What's the best way to write story? In what order do you put the facts to elicit the strongest response in your reader?
I think about this daily. Your first sentence, after all, is the most important.
Today I read a great news story, imperfectly told (in my opinion.)
Here are the bare facts.
A German hiker was rescued in the Cascades after she was caught in snowstorm without the right gear. She might have died, or she might have lost limbs to frostbite. She had trekked all the way up the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico. One reason for her solitary hike was that she had lost faith in humanity.
She was rescued because a lady she met for a couple of hours on her hike, a lady who knew the vagaries of the weather in the area, grew concerned when she saw the weather reports and alerted the Snohomish County sheriff's office that someone might be in danger. They found her as their fuel was running out.
There are two obvious ways to write this story. You could order the information the way I did above. Or you could reverse it. In other words, begin with the woman who raised the alarm and work your way to the rescue, filling in the background information.
Which would you choose?
Here are the stories I thought missed the mark.
Example #1 -- right angle, but incomplete information.
Example #2 -- complete information, wrong angle
Example #3 -- right angle, poorly told
This story is loaded with emotion. You have a worried local woman who couldn't sleep out of worry. There's a hiker who felt alone in the world and had lost faith in humanity. A stranger doing the unusual to save the life of another. The stranger being stubborn and making a terrible decision.
I think the strongest telling doesn't begin with the commonplace rescue of a hiker. I think the correct angle is the local woman who chose not to forget a someone she had met for just two hours, and who cared enough about a stranger to eventually save her life.