Monday, June 22, 2009

Saving a lost boy.

Kudos to the Deseret News for its excellent reporting on the weekend rescue of a boy lost in the mountains near Daggett Lake.

That it happened on a Sunday morning and the reporters got photos and excellent stories -- even an interview with the boy himself, shows determination and solid craft.

It also shows classic feature style form -- anyone can learn more about effective writing here.

Readers often generally only read one sentence before deciding whether to read an entire piece, so writers ought to hook them in that sentence.  Often, the best approach to a story like this is to find an irony or a dramatic moment.  (I likely would have picked the dramatic moment -- when the family knew the boy was lost -- when the men on horseback found the boy -- when the boy decided to start cutting up his jacket ... moments of decision that illustrate the central conflict of the story.) They chose irony -- how is it like the Hansel and Gretel story, a solid choice.

All effective hooks, and this has one, start with an implied question.  (Something like, what happened next or what happened after?  In this case, the implied question is?  How is it like Hansel and Gretl?)

THe article then answers that question, giving a rough overview of the story in what is called a nut paragraph or nut paragraphs.

The middle of these pieces follows these nut grafs, and this is a classic example, often merely tells the story in chronological order.

The ending leaves us with an emotion -- Philip Fradkin, a pulitzer winner, calls it a "twanger." 

This writing doesn't end with a restatement nor some kind of moral.  Instead, it is a little emotion -- the twang of a guitar string -- that captures the story somehow and leaves with a feeling of completeness.

This example doesn't return somehow to the beginning, but endings often do.

I plan to show this to my students as a classic example of writing.

Nice work.

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