According to the syllabus, we are supposed to discuss editing today in class. For my blog post, I thought I would focus on reading stories aloud to check for errors. When we write something, we know exactly what we want to say. Often times, this leads to us missing our mistakes that are obvious to our readers. For example, I am terrible at leaving out articles when I type on Facebook. It’s not that I’m too stupid to know where they go, it’s just that I believe I put them there and I see them in my text. However, that’s in my head, not necessarily on the screen. Reading stories aloud forces us to focus on the words and pick up on things that don’t sound right. Not only can we catch errors through this process, but we can make sure a story flows or makes sense. I like to say reading the story aloud brings us closer to being nothing more than a reader of our work. Your readers are unlikely to miss things that you would as the writer, so catching these errors ahead of time is important.
Author Archives: jenniferhlowe
Chapter 11: Wordcraft
Chapter 11 in “Writing Feature Stories” is full of need-to-know information when writing a feature story, such as tone of voice, quotes, opinions and links.
The book says strong quotes bring features to life but overuse is commonplace. The four reasons to quote features are revealing of character, credibility, variety, and punch. We’ve discussed in class to not reiterate what we’ve already written with quotes and not to quote things that can be written better.
The books also gives the advice to show, not tell, in a feature story. This is super important because feature writing should be creative enough that it paints a picture for the reader. I don’t want you to tell me what you’re seeing, write it as if I’m looking at it myself.
In this section, I also learned a little about inserting your own opinion. The book advises learning as much as possible about an issue before inserting your opinion. I’ve never inserted an opinion into a feature piece, and certainly not a news story. I didn’t even realize it was OK to do so until I read this in the book.
Chapter 10: Leads, Closes and That Big Lump in the Middle
Sometimes the lead can be the hardest part of your story, but once you get it, the rest falls into place. This chapter reminded me of some important things to remember when I write a lead for a story, especially a feature. A lead should let readers know what your story is about, even if they read nothing else. A lead should also be relevant to the feature’s theme and simple to understand. There are, of course, different types of leads: summary, suspense, descriptive, anecdotal, and surprise. I normally use summary or descriptive for my leads. After reading this chapter, though, I noticed that I’ve used anecdotal leads, as well. I haven’t heard much about types of leads other than summary. The chapter also discusses the “big lump in the middle,” or the story. The story itself needs to be organized and flow. This is a big deal for me when I’m writing ANY piece. It doesn’t have to be in chronological order, but it does need some sort of flow. The book offers this advice: Keep related material together, let what you have written suggest what you write next, try to isolate material from one source in one place and, finally, digress often, but not for long. Features differ from news in a lot of ways, and creativity is one. It’s much harder to be creative in a news piece, but features allow us the privilege to really set the scene and make a story interesting, so an interesting lead and story structure is essential.
Be there and observe.
As I read pages 35-45 in “Telling True Stories,” I realized that the common trend in our readings is to be with the subject and quietly observe. As writers, we shouldn’t allow our questions to dominate in feature stories, because we can learn so much more when we silently observe and become part of the scene.
One quote stood out to me, “If the reporter can walk in another person’s shoes, why not do it?” If we can become as close to our subject possible, we will have a better understanding of our subject.
I enjoyed the tips in Anne Hull’s section “Being There.” One tip I found interesting was go to church. I have never even thought of that, but you can learn a lot about people and a community as a whole through attending church. You learn how people communicate with each other and how they dress and behave on one of the most formal places in their town. This can also give a sense of how the people feel about each other and if they are giving or not.