I recently received an email from a woman who used her writing to become “Queen for a Day” on television. For those of us who don’t remember the show, “Queen for a Day” was an immensely popular television show in the 1950’s hosted by Jack Baily. The idea was that four women would come on each show and talk about hard times they had been through recently, and what they wanted to receive to make things easier. The audience would use an applause meter to pick which story was most compelling, and which woman would be Queen for a Day.
Now, this television show was incredibly popular, and getting onto the show was obviously difficult. So how did my correspondent manage? She started her essay off with a very unusual twist: she began with the line:
“I want to win 200 bananas, an air purifier, and 2 suits for my husband.”
Wow, talk about a compelling beginning. After seeing that line, anyone – most especially contest judges who are reading through hundreds or thousands of similar essays – will want to know just why anyone would need 200 bananas! Given the ability to ask for anything, the air purifier and 2 suits are very unusual wishes as well. She then went on to explain why those items were important to her:
“My 5 year old daughter had a kidney problem and required milk. Banana milkshakes were all she would drink. My 7 year old son had Asthma and an air purifier would help. My husband lost 25 lbs. due to ill health and was an accountant requiring suits. So it all was true.”
Host Jack Baily once said about the contestants, “It’s not what they want, its why they want it that counts with us.” This holds true not just for “Queen for a Day” but for any writing or essay contest that you might enter today: It’s not what you say, but how you say it.
Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone run out and start writing essays about bananas. However, by starting off with a solid hook that grabs the judge’s attention and sets your entry apart from the crowd, you’ll greatly increase your chances of winning contests. What hook can YOU write that will make people eager to read the rest of your essay?