Skills for journalists in print and digital media

Five Stages of a Story: Part 3

with 2 comments

There are techniques reporters and editors can apply to the tasks of the Idea and Organize stage. Most are critical thinking approaches to help focus the idea. Consider:

IDEA stage

Story mapping: Map the story idea as a web. Lay out all aspects of the idea. Select the most important part of the “map” as the focus of the story and the reporting to come.

Central question: Identify the central question at the heart of your story idea. Then set out to answer that question.

Premise: Frame your idea as premise (rather than a fact) and set out to prove or disprove the premise. Remain open-minded as the reporting progresses.

Point of view: Write your topic or question in the middle of a circle. Around the circle list all the people with a connection to the story. Decide which person’s point of view might be the best way to report and tell the story.

Reader questions: Ask five questions a reader would ask about the topic. Set out to answer those five questions.

Five whys: Ask “why” five times. Each “why” should take you deeper into the topic and closer to the central question or central premise.


Story mapping: Re-map the story with all the information accumulated through reporting. If using a specific point of view, re-map the story with the selected point of view at the center.

Theme statement: In a sentence or two, express the central point of your story, the heart of your story. This can be the answer to your central question or a restatement of the central premise. Use the theme statement to help determine what material stays in the story, what is left out.

Jot outline: List key points in the order they will appear in the story. Consider story focus, length and packaging.

Story forms: Select a story form that will help shape the story. Consider inverted pyramid, block, wine glass or layer cake forms. (See related post on Story Forms.)

Five Stages of a Story: Part 1

Five Stages of a Story: Part 2


Written by mroberts8

10/17/2009 at 12:10 am

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] Five Stages of a Story: Part 3 […]

  2. […] Five Stages of a Story: Part 3 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: