For starters, get them hooked

Do get along and see American Hustle if you haven’t already. Great fun from the start. Yes, from the start. Good films, books, plays and so on tend to have good openings. ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’ (Rebecca). ‘The past is a different country. They do things differently there’ (The Go-between). ‘Are you watching carefully?’ (The Prestige). And so on.

In American Hustle, it’s just a few words on screen: ‘Some of this actually happened.’ But they’re so much better than the usual words that get trotted out in this situation: ‘Based upon actual events’, ‘Based on a true story’, or some slight variation on that snoozy formula. By messing with it ever-so slightly, the film sets us up to expect the cheeky, good-humoured yarn it duly serves up.

And, yes, there’s a lesson for us here in Realityville. Don’t waste the opening words of whatever it is you’re writing. Don’t clear your throat with ‘I am writing with regard to...’. Don’t take a run-up to the main point of your email, report, white paper or letter. Get right into it straightaway. That way, the person on the receiving end is much more likely to pay attention, think what you want them to think, and do what you want them to do.

comments powered by Disqus