Lede File #7: "Easy-to-Imagine" Lede
Editor's Note: One of the most challenging aspects of writing--whether it's an article, a speech, or investor "pitch"-- is knowing how to start your story in a way that grabs the audience's attention, gets to the point quickly, and causes the audience to want to know more. And if you're like me, the struggle to produce a compelling intro can often cause writer's block.
That's why I make it one of my disciplines to collect and reverse-engineer what I think are effective ledes--the introductory paragraphs that draw the audience into a work--to expand my "palate" of well-structured intros that I can choose from. I'm sharing my Lede Files with the hope that they can also help you boost your writing productivity and effectiveness.
- Source: Wired
- Type: Article
- Writer: Liz Stinson
- Title: Alexa is Conquering the World. Now Amazon’s Real Challenge Begins
WHAT: The Lede
It’s easy to imagine a future in which your virtual personal assistant is everywhere you are. Before long, Alexa, Siri, Google, and others like them will be woven into the fabric of your home, ready to fulfill your every need whim. Need milk? Tell your fridge. Forgot to close the garage door? Grumble about it to the mic in your dashboard. Want to order your post-marathon double cheeseburger and fries before even crossing the finish line? Scream an order into your smartwatch.
This isn’t as outlandish as it might sound. Amazon’s Alexa is about to be everywhere. On your phone. In your hotel room. Throughout your home. Even in your car. In the year or so since Amazon opened the Alexa developer kit, no end of companies have integrated simple voice commands into their products. Yet this seamlessly connected world still feels far away. The challenge isn’t in creating the devices, it’s in creating a consistent user experience as they proliferate.
I like this lede because it deploys an effective question-and-answer technique that helps the reader “imagine” what that future could look like and then it sets up the challenge, in contrast to the “easy-to-imagine” part of the future.
Use this lede when writing about new technologies or new ideas. Would work well for narrative and roundup articles.
HOW: Lede Structure
1. It’s easy to imagine a future in which [clause that introduces what that future is about]. Before long, [new product/technology] will be [describe impact.] [Then set up a “triplet” with question-response:
- Question 1, then answer. ("Need milk? Tell your fridge.")
- Question 2, then answer. ("Forgot to close the garage door? Grumble about it to the mic in your dashboard.")
- Question 3, then answer. ("Want to order your post-marathon double cheeseburger and fries before even crossing the finish line? Scream an order into your smartwatch.")
2. This isn’t as outlandish [or crazy, etc.] as it sounds. [Then provide a couple sentences or so of why that’s the case.]
3. The challenge isn’t [whatever the conventional thinking is]; it’s [the novel idea and focus of the article].
Questions to ask to generate raw content for this lede:
- If/when this new product/ technology becomes ubiquitous, what would that future look like?
- What are three interesting impacts--a “triplet”--that I can highlight through question-and-answer?
- Why is this future not so outlandish to talk about? What’s going on right now that’s providing clues that this future is possible?
- What’s conventional thinking about this topic?
- And what’s the novel idea--and focus of this piece--that counteracts this conventional thinking?