Stories that reveal system failures or expose abuses of power are important to your audience. But they can seem dry or boring because they tend to be driven by data.

The data builds the skeleton of a story, revealing patterns and subplots. But the heart of the story comes from the people whom the data helps you find.

The key to a compelling narrative is to put a face on the story.

Sympathetic characters or victims of an abuse of power can be your focus. Their loss illustrates the larger problem, and it creates a connection with your audience.

Power brokers, or people at the center of the system, can illustrate stories without an obvious victim. When you describe their actions, it can evoke outrage among your readers and viewers.

Taken from Pulitzer Prize-Winning Writers: Secrets of Their Craft, a self-directed course with Mindy Marqués and other prize-winning journalists at Poynter NewsU.

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