News Stories Discussed
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Importance of structure and different story structure
Structure is important for any type of writing which involves telling a story for example in fiction or in news writing. This is because structure helps to guide the reader through the text and enables them to understand what is going on. However there is a difference between how you would structure a story for regular story-telling and for normal news writing/feature writing.
Structure in Fiction Writing
Fiction generally starts with either setting the scence or with the relatively incidental material first, then the story builds, and then it usually ends with a dramatic climax or revelation. (Please look at page 110, Bruce Porter book on your Week three reading list)
For example the tale of Little Red Riding Hood: It is customary to tell it like this:
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Red Riding Hood. One morning her mother told her that Granny had become ill, gave her a basket of goodies and told her to foot it to Granny’s house on the other side of the Big Woods.
In the middle of the woods, Red met a wolf. The wolf told her that the fastest way through the woods was by the South Road. This was really the slowest way. The wolf then took a short cut to Granny’s house. When he got the cottage he locked Granny in a linen closet, pulled on her nightie and jump into bed.
Red arrived. “Granny,” she cried, “what a mammoth pair of canines you’ve got.” At this, the wolf leaped up and chased her around the room. A passing woodsman, hearing the girl’s cries, burst into the room and killed the wolf with an axe. Granny was let out of the closet, and they all lived happily ever after.” Porter, page 111
Structure in News Writing
But in news writing the climax is moved to the top and can often begin the story. The story is told in descending order of importance, displaying less newsworthy content as the story is told, with the least important information last.
This the story of Little Red Riding Hood, rewritten as a breaking news story;
“The climax (or lead)
A ten-year-old girl and her grandmother were saved from being eaten by a wolf today when a woodsman passing by their cottage near Big Woods killed the wolf with his axe.
Less newsworthy material:
The girl, identified as Little Red Riding Hood of 14 Glenwood Drive, and her grandmother, Old Gray Hood, 75, of 39 Road’s End, were reported to be shaken but in good condition at Woodland Memorial Hospital.
Their rescuer was identified as Fred Flanagan, 20, a tree feller for the Big Woods Pulp and Paper Co., who was on his way home from work when he saved the pair. He said the wolf had disguised himself in the old woman’s clothes, crawled into her bed and attacked the girl as she entered the bedchamber
Least newsworthy material:
Miss Hood told Flanagan she had encountered the wolf in the woods earlier in the day but that he had not harmed her. Her mother had given her a basket of goodies she was taking to her grandmother, who has been ill.” (Porter, page 111 -112)
Keep the Story Rolling
As a writer you have to lead the reader through a story that may cover a lot of ground and move around from topic to topic. One of the best ways of bringing the reader with you is to limit each sentence and each paragraph to a single subject. If you think of each sentence and paragraph as a box or room that contains one sort of information, this will enable you to do this.
To take the reader from one subject to another, begin each paragraph with a few words that indicate what it is going to be about or what direction you will be taking the story.
Organising the Longer Story
Longer and more complicated stories can be structured by nesting the news writing structure (talked about earlier) two or three times within one story. This sometimes means telling the story again, but with new information.
Please read page 117 -118 of Porter, that a look at the diagram on page 117 which shows how to structure a much longer piece and also read the story in the New York Times on pages 117 and 118
Telling the Story Chronologically
Some times a very complicated story is better told in chronological order. However, you still will need a strong lead and sometimes a good first and second paragraph to pull the reader into the story.
Some times you may have to use both the regular news-story structure and the chronological structure in the same article. For example if you were reporting a story about what happened in a court room, you may want to use the regular news structure in the first part of the article to say what happened in the court room, and reserve the second half of the article for a chronological structure to explain the history of the court case.
Graduate Multimedia Journalist, Online Editor at CIO UK and contributing writer at Culturefly and Contact Music.