How Introductory Paragraphs Work in Creative Nonfiction

Aaron Gilbreath
16 min readJan 5, 2020

Thinking about how to start your story is as important as the story you tell.

While working at Powell’s City of Books, I had a routine. I would pull a story or essay collection from the literature shelves, read the first few paragraphs of every piece in it, then decide whether to buy the book. I did this for nearly six years.

As an introduction to a story, how does the above paragraph rate? In a single anecdote, it delivers a visible scene replete with action (shopping, reading, selecting merchandise), a…

Aaron Gilbreath

Essayist, Journalist, Burritoist. Longreads Editor. Writing: Harper’s, NYT, Slate, Paris Review, VQR, Oxford American, Kenyon Review. 3 nonfiction books.