Lead with Pain

I want more people to read my blog. I spend all this time writing; I don’t want it to bore people. I want it to be more interesting.

So part of the way I’m trying to accomplish that is to become a better storyteller.

As I learn more about storytelling and I look at what good storytellers do, I notice many of them don’t just lead with “once upon a time”. They lead with pain.

Sometimes they’ll even start a story in the middle. They’ll open with the main character on their knees, grovelling with a gun to their head. And as the hammer of the gun pulls back. Bam.

We’re back to the beginning before this painful event has even occurred yet. But they’ve got us hooked.

This method of storytelling maybe even seems cliché. So many movies and TV shows use it. It works.

But then it surprises me how few of us incorporate this method into our own stories.

Most people start a blog post with something like, “I went to the store the other day,” and they quickly lose my interest. I realize I’m going to have to dig to find out how this relates to anything I’m trying to accomplish.

But if they begin with a description of pain that they’ve gone through, maybe even fixed, now they’ve got my attention. I sit up. I take notice.

When I craft new things now, I spend a lot of time figuring out that statement of pain I’ll lead with in the first sentence or paragraph.

I don’t just do this for blog posts. I’m doing this for my product landing pages. READMEs for open source projects. Emails.

Amy Hoy has written some great stuff on launching products. If you read over this post, Shut Up and Take my Money, you might notice Amy has similarly discovered the power in leading with pain.

She used to talk about a new product she was working on like this:

Potential customer at cocktail party: So, what’s Charm?

Me: Charm is a new, end-to-end customer support tool. It solves the problem of passing around email as a specification of work…

But when she started leading with a pain that she and her potential customer might share:

Potential customer: So, what’s Charm?

Me: Do you get a lot of support email? Yeah, me too.

People started paying a lot more attention.

P.S. It would be awesome to meet you on Twitter.


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