Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Podcast: Ben Montgomery and Michael Kruse of Tampa Bay Times talk about narrative storytelling

Good stuff here via Kevin Pang of the Chicago Tribune and his writing podcast. He asks Montgomery and Kruse questions like, "What interests you," and "What makes your story radar go off?"

Friday, February 17, 2012

A workplace tale in 3 post-it notes

Discovered in the lunchroom. We've all been here at some point, haven't we?

Creative storytelling in a routine situation

Events like news conferences, unveilings, groundbreakings, check presentations and the like are big deals to the people involved in them, but they are usually only marginally newsworthy, if at all, in and of themselves. 

In other words, for example, if the project that people are breaking ground for really is a big deal, we don't want to photograph and report on several people holding shovels and lifting up the first scoops of dirt; we want to report and photograph the project work itself. 

So, watch the video that goes with this story. It's great creative visual journalism from Jason Plotkin. He goes to a news conference about a project, at which a new sign is to be unveiled, and he tells the story of the guys who have to take the tarp off the sign. The result is great fun -- in no small part because the guys totally played along. 

It's a classic example of how to tell a fresh story out of a routine news event.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Writing that makes you swoon

This has to be one of the best passages of writing I've read in long time. It's from Chris Jones' piece in Esquire about the Zanesville, Ohio guy, Terry Thompson, who let his exotic animals loose and then killed himself. Just the precision in the reporting and writing is amazing here, especially in the middle paragraph of these three.

The story starts with the landowner next door Sam Kopchak, who went out into his field to get his horse Red in for the evening, and first saw Thompson's horses acting strangely, then saw a bear chasing them, and then:

Now he approached Red, reaching out with his bucket of water, calling to him gently. Red nosed in for a drink, and Kopchak got a rope on him. He put down the bucket and began to lead his horse back toward the barn. He'd covered maybe twenty or thirty yards, Red bouncing a little, pulling at his rope, when Kopchak suddenly felt a shiver go over him. "I can't really explain it," he says today, "except to say that I felt like I was being watched." He looked back toward Thompson's band of horses; the bear was pushing them north, toward the highway. Then Kopchak saw the lion.

It was a male African lion, with a great golden mane. "It was just enormous," Kopchak says. The lion was to his left, feet rather than yards away, pressed against that thin wire fence. It was lying flat on the grass with only its giant head lifted up, and it had been watching Kopchak walking down the hill. The lion was looking dead at him. Kopchak let out a breath and fixed his eyes straight on his barn, still more than a hundred yards away. He made two decisions: He would not run, and he would not leave Red. He would walk, as calmly and as steadily as a sixty-four-year-old retired schoolteacher being watched by a lion could manage, all the way back down to his barn.

Kopchak looked back only once, and the lion returned his stare. It had also risen to its feet. The fence had seven strands of wire strung between its wooden posts; the lion's back ran parallel to the second strand from the top. Kopchak continued to walk down the hill. Each push into the mud felt slower than the last. Finally, he opened the barn's big sliding doors and stepped inside with Red in tow; he closed the doors with a clang and felt his shoulders slump a little. He put Red into his stall, and he reached into his pocket for his cell phone. Reception wasn't good. He stood in a corner of the barn closest to the house, and he called his mother. He told her that he was inside the barn, and that there was a bear and a lion outside the barn, and she needed to stay inside the house. She also needed to make a phone call.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I think I've discovered my new favorite writing blog

It's not a how-to or tips blog, or a blog that links to great stories. "Letters of Note" says it "is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos.

So far, I've read one from a freed slave responding to his ex-master's job offer, and one from E.B. White responding to the ASPCA when it accused him of owning an unlicensed dog.

It's really interesting writing that you might not come across unless someone like Shaun Usher was finding and collecting them.