Show, don’t just tell, in the lead
I was training a group of magazine writers recently, when one brave soul, Marty, shared his lead:
“Hmmm …,” I said, “Exotic places, huh? Where are some of most the exotic places where you’ve built models?”
“On a battleship during a storm,” he answered. “In a tent in Saudi Arabia. Under my blanket as a kid when I was supposed to be doing my homework.”
“Marty,” I said, “that’s your lead.”
Perhaps nothing is harder about writing a feature-style story than showing in the lead and telling in the nut graph. Illustrate, then explain. Most writers do the reverse.
Show, don’t tell.
So don’t lead like this (all of these examples come from actual executive speeches):
For gosh sakes, don’t tell me it’s fascinating. Fascinate me!
‘Paint it for them.’
Just ask Rene J. Cappon, author, Associated Press Guide to Newswriting:
Or Lawrence Ragan, late founder of Ragan Communications:
Or David A. Fryxell, former editor of Writer’s Digest:
‘No ideas but in things.’
Abstract leads focus on ideas. But, as William Carlos Williams counseled, readers understand “no ideas but in things.” The communicator’s job, then, is to turn ideas into things.
Learn about other lead approaches to avoid.