Anecdotal Leads: Tell a Compelling Story Quickly


Anecdotal leads tell a compelling story quickly and succinctly, a story which illustrates the larger point that the piece is making. These leads do not employ a lot of scenic detail, but instead rely on describing an action which makes clear the writer’s point. Use only strong, succinct stories for anecdotal leads.

“When I went off to college, my father gave me, as part of my tuition, fifty pounds of moose meat. In 1969, eating moose meat at the University of California was a contradiction in terms. Hippies didn’t hunt. I lived in a rambling Victorian house that boasted sweeping circular staircases, built-in lofts, and a landlady who dreamed of opening her own health food restaurant. I told my housemates that my moose meat in its nondescript white butcher paper was from a side of beef my father had bought. The carnivores in the house helped me finish off such suppers as sweet-and-sour moose meatballs, moose burgers (garnished with the obligatory avocado and sprouts), and mooseghetti. The same dinner guests who remarked upon the lean sweetness of the meat would have recoiled if I’d told them the not-to-simple truth: that I grew up on game, and that moose they were eating had been brought down, with one shot through his magnificent heart, by my father—a man who had hunted all his life and all of mine.

From Brenda Peterson’s essay, “Growing Up Game.”