Tips to write a good story

Tips to write a good story

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Junior reporters (from left) Vera Ho and Grace Wang interview Australian author Kate Forsyth
Junior reporters (from left) Vera Ho and Grace Wang interview Australian author Kate Forsyth

The Young Post team explains in five points how to write a good story.

1. Choose a good story idea

  • Topics can range from local events to social issues, an interesting profile, etc. It cannot be a first person report on your personal experiences, even if they are interesting ones. Reporting is not about you.
     
  • Good stories need to be fresh, relevant to Hong Kong and its students, and have a wide appeal.
     
  • Newspaper stories are never fiction or creative essays. People interviewed have to be real people. Events must be real events. Being a reporter is different from being a writer...
     
  • To help you in your search, read the newspaper and surf the internet. Story ideas often come from another piece of information you read to which you give a new angle.

2. Research your subject and prepare your interviews

  • First you need to get an angle for your story. You need to know what your story is really about. Try giving the headline for your piece, so you know where you're aiming. Ask yourself 'how can I sum up what my story is about?'
     
  • You need to present both sides' versions of the facts to create a balanced report. Brainstorm and research the different arguments, then look for the best person to interview. The internet can help you identify experts and the spokesmen for most organisations. You need to interview at least two or three people for a story.

3. Give a good interview

  • Plan the questions you're going to ask. Do some research on the organisation or person you are interviewing.
     
  • Make sure you arrive on time.
     
  • If you can't write very fast, use a recorder. You will need accurate quotes for your article. Check your recorder is working. Have you got enough space in the memory or on the tape? Make sure you've got extra batteries and a notebook and pen for backup.
     
  • Make the interview as much like an ordinary conversation as possible. It's good to have some eye contact.
     
  • Listen to what the person you're interviewing says. If they mention something important that isn't on your list of questions, try to pick up on it.
     
  • If you already interviewed someone with an opposing point of view, raise some of his points.
     
  • Pick up on details like your interviewee's gestures, office description... Those details will give readers a better picture of the person being interviewed.
     
  • Remember to take photographs (see photography tips)

4. Write a compelling, balanced and accurate story

  • Your introduction has to hook the readers, and it has to clearly establish what the story is about. You can use the detail that surprises you the most, or start by stating a problem, a question that will make the reader think.
     
  • Follow up your opening paragraph with a lead sentence that summarises what the story is about.
     
  • Then put forward the facts you've discovered and quotes from your interviews to clarify the question his story is asking. Good quotes express a strong point of view, either for or against the angle of your story. A good quote can bring an article to life.
     
  • Anything included between quotation marks in your story has to be the exact words spoken by the person being interviewed. If something you're quoting is unclear, you shouldn't try and clarify its meaning by changing words.
     
  • For less important points, or if you know the meaning but are unable to check the precise wording, you should paraphrase. When you paraphrase something that was said, you must keep the original meaning but you can change the words a little. You cannot use quotation marks when you paraphrase.
     
  • It is worthwhile keeping a record of your interviews in case anyone questions the accuracy of what you've written.
     
  • Check that your facts are correct.
     
  • When you refer to a poll, a survey or a report, remember to write who conducted it, when and how many people were interviewed.
     
  • If you want to use some information you found on the Internet, you also have to name the website and give its address.
     
  • Remember that if you use someone else’s ideas and writing without attributing your sources, you’re committing plagiarism - you’ve basically stolen their work.
     
  • You can end with either a strong quote or something that encourages readers to go on and find out more.

5. Reread your work

  • Always reread your work after a few hours. You will be more likely to spot errors or things you've missed.
     
  • It is always best to send your text in as early as possible. This way, if there is any problems they can all be solved in good time. The “deadline” is when everything should be completed.

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