Writing stories - finding a structure

1. The intro/the lead

This is the ‘what’s it about’ of the story. What’s happened? What’s the most newsy/most interesting element? The intro’s job is to give the reader/audience a summary of what the story is about (or where you are about to take them) as succinctly and as interestingly as possible. Remember it’s not compulsory to read the story and whether your aim is to inform or educate or amuse you need to attract the attention of the reader and hold it. 

Sometimes there’ll be a second par to the intro – before the attribution – which will provide a little ore info on the ‘what’s it about’ – usually because there are a number of elements and clarity is imperative in the lead. But the elements will be placed on the basis of key elements first. 

2. Attribution.

If the ‘what’s it about’ is a claim, or an assertion, who said it? Who told you so? What is the source? Attribution is important to establish clearly and early – intelligent readers will want to know so they can decide on the weight of the information. 

3. Background

If it’s a running story (that is, for example, if it taps into earlier stories/related developments) there’s a point early on when you must put more context in the story to allow it to be seen against that backdrop. There may be readers, for example, who may have missed that early development (or do not know that particular historical detail, etc). That detail can not only make the story more interesting by enhancing the context, but without it your story could be inaccurate by omission. Remember the more detail you insert, and the more deftly you insert it, the more substantial the story.

4. Amplification/substantiation.

Returns to the key points of the story which are summarised in the lead, separates them out if there are several and explores them in more detail. Again, the most significant element will be dealt with first, then others, is descending order of importance.

This is also where you’ll see various sources being brought in to support/or debate one or another element of the ‘what’s it about’ - providing more detail about it if it is an event, or an assertion, allowing you to present more of their specialised knowledge to explore the implications, etc.