We’ve all read great articles written by talented authors. You may have even written some articles yourself. We are well aware of the holy grail of article writing: capturing the reader’s interesting in the opening paragraph. It’s the difference between a forgettable article and one that will live forever in your readers’ minds.
My choice for the best opening paragraph to a technical article goes to Asa Meltzer, the author of an article on the CodeProject site entitled “Adding high score capability to MS Solitaire“. Regardless of the solitaire of your choice (I’m a FreeCell groupie), watch how Asa produces a literary jewel of an opening:
This showdown was a long time a comin’. We met maybe 7 or 8 years ago. His name was Score. Solitaire Score. He was mocking me with his lack of high scoring mechanism. I tried to pull Spy++ on him, but that just made him laugh: “You rookie,” he said, “What in the hell is wrong with ya?”
“I’ve got no time to fight with you,” said I, “I have work to do.”
“C’mon back when you’re not so wet behind the ears. We’ll step outside and sort our business out,” he said.
Since then, we met on occasions. He always winked at me, “Well boy, we ain’t getting any younger…” Then one day I decided that’s it; it’s me or him. I cleaned my WinDbg and put it in its holster. I was hoping we wouldn’t be using bare hands for this. We met at high noon, as was set. We stood for only a moment and then drew. I fired a few breakpoints at him, just to see what he was going to do. He moved right and then left, but the last one got him and he suddenly froze. I could see terror in his data segment. He tried to throw confusing assembly commands at me, but I was too focused on the target. Suddenly, it was there. I could see it. I almost cried out in surprise. His hidden address was revealed for all to see.
I rejoiced too soon. He had one more trick left up his sleeve. While we were fighting in debug, he kept his address in his left sleeve. Once we moved to normal run, he would change it to the right. I called his bluff and his address fell to the ground. He knew that he’d been beat. He looked at me with hatred in his error handling and said, “It only took you 2 days, you son of a bitch!”
For those of us that have had the “pleasure” of reverse engineering and disassembling, this opening paragraph gives a wonderful literary spin on the grungy world of “getting under the hood”.
But it doesn’t stop here. The author shows two wonderful talents: good technical knowledge combined with a delightful sense of humor. Read the “Conclusions” and “Disclaimer” sections to see what I mean.
When I grow up, I wanna’ write opening paragraphs and articles like Asa Meltzer.