Telling the Middle

As a student journalist and reporter, I’ve got a deep interest and investment in storytelling. I believe whole-heartedly in the power of stories. They’re what bind us together and, I’d argue, make us human.

So, obviously, I was excited when I saw an article on Poynter about being a better storyteller. I appreciate articles and books about storytelling not only from a personal, academic level, but also from a professional level — if I want to find work telling stories, I want to be the best writer that I possibly can be.

While I most definitely recommend reading the article, which is a taste of a coming seminar, I figure I’d touch here on my experiences as a reporter on one of the tips that really spoke to me. A couple of the tips were pretty similar — have a tight focus, use lots of detail…that kind of stuff that you expect. But one surprised me.

One of the tips is remembering the middle. I can’t tell you how often I will stress over my lede, my nut graph and my closing, and then let the middle of my story kind of idle. I’ve fallen into a bad habit of ignoring the middle of my stories. Roy Peter Clark, of the National Writers Workshop, however, urges writers to reward treat readers with a “gold coin” in the middle of the story. That way, readers hang on after the strong intro and hang around for the strong closer. The “gold coin” in the middle can be a particularly powerful quote or a strong anecdote.

One of the last stories that I wrote for The Towerlight, the student-run newspaper I work at, was about some of the filming of the third season of House of Cards and a relatively new program at Towson University.

After reading the Poynter article, I went and reread my HoC piece. I wanted to see what the middle of my story was.

It was, as I had remembered, an anecdote about some stroke patients undergoing group physical therapy. It would have been a nice anecdote, and it was…kind of.

It was painfully short and painfully low on detail. After reading the piece from Poynter and then rereading my own work, I wish I had paid more attention to the middle. I wish I had remained more invisible (as the Poynter article also suggests) and gathered more detail. My middle could have been much, much stronger.

I don’t think I’m looking too far in to my own work. I think that this article caused some earnest reflection in me as a writer. Disagree? Am I crazy? Talk to me on Twitter.

One Reply to “Telling the Middle”

  1. Good initial post. I like how you use your own work as an example. One nit: urges writers to reward OR treat readers with a “gold coin”

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