Storytelling tip: tell a better story quickly


Here is one easy way to make your storytelling (under a really tight deadline) just a little bit better today. Learn to think of soundbites as PART of the flow of the story. You think you already do that? Are you sure?

Here is an example of a story I see often:

track: Mike Smith’s neighbor allegedly killed his wife today and Smith says he just can’t believe something like that would happen in this fine neighborhood.

{soundbite from Smith talking about what a fine neighborhood this is}

track: Smith says his neighbor seemed like a normal man

{soundbite from smith talking about how normal his murderer neighbor seemed}

track: Smith says he is hoping his neighbor is brought to justice.

{Soundbite from Smith talking about how he no longer would like to live next to a man who allegedly murdered his wife}

track: Smith is going to continue standing here and nodding at me and says he will never forget this day.

I’m Sally Atwater reporting from a city near you for the station you are watching.

Sound familiar? If you have spent any time reporting in this business, you have probably written a story like this. I have written stories like this. Why? Because we are all on deadline and this kind of story is easy to turn in 30 minutes. You don’t have to log bites. You can voice it quickly, and insert whatever bite fits with the track. The problem with this kind of story is…well..it stinks. It’s simply track-bite-track-bite-track. And it could easily be ANY bite. That doesn’t make for a great STORY.

So how can we do better with the short amount of time we have? Challenge yourself to listen when you are interviewing Mike Smith. Remember at least 1 key soundbite and write out of it. (we are trying to avoid starting every track with “Smith says”)

So let’s give this soundbite a try.

{I’m in shock. I never thought this horrible thing could happen in this wonderful neighborhood.}

Track: now that it has, this once loyal neighbor is hoping for justice.

{I hope they put him under the jail for what he did to that wonderful woman}

Track: A voice of surprise in a shaken neighborhood.

I’m Sally Atwater reporting from a city near you on a station you are watching.

See the difference? The TRACKS and the SOTS are working together. It suddenly flows and it’s not as choppy. All you have to remember about the interview is that Smith mentioned he “never thought it could happen” and write out of that bite instead of around it. “now that it has…”

I’m in no way saying this line will win you your Emmy. Just start thinking like this and you may be able to improve the stories you are writing under a tight deadline.

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