This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.
I was scared while writing the first paragraph of my Gears of War cover story. Not because I was calling one of the most famous game designers on the planet a dick — I was worried my editorial director would not approve of my playground vocabulary.
I consulted Crispin Boyer, the former senior editor of Electronic Gaming Monthly and a very good buddy of mine. He always kills it when it comes to penning bad-ass story introductions, and I knew he'd tell me whether I had a good one or not. He loved it, telling me he wanted to read more, so I knew I had a winner.
My editorial director approved as well, and thus, my favorite personal first-liner was born.
That's the key: You have to write a good intro. You have to make a reader want to read more. Otherwise, no one will ever get to the meat of your story.
In this edition of Bitmob Writing Tips, I offer some quick dos and don'ts for jump-starting your articles. And at the end of this post, I'm giving away a free code to a downloadable game for someone here to write about. Hopefully, he'll come up with a bad-ass intro.
Do: Catch your readers' attention in the first few lines, of course.
Don't: Start with boring history lessons. I can't stand it when an author spends the first few lines in an article giving his readers yawn-worthy background info to get them all caught up. You don't have to write things in chronological order! Save the "catching up" for later in the story, and don't risk putting anyone to sleep right at the start — you never know if that's all old news to them.
For example, which of these make a better first line in a feature? Which would make you want to read further?
- Cliff Bleszinski clearly likes being a dick.
- Gears of War is a third-person shooter coming out on the Xbox 360.
Do: Keep your intros concise. If your first paragraph is a 500-worder, you've already lost half your audience.
Don't: Ramble. Even if you have an interesting anecdote to start the story with, stay on point.
Do: Let your readers know within the first few lines what your post is about. It's amazing how many writers really never get to a thesis until way far into the body text.
Don't: Rely on your headline to be your intro. A lot of times, a reader may forget it as he dives into an article. Don't assume he remembers whatever details you put in that headline.
Do: Provide a reason to keep reading. It's not just enough to have a strong intro. A reader can take off at any moment, so keep him engaged to the end.
Want to test out our Writing Tips? How about you write about this new iOS game, Furmins? It's from Housemarque, the makers of Super Stardust HD, Outland, and Dead Nation. Its PR handlers gave us a code to give to one of our community writers, so it's free to one of you. Just comment below and let us know you'd like to cover it for us. We'll pick a winner at random later this week.