Visual Journalism: 3 Tips For Nonfiction Storytelling
September 24, 2013
•General, Visual Journalism
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Whether you hope to write the articles that accompany your photographs or not, you might find it helpful to know what goes into a good article. Nonfiction storytelling is an important skill for photographers interested in working with photo essays as well.
Learn these three tips for telling nonfiction, journalistic stories. They can help you spot good stories, evaluate the written content and even write better headings under your photographs:
1. Catch Attention with a Good Lede
The “lede,” which originated as an intentional misspelling of “lead” in the journalism world, is the opening paragraph of a news story. The lede also establishes the voice of the author and the direction of the story. In today’s technology-driven age, in which many people read on their smartphones, ledes keep readers interested in the article. The goal of a good lede is to hook readers and ensure that they read the entire piece. For this reason, it is considered the most important part of the story and it is responsible for grabbing the attention of readers.
According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), a resource for journalistic writing, the most important things to remember when writing a lede are:
- Address Who, What, Where, When, Why and How
- Establish the Conflict
- Be as Specific as Possible
- Keep it Brief
- Make Sure You Use an Active Tense
- Remember Your Audience and the Context of the Article
- Be Honest
The Online Writing Lab also advises you to avoid using flowery and unnecessary language. You do not have room to waste words in journalism.
Good lede-writing techniques can also be helpful when you are writing the heading that goes underneath your photograph.
2. Mind Your Quotes
Quotes can add authority to your argument and can support your article. But they can also weigh down your article if they are too long.
Peter Cole of The Guardian advises writers to use short, incisive, direct quotes to “change the pace of a story, add color and character, illustrate bald facts and introduce personal experience.”
Work on paraphrasing longer quotations. If the language is specific or interesting, then you should quote it. Otherwise, a summary of the quotation can be attributed to the speaker.
3. Remember the Basics
Nonfiction storytelling has been popular for centuries – it was a valuable medium for sharing information and telling stories long before the novel became popular.
Here are some of the basic rules of nonfiction storytelling to live by, outlined by Poynter reporter Chip Scanlan:
- Immersion Reporting and Research
- Public and Private Records
- Literary Realism Tools
- Detailed Description
- Personal Reflection
- Relying on Facts
Creative nonfiction storytelling relies on these elements. Mastering these basic elements of nonfiction writing can improve your Visual Journalism skills. Learn more at Brooks Institute today.