All too often, it can be hard to know where to begin when writing about your outdoor adventures, experiences or reflections. You may have a clear vision for the flow, details and ending, and yet the first few sentences elude you.
There is no one way to begin a story, but if you want to hook your readers and reel them into your story, you need to cast with an effective opening. Let’s explore a few of the techniques we can employ as outdoor storytellers to catch and engage our audience.
Start in Action
Think of the opener of your story like a trailer for a movie; it needs to grab the audience’s attention and draw them in so they want more. Movie trailers often show a snapshot of the action to accomplish this. It teases the audience and gives them an expectation that there’s more, drawing them into the piece so they become invested in the narrative that leads them there.
Example: The crisp air stung my cheeks and bit at my nose as the snowy winds whipped around my frost covered face. My partner called from above, “The route is clear, come on up!” I shook the chill from my joints and reached for my ice axe, preparing for the first swing of the morning.
It was my first time in the Alps—somewhere I’d never imagined I’d be. Growing up …
In the example, notice that the scene is set and the action is taking place: mountaineering in the Alps. Details are slipped in to offer context: it’s cold, there’s more than one person, it’s morning. Details like this help bring the reader into the narrative and gives them something to look forward to, teasing them with an exciting and challenging climb story before reeling back to the past for exposition.
This type of writing hook is especially good for more action-driven stories, where the narrative focuses heavily on outdoor experiences by setting an adventurous tone.
Present Your “I believe …” Statement
While starting with a traditional introduction isn’t always the best choice, opening with your beliefs or convictions can be more compelling. Think about the “why” behind your story. Ask yourself what core message you want to convey to your readers and start there.
Similar to an essay you’d write for school, it creates a thesis for your piece and opens the door for you to support it though storytelling. What you write doesn’t have to read like an academic paper, but it gives the reader an understanding of the lens you’re writing from and invites them to learn through your perspectives and experiences.
Example: Everyone deserves to enjoy the outdoors. It’s core to who we are as people, and enriching to our understanding of the world around us.
Note that the example jumps right into the statement without starting with “I believe …” Sharing your thesis this way helps the piece more unique to you and your voice, without feeling like it follows a strict formula.
This type of hook is well-suited for personal essays or reflections, where you’re looking back on your relationship to the outdoors or specific pursuits and drawing a deeper meaning from them.
Offer a Compelling Fact or Statistic
A favorite in journalism, a compelling fact or statistic presented up front can shock or surprise the audience and make them curious to learn more. Is there a bold statistic that you defy? Start there and tell us how you break the mold. Is there a shocking fact about your sport? Present it to the audience and share your experience discovering it.
The key here is that the information you share has to be real and verifiable. Referencing a source or sharing how you know it is critical to gaining the readers’ trust and interest.
Example: Last year, the Pew Research Center found that 98 percent of surfers never have a shark encounter. I guess I’m in that other two.
This example demonstrates how a statistic can help open your story, showing how unique your experience might’ve been and hooking the reader in the process.
This type of hook is well-suited for journalistic writing, but is easily adapted to fit any sort of outdoor story.
Avoid “Hello, my name is…” Openings
It can be tempting to start your story with a traditional introduction, answering who you are, what you do and/or where you’re from. More often then not, readers need a reason to care about your identity before it can hook them. If your introduction leaves any room for them to ask “Why should I care,” they’ll move on to something else.
In some cases this opening can be effective, however it should be used to highlight what makes your voice and perspective unique to the story being told. If your personal or cultural identity is core to the story, consider this approach carefully and try not to follow the standard “Hello, my name is …” formula.
There are many ways to open your story and jump into the narrative, but these techniques are recommended for outdoor writing for a reason. Try them in your own writing and learn how to use them to captivate your reader’s from the first few sentences.
If you’re interested in making sure your starting your stories effectively for your outdoor blog, article or story, I provide coaching and review services to help make sure your story lives up to your vision.
Reach out today to get started; let’s tell your story.