“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
A good writer grabs the attention of the reader at the beginning of the story. This holds true for advertising, fiction writing, reporting, letters or anything else that involves the written word. A reader must be drawn in and want to read more from their first look at your first words or they’re already lost to you.
Great books begin with a memorable first sentence. This is the what sets the tone for the rest of the story — your inspiration, crystallized. The first line can be a distant look or a close-up, but it encapsulates everything that the story is about. Ads are stories too, and work the same way.
The design team builds the story of an ad with pictures and fonts and colors, using images to evoke emotions and tell a story through visuals. I just get a few words. So, I have to make them count. I have to be able to find those perfect words and tell my client’s story in a fresh way.
I have to engage my reader at a glance with an intriguing headline. That headline has to make them want to know more about what makes my client’s product or service special. Then I have to tell the whole story to my reader, and make them want to read through to the end and learn more about what my client has to offer.
From start to finish, you have to get the most mileage out of the least amount of words. The first line of any story is the key point at which the writer engages the interest of the reader or fails entirely. If I can start with a good beginning to my ad’s story, then I can be sure my reader will see it through to the end.
5 Great First Lines of Stories
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. — Stephen King, The Gunslinger
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. — Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. —Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
Amy Gardner McNeal is a writer and editor from Baltimore, MD. A voracious reader and dedicated student of history, her passion for the written word is sometimes expressed in overly elaborate verbiage. Amy has worked as a freelance reporter for newspapers, websites and magazines, including The Washington Post and CBS News, as grant writer for nonprofits and as a freelance writing and marketing “jack of all trades” for clients in law, finance, technology and more. She lives in Bowie, MD, with her husband, Gerard, 3 adorable cats and lots of medievalia.