What Makes a Great Story?

Long ago I worked in the newspaper business. I’ll never forget the first few stories I turned in to my editor. Each one was returned with nastily scrawled notes, crossed-out passages and other editorial gibberish. My editor’s main complaints?

  • No hook or weak hook into the story; he taught me the value of always having a strong hook to draw the reader in. The headline should entice the reader to read the first line. The second line should make the reader want to read the third, and so on.
  • Lack of source quotes and research; he was also rightfully emphatic that without strong sources to lend credibility to the story it lacks authority for the reader!
  • No conclusion or closure.  Great stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. And they fulfill the purpose of answering some question or problem posed to the reader.
  • Must answer the who/what/where/when/how. Every Journalism 101 student learns this on the first day of class!
  • Show, don’t tell; great stories illustrate the characters, subject, plot, etc. without just telling the reader a bunch of BS.

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