Journalists call it a lede; normal, less pretentious folk simply call it an opening paragraph. Either way, Caitlin Flanagan is one of the best in the business at shooting “straight as a rifle bullet into the reader’s attention”:
One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him—under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself—to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.
The rest of the article, if you want to continue reading—and why on Earth wouldn’t you after that?—is here.
Reminds me of the time I was interviewing Bill Mize, former national finger style guitar champion. “People ask me all the time what they can do to be better players,” he told me. “Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden, Beyond the Missouri Sky. That’s what I tell them. You wanna know how to play guitar? Listen to that record.”
So. You wanna know how to write? Read Caitlin Flanagan.