Tag Archives: narrative

VIDEO: Genre and structure in factual storytelling

In a fifth video post on narrative concepts* I build on some of the ideas about structure in the third post, exploring Freytag’s Pyramid and the kabob as narrative devices for structuring longer stories — and the role of genre in learning how to write in a new format.

In particular, I look at the interview format and different generic techniques such as headline styles and standfirsts — and I look at immersive longform stories and the new genre of scrollytelling.

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. A series of video posts from my teaching can be found at this link.

*The other videos are:

  1. How narrative concepts can help journalists
  2. Elements of narrative for factual storytellers
  3. How narrative structures can help you write quicker, and better
  4. More factual storytelling techniques: time, narration, and “show, don’t tell”

VIDEO: More factual storytelling techniques: time, narration, and “show, don’t tell”

In a fourth video post on narrative concepts* I look at the different ways temporality can be used in factual storytelling, different choices that can be made about the narrator, and the principle of showing rather than telling.

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. Links mentioned in the video include:

A series of video posts from my teaching can be found at this link.

*The other videos are:

  1. How narrative concepts can help journalists
  2. Elements of narrative for factual storytellers
  3. How narrative structures can help you write quicker, and better

VIDEO: How narrative structures can help you write quicker, and better

In the latest video post on narrative concepts (you can see the previous two here), this video looks at narrative structure — in particular, how Cortazzi‘s typical narrative structure can help us identify common patterns across different journalistic formats, from the inverted pyramid to the WSJ feature formula.

Being able to identify these structures means we can adapt more quickly to new formats — including those on new platforms.

The video also touches on the use of temporality in storytelling, and how stories might jump back and forth in time to keep readers engaged.

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. The series of video posts can be found at this link.

VIDEO: Elements of narrative for factual storytellers

Building on last week’s video post on narrative concepts, this latest video explores how journalists can think about different elements of narrative and their role in our stories — from Mieke Bal’s fabula, stories and texts, to considering character and settings, and how both can be used to create movement to engage the audience.

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. A couple of other videos are mentioned in it: firstly, this Twitter video story made using Apple Clips; and secondly, Ira Glass’s advice on storytelling, embedded below.

A series of video posts from my teaching can be found at this link.

VIDEO: How narrative concepts can help journalists

Having a critical awareness of narrative concepts and techniques can help journalists report in a more engaging — and a more ethical — way.

In the video below, made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University, I talk about what research tells us about narrative’s impact on audiences of news, how concepts like the ‘Law of narrative gravity‘ can make us more aware of potential negative impacts, and how using concepts like genre and audience can help when adapting to new platforms.

This video was first made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and is shared as part of a series of video posts.

Ergodic education: how to avoid “shovelware” when we teach online

A classroom and a zoom call

Death by Zoom: are we mistakenly trying to recreate the classroom instead of making something web-native?

A few weeks ago I was invited to talk at an online mini-fest about a ‘big idea’ for the future of online learning. I decided to talk about what I called ergodic education — how concepts from interactivity can be used to inform teaching as learners move online. In this post I talk about some of those concepts and how they can be adopted to a lockdown-era classroom.
Continue reading

Can long-form journalism bring readers back by learning from the literary essay? (Here are 17 concepts it can use)

Long-form journalism enjoyed a resurgence when editors tried to retain readers in the early 2000s — but the rise of mobile-first publishing has presented a challenge. In a special guest post for OJB, Michael Bugeja outlines how it can draw on narrative techniques from literary essays to keep readers reading — and coming back for more.

In 2016 a Pew report looked at how readers interacted with over 74,000 articles on their mobile phones. It concluded that long-form reporting was holding its own despite the shift to mobile, boasting a higher engagement rate (123 seconds compared with 57.1 for short-form stories) and the same number of visits:

“While 123 seconds – or just over two minutes – may not seem long, and afar cry from the idealized vision of citizens settling in with the morning newspaper, two minutes is far longer than most local television news stories today.”

Tweaking the concept of long-form

But buried in the report were some problems: only 3 percent of long-form and 4 percent of short-form news returned to the content once they left it — and both types of articles had brief lifespans after content was posted, with interaction after three days dropping by 89 percent for short-form and 83 percent for long-form. Continue reading

Longform writing: how to avoid the ‘saggy middle’ — and end strongly

4 ways to structure a longform story

This year on my MA in Data Journalism and MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism I have been teaching students how to plan and organise a longform story. Having already written about story types that can help organise an investigation and beginnings, in this post I want to look at techniques for organising the middle of longform features — and how to wrap it all up at the end.

Middles and endings of long features are no less tricky than the beginnings you can spend so much time writing and rewriting. Often people fall back on particular habits which may not quite ‘work’ for the story being told.

Telling a story in chronological order, for example, is not always the most effective approach. Stories where the action is not equally dispersed chronologically can ‘sag’ in these cases and the momentum of a strong beginning get lost.

In those situations a storyteller with a varied toolbox might use places, or themes, or scenes, to keep that momentum going instead. Continue reading

Longform writing: how to write a beginning to hook the reader

7 ways to begin a longform story: person, place, action, detail, question, problem, revelation

Previously I’ve looked at 7 story types that can help organise an investigation and the 5 stages of a longform story. In this follow-up post (taken from a class in my MA in Data Journalism and MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism) I look in more detail at the editing process once you have a longform story laid out — specifically, how to start that long feature.

Beginnings are notoriously tricky for any writer. For news reporters the advice is simple: start with the ‘new’ thing in your story, and make sure there is a verb in there: a person has said something; a report has revealed something; authorities are looking for someone, warning about something, planning to do something; and so on.

But in longform and feature writing the approach is more subtle. Although we can choose to report that something has been ‘revealed’ right at the start, this risks removing tension from the story and leading the reader to abandon it before they have the full picture.

Instead, then, journalists use a number of techniques to keep the reader engaged across a longer format — with the important implied promise that the story is going to be worth it.

So, for anyone struggling to think of a way to start a longer story — or feel that you can improve the approach you’ve chosen — I’ve pulled together seven types of beginning that are used in longform reporting and feature writing, with some considerations to bear in mind — and plenty of examples. Continue reading

The 5 stages of a longform story – and how they can help you identify sources

5 stages of a longform story

This year I’ve been working with my MA Data Journalism and MA Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism students on techniques for telling longer form stories. In this post I explain how a consideration of story structure can help you clarify the sources that you will need to talk to in order to gather the elements needed for an effective longform story.

In a previous post I discussed how different plot frameworks identified by Christopher Booker in his book ‘The Seven Basic Plots‘ – such as the ‘quest’ or ‘tragedy’ – can help a journalist think about longer investigations. In addition to those types of story, however, Booker also identifies 5 stages of a story. These are:

  1. Anticipation: setting, character and – crucially – ‘problem’ are introduced.
  2. Dream: we begin exploring/solving the problem.
  3. Frustration: we hit more problems.
  4. Nightmare: this is the ‘final battle’ of fiction narratives.
  5. Miraculous Escape/Redemption/Achievement of the Prize or (in the case of Tragedy) the Hero’s Destruction.

How the 5 stages work in journalism

I would argue that you can see these stages at work in most longform journalism, too. Here’s how: Continue reading