What’s In a Lead?

Leads to a story can be tricky.  Sometimes, I’ll write the body of the story first and the lead last.  Leads should be enticing, interesting and compelling.  The reader should be drawn in to read the rest of the story.

The dramatic lead.

“His classmates called him “the leper,” because measles had left his 12-year-old body scarred.  His mother said children tended to blame him when things went wrong.  One day, distraught, the boy in Tromsoe, Norway, took a rope and hanged himself.”

This lead is from the Associated Press in 1983.  The story is about suicide among children, but aren’t you enticed?  They could have begun with statistics- which would be interesting- but doesn’t this really impact you?

The question lead.

“Acid rain- how much is falling and where?  Where does it come from?  Is the problem getting worse?  Are its effects cumulative?”

This is from the West Virginia University Alumni Magazine.  When I read this, I’m genuinely concerned about my area and I want to know if acid rain is coming near me.  The biggest rule about a question lead- it needs to be clearly answered in the article.  Again, CLEARLY answered.

The setting lead.

This lead should really set the scene.  The reader should have a vivid picture of where the story is and what’s happening.  These are generally filled with descriptive verbs and adjectives.

The combination lead.

Alright- let’s throw it all together!  Combine two and be creative.  Try something many different ways and see what you get.

Titles

Don’t forget your amazing heading!  A good title will draw in a magazine editor and the general reader.  Make your reader have to read the article- make them need to know the story.

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Research: How It Can Change Your Story

“The message is clear: the way to construct your writing’s house is to build a deep, sturdy foundation of solid research that prepares you to ask probing questions when interviewing and develop the freshest angle possible when writing.  You accomplish this by taking as much care to refine your research skills as you do to improve your writing- being aware, always, of biases in your sources.”

 Before you ever begin to write, you need to do some research- and a lot of it.  Now, the first thing you need when researching is an inquiring mind.  The Art of Feature Writing gives great incite on having an inquiring mind and going beneath the surface- far beneath. 

 For example, you’re interviewing President Bennett’s daughter about how it is to be his daughter.  You also ask, how was the move, how is the house, how does school compare, have kids picked on you, do you see you’re dad as much, do people speak to your dad and ignore you.  You go well beneath the surface and before you know it, you know the latest teen trends and what teens are facing psychologically.

 Then, after this interview, you research teen psychology.  What the norm is today, what it was 20 years ago, and how things are progressing.  You use libraries (personal and public), you look into search engines such as Google and Bing.  Then, you go to teens Facebook and Twitter pages and observe what they’re talking about and the type of language they use. 

 Now, you’ve not only got a story on the president’s daughter- but you’ve got a series of stories on teens in the area, what they’re facing, and you include a tip in each article for parents and how teens can get help.

 Above all, research before and after an interview.  Use every outlet possible, and above all- give credit to work you used and do not plagiarize.  Good luck- and have a great day!