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Storytelling Pattern for Journalists

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Janine Carneal

on 14 October 2013

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Transcript of Storytelling Pattern for Journalists

Storytelling Pattern for Journalists
Keeping in mind you only have three seconds to grab your readers attention, the lead paragraph is the key in writing the news story. But don't agonize over the lead and never get on with the story. Find the system that works best for you. Is it to write 60 leads so you know you have the best possible one? Or should you write your creative lead last? Most likely, you will try a number of different approaches until you settle on your favorite.
Choose the pattern or combination of patterns for your story that seems natural for your topic. And remember- you can always fall back on the inverted pyramid style if that seems natural to you.
Storytelling Pattern
The inverted pyramid is not the only organizational pattern available for journalists. Perhaps it should not even be the one used most frequently by more experienced writers who have developed confidence in their ability to organize information.
, or
storytelling pattern
, uses an indirect lead to capture the reader's interest. Following the lead, the writer develops the details of the event as they happened- with a beginning, a middle and an end.
In the middle portion of the story, narrative techniques are used, such as dialogue and description.
The beginning and the middle...
At the end, the writer plants a
, also called a
, which gives the reader something to remember without repeating previous information.. When the kicker returns to the opening paragraph idea, it is called a
circle kicker.
The ending...
Planning an ending for any story not written in the inverted pyramid style helps journalists avoid the moral they often want to tack onto the end. This planned ending might contain the natural climax to the story, might tie back to the opening, or might use a compelling quote, but it should NOT preach to readers in the reporter's own words.
Use concrete details rather than vague adjectives.
Use dialogue when possible and appropriate.
Set a scene.
Use action verbs.
Use show-in-action description.
Tell a story like a plot, with a beginning, middle and end..
Basic Techniques for Storytelling
Chronological Order Pattern
chronological order pattern
uses time in some way to organize the story in a 1-2-3 sort of way. Yes, it is an element in the narrative storytelling pattern, but depending on the story it may also be useful in its own right. Chronological order may be used successfully to relive the crucial final minutes of a major sports contest, to preview the events planned for Homecoming Week, to highlight the significant events of the year in an end-of-year retrospective.


Chronological Storytelling

Climax at End
Combination Pattern
Most likely, reporters will want to experiment with a combination of styles, especially once they get past writing four paragraph newsbriefs. Often, the content of the story itself will suggest an appropriate organization. Here's an example...
A story about new construction at your school begins with a two paragraph sights and sounds description of an over crowded classroom.
Following this scene gives the most important 5Ws and H about the upcoming construction.
The next paragraph quotes an adult or student about construction plans.
The following paragraphs develop the construction details in inverted pyramid style, alternating quote paragraphs with fact paragraphs.
The final paragraph is a clincher, taking the reader back to the classroom.
This story combines the techniques of the indirect lead, inverted pyramid style and the clincher storytelling techniques.
In choosing information to include and specific words to use in your story, always remember your credibility is on the line. Once a journalist loses her or his credibility, little else is left. Check facts, write balanced stories, use the objective third person viewpoint, write sentences and paragraphs your reader can understand easily, and use transitions to guide your reader through your story.
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