At the Washington Journalism Center, I spent a lot of time trying to identify what the story was. I was taught not to write about an event with the story form of “First speaker said this. Then he said this. Last he said this.” I had to find the main idea and make that the lead of my story. It was hard but I finally think I got it.
I thought I had it all down when I started this job as far as figuring out the story. That was partially true. I could identify the story; what would be interesting to the readers, but I didn’t know how to tell that story in more than one sentence.
I turned in an article about an ongoing event at a nearby state park with all the details of where and when and one or two sentences on what to expect. I thought that was good enough.
Well, it wasn’t. I needed to expand on what would go on at the event, to paint a picture with my words so people would be interested enough to go.
It took around three rounds back and forth with an editor before she was satisfied, but now I can credit this story with showing me how to tell stories from beginning to end rather than just identifying the main idea.
A week or so later, the same editor complimented me on my storytelling for another event. This event was literally a dozen senior citizens sitting under a tent eating strawberry shortcake. I found a story to tell, told it, and the editor asked what kind of photos we had.
I told her: old people. sitting at a table. eating.
She asked if anything else happened worthy of taking pictures of.
She said something along the lines of “well you made it sound so much more than that in your story!”
Yes, because I talked about how this was the first time this event was done and how the organizers just wanted to break even. It was a risk for them.
It still feels a bit strange to me to spend more words describing a scene or an event than spurting out facts. I am so used to churning out facts and quickly as I can in a story.
In some cases, like when writing about the typical run-of-the mill car accident, the facts is all you need. But when it comes to rallies, strawberry festivals, and bird watching, people need more. So i have to paint them a picture.
I got to drive some beautiful rolling hills with old barns and apple orchards on my way to cover a fire.
And then insert a lot of pictures of car accidents. I didn’t realize how many of them I go to until I went through my photos!