What can repeat viewings of HAMILTON teach us about how to write a great book introduction?
Quiz time: What can repeat viewings of HAMILTON on Disney+ teach us about how to write a great book introduction? A lot.
I’m pretty into Lin-Manuel Miranda and his masterpiece, Hamilton. I may have watched it (conservative estimate) a time or seven. Really, I was just doing my job. Any creator could benefit from paying close attention to Mr. Miranda’s work. The show’s first song is a master class in how to write a great book introduction.
Remember, the underlying question any reader has when they pick up your book is, “Why should I care?”
Why, indeed. People are busy. They may not know you. They don’t know for sure that you can help them, inspire them, or entertain them. They don’t yet know that your book will shed new light on a topic. Thus, your introduction has to engage their minds. Invite them in. Give them an enticing preview of what’s to come.
That is exactly what the first song in HAMILTON does. Let’s take a look, shall we?
The first line is a provocative question: “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a…” (I better not quote too much of this copyrighted material, but you get the idea.) “…grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”
Starting an introduction with a question is wise, because our brains can’t help but try to answer a question. It gets the gears turning, almost without us even realizing it.
Next, the song tells a story: “Then a hurricane came, and devastation reigned; Our man saw his future drip, dripping down the drain…”
High stakes, no?
Then, as the introductory story unfolds, we get the powerful central thesis statement, the main idea of the entire work: “You could never back down; You never learned to take your time; When America sings for you…Will they know what you overcame? The world will never be the same.” So good.
We’re not done, though. A good introduction also gives readers or listeners a preview of what’s to come. In the final part of “Alexander Hamilton,” we briefly hear from several key characters from the story that’s about to unfold, including George Washington (“I trusted him”), The Schuyler Sisters (“I loved him”), and, of course, Aaron Burr (“I shot him”). This elegant bit of foreshadowing entices you to wonder about all of these relationships in Hamilton’s life.
Finally, the lyrics offer big, timely themes (“another immigrant comin’ up from the bottom”) and leave us wanting more:
“There’s a million things I haven’t done…but just you wait.” What does this have to do with me? When you create your own introduction, I encourage you to think about how you can use these elements to enchant readers:
A powerful question or questions
A high-stakes story
One central idea the whole book will explore
A preview of the events, lessons, and/or relationships to come
Timely theme or themes
A last line that leaves readers eager to turn the page and keep reading
Don’t just write a good book. Write a great one. Do it with intention; follow the lead of geniuses like Lin-Manuel Miranda. Perhaps when you’re done, you will have changed the world.
If you need help, send me a message or visit lauraschaeferwriter.com to learn more about my book ghostwriting services.