So, let’s talk about you as a reader, right? What makes you sit up and take notice when you’re reading a magazine or newspaper? Your personal interest zone, right? I mean, if you’re all into animal rights, stories about animals will probably pop out at you first if the headline catches your eye. Or, if you worry about homeless people, you’ll probably gravitate right to a story that talks about that topic.
But what keeps you reading?
The lead helps. If you’re not hooked by the first paragraph, which should include some interesting fact or statistic or a real slammer of an idea, then what really keeps you going down the page are the nut graphs. Why? Because nut graphs draw people further in, it can raise questions that people MUST have answered. Here’s what I mean:
Miracle Cat Saves Company
On Tuesday, February 1, Consolidated Metals Corporation was humming along when the cat who lives in the warehouse began meowing for all he was worth. Mark Jennings, warehouse foreman, couldn’t get the cat to stop. “I thought something was wrong with Puddy,” said Jennings. “What he was trying to tell me was that if I didn’t get into the maintenance room right away, we’d all be dead.
Puddy, a three-year old male American Shorthair, lives in the warehouse and keeps it free of all manner of vermin. The men found the cat when it was just a kitten and he’s become a member of the Consolidated family. What’s amazing is that he seems to be very protective, not just of the factory but of the men and women who work there. This isn’t the first time he’s been instrumental in helping the workers avoid tragedy.
Want to know what that is? You’d keep reading to find out, no doubt, right? Well… You’ll have to fill in your own details because I just made that up.
But you notice, I gave the who (Puddy), what (he’s protective), when (over the past three years), where (in the warehouse), and why you want to keep reading (because he’s an extraordinary cat, but you don’t know all the details about him yet). And I piqued your interest by telling you that this isn’t the first time a cat is really a hero. That’s exactly what a nut graph does. It draws your audience further into the story so that they just have to read on.
Try this: Create a situation. Create a focus and an angle, and then, write a headline, a lead and a nut graph. Do this at least five times, and by the end of the fifth creation, you’ll see much better how nut graphs work. Try it!
And get a cat like Puddy.