Wed, October 18 2006
Filed under: Marketing essentials •
“It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.”
I adore Anthony Burgess. In his work Earthly Powers, he writes a few lines later,
“I retired twelve years ago from the profession of novelist. Nevertheless you will be constrained to consider, if you know my work at all and take the trouble now to reread that first sentence, that I have lost none of my old cunning in the contrivance of what is known as an arresting opening. But there is nothing of contrivance about it. Actuality sometimes plays into the hands of art.”
If we are committed to a cause, we are fortunate, because we possess intriguing actuality in the form of our compelling work. This actuality can play into the hands of art, if we master the arresting opening. We simply must. We need to grab people’s hearts and minds fast, because when we seek to get attention, people will give us a glance at most. We have just a few words in a poster, brochure, blog or email appeal to get that glance and keep that gaze with an arresting opening. Do me a favor. Go look at the first line (and ONLY the first line) of everything you’re using to raise money or change people’s behavior. Does it seize you by the synapses and leave you longing for more? If it doesn’t, read on - perhaps you’ve buried your lead, as journalists say. Find the sentence somewhere that will arrest your audience, and put it at the top. If you don’t have one, make one. Write that first line as if you were Scheherezade, and your life depended on it. Then see what happens to those messages and click throughs—they may just earn a lasting stare.