Saturday, January 31, 2009

This is awesome

Monkeys escaped from a private zoo near St. Petersburg. Staffers at the St. Petersburg Times show what you can do when you approach a story, from the beginning, with a storyteller's sensibilities and with determination to make the most of the story. And I'm talking words AND visuals.

Be sure also to read the linked story, "Monkey No. 15 met the wrong human." Again, this writer went in knowing he had a chance to get great material and knowing he'd try to make the most of it. I think he did a great job.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Narrative storytelling and Obama's inaugural speech

The narrative embedded in the speech is short, but powerful and on point. Near the end, he noted that 60 years ago, his father might not have been served at a restaurant in America.

Then came a smooth transition: So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. Narrative is a journey; all of this is the country's story, he's saying. Then, storytelling:

In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive ... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

A character: the army. A conflict: Winter, enemy, death, despair. A turning point: Washington's words. A resolution (artfully implied): Victory, and the birth of America.

Well-done, I thought.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Speaking of less being more ...

Joan flagged this: Six Word Stories.

It's fun just to go through them to see what people come up with. I like this one:

It’s behind you! Hurry before it

—Rockne S. O’Bannon

Thursday, January 8, 2009

When is less more?

Lane DeGregory of the St. Petersburg Times does an interesting thing in this story (link at end of post):

At the end of the third section, she drops a big hint of something to come, something to make you want to read on.

What I think is unusual is how and when she decided to reveal what she was hinting at. I don't want to give it away, but let's just say she does less with it than you might expect ... but in this case, less might be more -- more powerful, more of a lasting impact. I'd bet that's what she was going for, anyway.

What do you think?

Autism can't tear twin brothers apart - St. Petersburg Times

Monday, January 5, 2009

I'd make this the next book you read

I just finished Jack Hart's book (links here and here). Here is my review on Goodreads. I'm blogging it because I think this is a book every newsroom staffer -- no matter what your job -- should read:

I would like to have this book loaded on a computer chip and implanted in my brain. Then I could draw on it at will. And as a writer and editor, I would scale mountains and slay dragons and always return home a hero.
But such automatic success would eliminate the trying, failing, trying again and succeeding that is so rewarding if you are a writer or editor. You know you'll never know it all, but you keep learning to get as close as you can.
So what I'll do is just keep this book nearby. I'll dip back into it now and again for its hundreds of dead-on, plain-English writing and editing tips. Beyond that, I'll remember its message: You can be a better writer and editor not by waiting for a thunderbolt to form you, or by finding the key to the secret room where the elements of great writing reveal themselves, but by consciously working at the precision elements of the craft, for a lifetime.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Unexpected connections

This 1A story in today's USA Today shows what can happen when you think about common things in uncommon ways, as writer Skip Wood did here. You can make fresh connections that readers don't expect, and when they work, they're rewarding to read.

You can certainly argue that writers, including many sports writers, have worked some literary references to death, so it's a gamble to venture into that territory. But this story doesn't take itself too seriously, which I think is a key to making it work in this case. See what you think.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A story with unusual timing ... but it works

It's not often you see an obit story almost six months after the person died.

But Darryl Slater of the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote a somber, touching story about a Virginia Tech football manager who died in a car crash in July. The story appeared on the eve of Tech's appearance in the Orange Bowl, and Slater emphasized what the team would be missing without J.D. Burroughs on the sideline by reaching back to a scene from last year's Orange Bowl.

It was an anecdote that worked, because it fed the theme of the story. Clearly, Slater knew his subject and had paid attention even when he didn't have to.

And in this piece, Slater kept the tone even throughout -- sad, but not too sad. Uplifting here and there, but it's not overdone.

Just a good read.