As discussed in our Writing Guidelines, your opening paragraph needs to:

  • Reiterate the question posed in your headline and hint at the answer
  • Set the tone
  • Make it clear who you’re writing for
  • Get to the point, be snappy, and concise
  • Invite your reader to keep reading

That’s a lot to pack into a few sentences, so how do you get all of that in there?

Why Your First Paragraph Matters More Than You Think

Your first few paragraphs are important in capturing your reader’s attention and getting them to stick around for what you have to say. According to Slate, 38% of readers don’t scroll. That means a reader got to the opening paragraph and “bounced”, or clicked away from the article. A simple and direct introduction that conveys the tone, style, and an idea of the content will improve your chances at getting your reader to stick around for longer.

Good introductions boost search engine ranking

Opening paragraphs can be a useful method of getting your article a better spot on search engine rankings. This means that when someone searches the internet for something related to the topic of your article, the search engine, like Google or Bing, will place your article higher on the list, making it easier for people to find it.

Without going into the deep nitty-gritty of how it works, Google and other search engines use algorithms and “bots” that scan articles. The bots then use this information to rank the articles according to how useful it thinks it will be to the person doing the search. Search engines update this algorithm regularly to ensure the best results for their users.

To save time on scanning the bazillions of web pages in the world, these bots put some emphasis on an article’s first paragraph to make a lot of its decision-making about an article’s usefulness. The bots scan for things like:

  • Relevance
  • Quality and readability
  • Uniqueness (ie that it isn’t plagiarized and/or doesn’t contain large blocks of text from other sources)

As a writer, you’re not writing for bots to scan, but you are writing for people to read your article. Fortunately, what bots are looking for is exactly what your readers are looking too. This means that your introduction needs to make it clear from the get-go that the rest of the piece is relevant to the topic, reads clearly, and isn’t plagiarized from anywhere else.

Ingredients For Great Introductions

Whatever the topic, a great opening paragraph goes a long way. Here are a few ingredients that will help you craft a great introduction to your FANDOM article.

Know your audience

This isn’t the first time you’ll have read this, and it surely won’t be the last – knowing your audience is key to creating a great introduction to your article. Outside of the broad strokes of our general audience being in their teens, pop culture savvy, and not afraid to tell it like it is, think about the type of person you ideally want to read your article. This might mean the amount of knowledge on the topic they’ll likely have, their other interests and fandoms, or anything else you might find useful in imagining who you’re writing for.

Let’s look at an example. FANDOM UK’s Managing Editor, Chris Tilly wrote A Guide to the Secret Organization That Connects ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Kong: Skull Island’. This is his opening paragraph:

“If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have spotted the same secret organization popping up in both Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island. In their quest to find out everything they can about the Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms (aka MUTOs), members of Monarch help drive the narrative in both movies. But who are they? What do they represent? Is Monarch a force for good? And how does the company fit into the forthcoming sequels? Fandom investigates…”

From this short paragraph, we can tell that Chris’ target audience are likely to be:

  1. People who have seen both Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island
  2. People with a decent amount of knowledge of both Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island
  3. Monster movie fans

This introduction does a great job of defining its audience. In this first paragraph, Chris speaks directly to his target group, but also doesn’t exclude people on the fringes of this audience, who, for example, may have only seen Godzilla (2014).

“It’s gotta start with emotion”

When I reached out to the FANDOM team to ask what advice they would give writers about crafting your all-important opening lines, our Director of Social Media, Kristy Ellington said, “it’s gotta start with emotion.” As mentioned in the Writing Guidelines, making your reader feel something is an important step towards creating a successful FANDOM article. But that means that you need to open with your perspective and an emotional hook to engage your reader.

Let’s take FANDOM Contributor Danielle Ryan’s article ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Our American Dystopia as an example.

“2017 is here, and dystopia weighs heavy on the minds of many. The Women’s March on Washington had an unexpectedly high turnout despite inclement weather. Civil rights activists around the world are standing up to say “no” to the current establishment. These activists fear that the new American president will undo all of the progress we’ve made in basic human rights. It’s terrifying, but the whole ordeal sounds like something straight out of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.”
This introduction uses many very emotive words and phrases throughout that quickly convey Danielle’s personal feelings and allowing the reader to get drawn in. Take a look at emotionally-charged words and phrases like “dystopia weighs heavy”, “fear”, “basic human rights”, “terrifying”, and “ordeal”. The reader is invited to an immediate emotional response, and whether they agree or disagree with the writer’s perspective, there is a lot of feeling being conveyed.

Lint-free and relevant

Your introduction needs to be completely free of fluff. How do you make your first paragraph lint-free?

  • Get to the point fast
  • Don’t beat around the bush
  • Don’t bog it down with unnecessary background or backstory
  • Reiterate the question posed in the headline
  • Always, always mention your topic – the sooner the better. That means, if you’re talking about a specific game, movie, TV show, comic book, or anything else, mention that title in the first few sentences.

"Grab them with the first sentence"
- Bob Mackey, FANDOM Games Editor
Let’s look back at Chris Tilly’s article A Guide to the Secret Organization That Connects ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Kong: Skull Island’. His first sentence is:
“If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have spotted the same secret organization popping up in both Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island.”
See how he re-words the question posed in the headline and mentions the two movies the article is discussing? He does this quickly, efficiently, and using natural language. Nothing about this sounds forced and it immediately sets the scene.

Now, while Billy Arrowsmith’s 5 All-Male Remakes We’d Like to See introduction is quite a bit longer, his opening sentence still rephrases the question, frames the controversy, and mentions the movie that inspired the article.

“There’s been a LOT of controversy lately over the upcoming all-female reboot of Ghostbusters.”
Many new writers feel that the first paragraph needs to contain all the information and background to your topic. However, all this does is get in the way of introducing the topic.

Party time, excellent

Imagine yourself at a party meeting someone for the first time. Your headline is like saying “Hi! My name is So-and-So, how are you?” If the person is interested in what you’ve got to say so far, they will respond by introducing themselves. This is akin to your reader clicking on your article. Now the conversation begins.

You’re not going to start telling the person about the day you were born, the name of your third-grade teacher, and all of the details of your life that lead you to this party. You might, on the other hand, start with a broad open question that invites more detailed information. This is what your opening paragraph needs to do – invite your party guest/reader to a conversation about something you both have interest in.

Context is your friend

“Make it shorter. Get to your hook by the end of the first paragraph. But also give proper context” - Henry Gilbert, FANDOM Senior Games Editor
Your introduction should frame your article and properly set your reader’s expectations. Much in the way you set the tone using emotive language, you also need to give context. While your reader doesn’t need the full background of your topic, framing it in context helps them understand where this article is coming from so they know where it’s going.

Looking at Danielle Ryan’s introduction to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Our American Dystopia, she places the historical context at the forefront as this informs how she goes about answering the question posed in the headline. The advantage to this is that the context helps readers who may not know The Handmaid’s Tale to immediately understand the “dystopia” referred to in the headline.

Bringing it All Together

Having learned that your introduction needs to:

  • Have a clear and defined audience
  • Use emotive language
  • Get to the point
  • Be relevant
  • Give proper context
  • Reiterate the question posed in your headline and hint at the answer
  • Set the tone
  • Invite your reader to keep reading

Let’s now pull apart the first paragraph of Fan Contributor Bob Aquavia’s article Is ‘The Blacklist: Redemption’ as Good as ‘The Blacklist’?

“Spinoff! Is there any word more thrilling to the human soul? Simpsons references notwithstanding, the makers of The Blacklist hope so. This past week had the first spinoff of Raymond Reddington’s universe with The Blacklist: Redemption. The new addition is temporarily replacing The Blacklist on the schedule for its eight-episode first season, with the original show returning after its run. So far it seems Redemption will be able to match wits with the original series, but there are still some questions for the long run.”
Bob’s audience looks to be:

  1. Regular viewers of The Blacklist
  2. Less aware of The Blacklist: Redemption
  3. A little older than FANDOM's general teenage audience
  4. More mainstream-leaning

The first two lines start with a somewhat sarcastic and humorous tone “Spinoff! Is there any word more thrilling to the human soul?”. This does double duty of leading with emotional language while also setting an appropriate tone.

The introduction runs at 85 words long – enough to convey all the relevant and appropriate information without going overboard.

Bob puts The Blacklist: Redemption into context with The Blacklist, how the two shows are linked, and other useful information that helps the reader frame what the deal is with this show.

He also clearly reiterates the question posed in the headline and teases at answering the question without giving too much away, thereby enticing the audience to continue reading.

See Also

Fandom News and Stories How to Write Headlines

Fandom News and Stories Writing Guidelines

Fandom News and Stories Style Guidelines