3 Introduction Ingredients: Observation, Desire, and Obstacle

There's no single recipe for your introduction, but that doesn't mean I can't give you an ingredients list. Cook to taste.

To belabor an already belabored point, the function of the introduction paragraph is to whet your reader's appetite. To accomplish that goal, you might consider mixing these three ingredients:

  • Observation. By observation, I mean anything you notice about the people, places, things, or ideas around you. This is your commentary on a noun. For example: "I live under a mild yet inconvenient curse. Whichever line I stand in is always the longest." (This is 100% true.)
  • Desire. Good characters don't just observe things. They want things, too. If you have a plan, a goal, or a mission, then think about mentioning it in the intro. For example: "Normally my curse wouldn't bother me, but I was in a hurry to buy my two blocks of ice. If I didn't make it home with those blocks of ice by 10:00, then [redacted]."
  • Obstacle. A story about me buying something might not be that interesting. That's where obstacles can help. For example: "Just as I got to the checkout lane, the customer in front of me pulled out a sheaf of coupons and asked the cashier to double-check the discount on the 72 tubes of toothpaste she was purchasing. When the apocalypse came, at least her teeth would be white and sparkling. 9:53. My smile was gone. I wasn't going to make it."

Yes, I'm sure you can do better. But the point is to get started. Write about your observation, desire, and obstacle.

Mixing the Ingredients

But in what order should you write about observation, desire, and obstacle? It doesn't matter. Start with whatever, and then hit the next one. That's why the diagram has double arrows between each pair of ingredients - you can start anywhere and go whatever direction you choose. I know, really clever.

To put it another way, you can mix these ingredients into an intro in exactly 6 sequences:

  1. Observation → Desire → Obstacle
  2. Desire → Obstacle → Observation
  3. Obstacle → Observation → Desire
  4. Observation → Obstacle → Desire
  5. Desire → Observation → Obstacle
  6. Obstacle → Desire → Observation

It's not a secret formula, but if you're trying to figure out how to start writing about your topic, maybe one of these combos will help you get un-stuck.

Good luck writing!


Jon Perkins holds a B.A. in English from Stanford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He helps students with their college, law school, and medical school applications.