The Importance of Telling Stories and Writing a Good Lede

How to grab your readers' attention and insist they read till the end.

Posted Mar 29, 2018

capri23auto / pixabay
Source: capri23auto / pixabay

"God Made Humans Because He Loves Stories" - Elie Wiesel, The Gates of the Forest

Cantor David Margules of Temple Rodef Shalom in Marin quotes Elie Wiesel, in discussing our ability to house an experience in our brains, translate it into words, and share it so others can be entertained or informed.

Margules is talking about the story of Passover, but the wisdom can be applied to all our stories. They create our legacy, our identity, our statement of who we are in the world.

Human beings love stories and always have. Picture ancient storytellers at a campfire. They engage us, just as you want to do when you write your own stories. If you're jotting down notes to memorialize your era, that's one thing. But if you're writing a vignette or story, grab your readers with a good opening line and keep them reading until they reach the end.

The value of a good lead (often spelled "lede" by editors) can't be underestimated. Often editors won't read past the first few sentences to see whether or not they're engaged. Read through your piece and see if there's a good lead somewhere in the body of the text and pull it up to the top.

A good lead may be punchy, e.g., I wanted him gone. Or it poses a question or piques our interest. e.g., The Thames is liquid history. Or it can be humorous, clever, or convey irony, e.g., Some women draw the line at dating married men. I draw it at dating psychologists. If it's an anecdote, it can be longer (say, a paragraph or two).

After a good lede, of course, you have to deliver. That means using all the elements that make a piece a pager turner. I'll discuss them here in future posts.

Prompt: Look over a piece you've written and find a good lede. Is it hidden in the body of your piece?

Copyright © 2018 by Laura Deutsch