Imagine That! Writers, Put Your Reader Right in the Action

“Picture this – you’re boarding a plane headed to an exotic or historic destination, like Rome or Dubai. You settle into your roomy business or first-class seat and the best part is, you didn’t have to pay for any of this. Sound too good to be true? Not if you were a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) employee between at least 2012-2014.”

Bet this hooked you, even if you’ve never heard of the USAID, right?

I knew nothing about the USAID, but I couldn’t resist scanning the e-mail when I read, “Picture this—you’re on a plane….” It put me right in the middle of the story, right from the start, and I wanted to know how the story ends.

That’s how you hook a reader, my friends. Craft your story so the audience sees themselves in it.  It’s possible, even with a potentially dry, obscure topic.

Yes, even a press release can stir emotion 
Would you be surprised to know this powerful writing example came from a press release issued by a politician from Iowa?

The release went on to detail documents revealing that “USAID employees have been purchasing business or first-class tickets for years, racking up nearly $3.1 million in taxpayer dollars on extravagant plane travel between 2012 and 2014.”

In the hands of less skilled writer, the title or lead of this news release could have been “Senator Questions USAID Deluxe Travel Expenses.” It would have been accurate, but boring. Most readers (myself included) probably have no idea what the USAID is. Game over, because we quit reading and move on. There’s nothing here of interest, right?

Think again.

Like millions of other Americans, I do care about wasteful spending of my tax dollars. I’m glad to know at least some of my elected officials are monitoring potential abuses of the system and are working to find solutions.

I won’t know this, however, if my elected officials aren’t communicating in a way that’s clear and compelling.

Now that I’ve pictured myself on settling in to a first-class seat on a plane bound for an exotic or historic destination—and I didn’t have to pay for any of this—I’m frustrated when I read that “one USAID employee took a $15,000 business-class trip, when the same trip would have only cost $3,000 if the employee had flown coach.”

This feeling of frustration isn’t something that lackluster writing provokes. Words that not only convey truth but stir emotion are a sign of a story well told.

Show, don’t tell
That’s the beauty of the “picture this” storytelling technique. It’s an effective way for authors, marketers and other writers to fulfill the age-old writing advice to “show, don’t tell.”

Sometimes I switch up the words a bit and lead with “Imagine this,” but the goal is still the same. Capture readers’ imaginations. Place them right in the center of the action. Motivate them to keep reading. It’s a powerful tool to that will propel you beyond the ranks of boring writers who fail to hold readers’ attention.

Imagine that!

What do you think?
Have you tried using the “picture this” or “imagine this” lead? Any other good tips for capturing your readers’ attention from the start? I welcome your comments and stories.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more tips to make you a better communicator, along with intriguing Iowa stories, history and recipes. If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page. Let’s stay in touch. I’m at

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

In the meantime, perhaps you’ll find value in my Top 10 Tips to Find the Right Writer to Tell Your Company’s Stories.


Top 10 Tips to Find the Right Writer to Tell Your Company’s Stories


Comments are closed.

Recent Posts


Archive by year