How Introductory Paragraphs Work in Creative Nonfiction

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…