If your browser supports Refresh, you'll be transported to our new home in 5 seconds, otherwise, select the link manually. Thank you

Monday, January 2, 2006

Making It As A Freelance Writer - Tip#11 - But First, The News

In the very first tip in this series I talked briefly about structuring articles. Now it's time to go into that process in a bit more detail, starting with news stories. In many ways, news stories are the building blocks of journalistic writing - and they're quite useful for other forms as well. That's because when you write something, you're telling a story to your readers. A good news story is the simplest way to do that.

Most journalism theory describes news story structure as an inverted pyramid (or, as I explained to some of my spatially challenged students, an upside down triangle). Apparently, this goes back to the dark days before desktop publishing and digital printing, when newspapers were laid out by a method known as 'cut and paste'. In order to edit a story, you had to literally cut bits out. It therefore made sense for the most important parts of the story to be at the top.

Because of this, the key part of your story is the intro or lead. This should contain the key elements (known variously as the 5Ws, 5Ws+H or 6Ws). The lead of a news story should tell the reader who is involved, what happened , where it happened , when it happened and how and why it happened. If you don't include those elements, you have no story.

Brevity is another key feature of news stories, so you should be able to cover those elements in two or three short sentences, which would make up the first couple of paragraphs of the story (as laid out in a typical newspaper). You then need to continue writing. Not surprisingly, there's a handy acronym for this, too. It's called the WHAT formula: what happened, how did it happen, amplify the introduction and tie up loose ends.

Amplifying the introduction means saying more about the elements mentioned in the intro. This is where you put in any relevant background information. This will vary depending on the angle of your story, so I won't attempt to give examples. Just have a look at your local newspaper and you should get the idea. Once you've included all of this you need to follow the last part of the WHAT formula and tie up loose ends. This means reading your story to see if there's anything you've left out and checking to make sure that readers won't be left with any questions when they've read it.

No comments: