Cake
  • Log In
  • Sign Up
    • 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.

    • Very interesting. I wonder what @Evergreen and @Felicity would say.

      If it were me, I'd lead with with calling friends to apologize for dying in the mountains.

      Then I'd insert the bit about "if you were my daughter I wouldn't let you do this."

      And I'd end with the irony of losing faith in humanity.

      The only thing is, I don't get why if she called her friends that didn't trigger the rescue.

    • Quite interesting what you point out here. But there is one point missing (at least for me): what would be the intentional message? I mean, I know journalism should be as objective as possible, but writing always means a point of view, and a point of view always implies a intention.

      I would write the story trying to point out that we are not free to decide how we kill ourselves, there is always a good intentioned person that will mess it all (as an example of what I mean)

    • Good question, Gracia. I heard Elon Musk say journalists have become ad salesmen & women because their model is to get the broadest distribution, so they end up picking up on the most salacious points. I'm afraid that's what I defaulted to. She called her friends to apologize for dying?! Oh my God. That should get noticed. Whereas the important thing and what the story is all about is the mountains can be dangerous in winter, better be prepared if you go there. But we all know that and it's boring so would anyone read the story?

    • Hmm.

      I think it's no more complicated that trying to write the most interesting story possible.

      Chris is right. Getting and keeping your audience is what makes the money. Sometimes that can indeed be salacious. "If it bleeds, it leads."

      But it's just old-fashioned story-telling, with an emphasis on hooking your reader early. They're not stuck around a campfire, forced to listen to you. So you have to get their attention.

      I do see your point about choosing a theme. But if it's not an interesting one, they're gone.

    • If it's an alternative media, trying to make the point on freedom, the whole point will be on be really free (no estrangers saving a live I don't want to save), or the responsability of freedom (don't say you are alone because you've lost faith in humanity and then go for a dangerous hicking just in case someone recues you. You've been lucky, but next time it can be different)

      I mean, take for granted that this story onvly has one point or one way to see it is what leads us to our really narrow undertanding of others.

      BTW: just in case, I've pushed what I've read about japanese culture. It seems that they're not willing to save other people from drawning in the sea, getting caught in a snow storm in the mountains, etc because they respect freedom. Something quite schocking for me as Spanish.

    • It's funny about Japanese and their politeness culture. I don't feel qualified to say much other than the training I went through as an American businessman. A major point they made in the training was that Japanese will nod as you make points that Americans take as agreement, when they may nod agree, they are just being polite.

      You bring up another point, who is willing to be disagreeable for someone else's good, to say things people don't want to hear because you care about them? Adam Grant, a famous business professor, thinks disagreeable employees are often the most valuable in a company because they are willing to say the things you need to hear that no one else has the courage to say.

    • So many ways to approach a story: A reporter will dig for a catchy headline and strive to get the facts straight while writing under deadline pressure. A motovational speaker, preacher or teacher might promote a lesson to be learned (hiking in winter mountains can be deadly) or a behaviour to be encouraged (reaching out to help others might actually save them). A humorist might focus on the irony of an individual being rescued by the concern of strangers inspite of having lost faith in humanity.

      But a Storyteller will take some time, mull over the facts, develop characters, scribble an outlne or three, and ultimately produce a polished, compelling narrative to be savored.

    • What do you mean by developing the characters? Is that, for example, describing more about the two women involved to explain what led up to one losing her faith in humanity and the other willing to speak out like that? That's a pretty interesting part of the story, it seems to me.

    • Exactly that. Research the background of the characters, collect any bits that help explain what brought them to embrace different world views and, if possible, explore their feelings as events unfold. These two individuals and their interaction form the heart of an inspiring story. These days a little "feel good" journalism can be pretty welcome.

      After reflection, I'd suggest that by choosing to introduce the story to us as a writing exercise, WXWAX insured that it woud get more than a cursory glance. I certainly spent more time, and gained more from it, than if it had been a simple report. The Teacher earned an A!

    • As a journalist, I would tell the story strictly sticking to facts and emphasizing the dangers of going off into the mountains alone (probably interview some survival experts as well).

      As a storyteller, I would choose the "restoring faith in humanity" angle.

      Since somebody mentioned Japan and their politeness, even in the face of potential suicide... I was reminded of this remarkable man who tries to save people in the Suicide Forest:

    You've been invited!