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Story structure
You have several options when it comes to the structure of your story. You can choose a chronological order, where you present the key events in your story as they occurred. It is more likely, though, that you will use one of the three traditional news forms: the inverted pyramid, the narrative or the hourglass.

1. The most popular structure for news stories is the inverted pyramid. In the inverted pyramid, the information is arranged in descending order of importance. The most important material is placed at the beginning of the story, and less important material follows. Succeeding paragraphs explain and support the lead.

2. The inverted pyramid is popular because it still serves readers well. It tells them quickly what they want to know. It also serves the reporter by forcing her to sharpen her news judgment, to identify and rank the most important elements of the story.

3. But the inverted pyramid has big disadvantages. Although it delivers the most important news first, it does not encourage
good writing. Many times stories do not have an ending crafted by the writer; they simply end. There is no suspense. Reporters tend to lose interest, time and energy. Writing in the second half of the story is casual at best, and poor at worst.

4. One alternative to the inverted pyramid is narration or story telling. Narration uses scenes, anecdotes and dialogue to build to a climax. People are prominent in the story, and they are responsible for the action. The story has a beginning, middle and end. Quotations sound like real speech. The words and actions of the characters reveal motives.

5. A third story structure, the hourglass, combines some of the best elements of both the inverted pyramid and the narrative. It consists of three parts: a top, which tells the news quickly; the turn, a nimble transition; and the narrative, a chronological retelling of events. The hourglass works well with police stories, courtroom dramas and other incidents that lend themselves to chronological narration. The hourglass has several advantages: Readers get the news high in the story; the writer gets to use storytelling techniques; and it encourages a real ending.

The inverted pyramid has faults, but its strengths are:
  • It tells the reader quickly what happened
  • It forces the reporter to identify key elements
    in the story
  • Writing
    The writing process
    Getting organized
    Story structure
    The news lead—part 1
    The news lead—part 2
    The rest of the story
    The tools of the trade

    A Web site created by Jim Hall for beginning reporters, those studying the craft and their teachers.