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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Story Frameworks

The right framework to organize a story can go a long way to improving its value.

Dana Blankenhorn buzzed: Notice the new way of newswriting? Inverted pyramids out. Now news stories read like live blogs Feb 4

Dick Davies - And how is "blog writing" different?Feb 5

Dana Blankenhorn - A single blog entry is more like an opinion column to me, some coherent whole meant to engender a response. Have a take and don't suck, in other words.

A live blog, by contrast, piles minute-by-minute facts together and, while it may contain a summary at the top (after everything is done) there's often no coherence. Feb 6

When I was a journalist, the inverted pyramid (write the most important first)was taught as Who, What, When Where Why, and How Many? That was how the editors and teachers defined it.

The writer (me) saw the inverted pyramid as, “How do I prioritize my facts, most important first and do it quickly?”

The inverted pyramid is a good, if basic, starting framework.

A second framework is a timeline. What happened first, second, third, fourth? I believe our mind's operating system is a timeline. Excess processing power produces queries like, “I wonder what was happening in China in 1066?”

A flashback, buggering the time order of a story, is a conceit (An extravagant, fanciful, and elaborate construction or structure), I guess showing the attitude of the author.

Bill Bryson's At Home, uses a framework of each chapter examining a room in his house, a rectory from the 1700's. He goes from prehistoric times to speculation about the future, cramming a wealth of disparate facts on every page. I can't think of another way he could have built such an entertaining book. A dense and entertaining read!

What is another good framework for organizing stories?

1 comment:

Bruce Goldstein said...

If it is a story as in the type a storyteller would tell then the most important points could be at the end rather than the beginning. They would be as likely to be morals, ironic culminations of events and life lessons as they might be just the conclusion of a story as in a news or pyramid type story, which would have a slightly different purpose.

In a storytelling story the setting is secondary as well as the events, which are leading to something beyond the events themselves. This can also be true of a news story, but it isn't the reason for its being.

So as a format the setting and characters are introduced and the story itself is unfolded ( most often in time as in the other format)to provide the illumination of the particular point being made. In essence this story starts backwards with the ending established and everything else put in front of it to validate the point being made.