Story Development

by jbowebuffalo

Stories are, in my opinion, the major unit of culture. We as people use them to communicate ideas effectively, explain concepts, and inform others.

Most often, the most interesting stories and the ones with the greatest impact are those about people, and the ideas of people. Fiction has the luxury of being able to make anything like a person, or make anything into a metaphor for a human idea, but in journalism this is not possible.

Yet developing stories for fiction and journalism are not all that unrelated. You have to choose a medium, cultivate an idea, do research and structure the story.

One of the most interesting aspects of journalism is the ability to capture events as they happen. Video presents itself as the best medium for capturing action as it happens in the most raw form. Some of the most compelling journalistic events in recent history have been raw video. The Rodney King incident, for example, sparked national debate about race and police brutality almost completely on it’s own.

Omnipresence is impossible, so it would seem that critera for selecting one medium over another is a difficult task. I would contend, however, that there is a simple test: find the defining aspect of your story. A story about a natural disaster or some sort of high action would warrant video. A story with a strong audio component might warrant a totally audio report. Photos are great for reflection on a single scene, and are especially great at capturing a singular human emotion. Text, to me, is best at bringing together a wide range of related material together in a continuous story.

All this depends on how your story is developed. Steve Buttry blogged on finding and developing a story extensively. One of his most interesting tips is titled “theft,” is somewhat mislabeled (probably for shock value.) Really, he says to find inspiration from other interesting reports and to see if they can be replicated in your area. Even if they aren’t, he says that asking the original author of the article where they got their ideas from could be a great starting point for a new article. I think this is an important lesson to learn, that being original may not entail redesigning the wheel, but perfecting it. Add a new spin, another layer of depth to an idea and you can really come up with great ideas.

Buttry’s recurring theme is finding stories where you least expect them. Social Media, walking around, whatever you’re doing there are fascinating stories waiting to be told. Much like fiction, you’re simply looking to make a story interesting. An old lady tending to her garden may look innocuous, but if she’s been tending that garden for 50 years through all the changes in a west buffalo neighborhood, you’re going to find her to be a story waiting to be tapped. Creativity and vision are the only things that limit where stories come from.