Week 12: Preparing your story

Henry David Thoreau drops a truth bomb. Photo: Kathleen Tyler Conklin 

Now that you have an idea for your human-interest story or short feature, the next step is to start researching and planning.

Research

When researching your story don’t just rely on the internet. Talk to people, go to your local library, use statistics if appropriate. The more information you have and the more perspectives you can include, the more rounded the story will be.

Also think about the audience for your article. What information will they want to read?

Organisation

How are you going to focus your story?

If you’ve done some research you will probably have a lot of information to choose from for your article.

It’s important to organise that information in a way that makes sense to you.

Think also about your theme statement. How would you describe your story to someone else in one sentence (sometimes called “The Pub Test”). Write your theme statement at the top of your first page, to give yourself clarity and focus.

For more, check out this blog on organisation.

Structure

How are you going to structure your story? How are the ideas going to flow? Possible structures include:

  • Chronological
  • Order of importance
  • Logical
  • Narrative/story
  • Like a good piece of music

Another model for structuring stories is the 3 Act Structure. Most stories follow this structure, particularly movies. They have a Beginning, Middle and End – often called the Setup, the Confrontation, and the Resolution.

The 3 Act Structure can also work for journalism, both news and longer form stories. Read this great blog on the 3 Act Structure here.

In journalism a 3 Act Structure works the following way:

  • Act 1 opens by setting the scene and grabbing the audience’s attention
  • Act 2 is where the action and main confrontation occurs
  • Act 3 concludes the story, solving the “problem”.

If you have enough time and the right story you can also use the Hero’s Journey to structure your story.

This NPR article discusses different story structures for radio stories, but it is just as relevant for written stories.

Language and voice

When writing a story, the language you use can draw readers in or it can alienate them. Language can help develop your own voice. Use words and sentence formation that reflects you and your voice.

Make sure to use active voice. For example: “Ruth threw the ball” not passive voice: “The ball was thrown by Ruth” or “The ball was thrown”. Passive voice obscures who the subject of the sentence is.

Remember to show not tell. Don’t overuse adjectives or adverbs, instead use strong verbs and nouns.

When writing about complex information do not dumb it down, instead try using creative techniques like metaphor.

Do not use jargon or words your audience will not understand.

TASK 1

Decide who you are going to interview (2 people at least) for your article for Assessment 2. Research, plan and prepare for the interview. Draft your interview questions.

TASK 2

What structure are you going to use for your story for Assessment 2? Draft a story arc.

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