What important story elements can journalists use to improve their writing?

We have all had the experience of finding ourselves as the outsider in a conversation among insiders. At first we encounter a word or phrase -- perhaps of a technical nature -- that we do not understand. Before you know it, we are swamped with the unfamiliar and we nod and smile knowingly until we can make our escape.

There are many journalists who feel that way when they hear experts chatting in the acronymic jargon of digital technology. Geek speak. But there are just as many writers and editors uncomfortable with the technical vocabulary of storytelling. To the uninitiated, they may sound like phrases from a foreign language:

  • The arc of the story
  • The narrative engine
  • The inciting incident
  • Foreshadowing
  • Moment of epiphany
  • Catharsis

Some of these theories are as old as Aristotle, but they continue to be re-imagined and re-purposed for the most contemporary forms of storytelling.

In this week's writing chat, we talked about this language of story construction and how you can use it to improve your writing. You can replay the chat here:

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    Roy Peter Clark

    Roy Peter Clark has taught writing at Poynter to students of all ages since 1979. He has served the Institute as its first full-time faculty member, dean, vice-president, and senior scholar.


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