using this method for a historical biography I’m working on. My only problem is that I’m not sure about the quality of the opening anecdote. I have a few other options, so I’m contemplating switching over to one of them. I guess I’ll run it by some friends and see what they think of the introduction, and if they like it, I’ll keep it, which brings me to a last benefit of this system: it’s modular. Since the introductory anecdote isn’t directly tied into the rest of the text, it can easily changed or replaced without any loss of quality or information.
How do you go about introductions? Do you have a system or a preference?