The lede–a story’s heartbeat

buried lede

Make your point clear in the first sentence

Everybody knows the cardinal rule of journalism–don’t bury the lede.

Well, almost everybody.

Today I picked up a local newspaper bearing a headline stating the Richland County Sheriff’s Department will get funding for body cameras. But I couldn’t tell what the story was supposed to be about until the third paragraph.

The story’s first sentence offered vague detail about “two items due for recognition not mentioned in the last meeting.”

Writers in all fields, take note. Don’t tiptoe around your story. Be brave and tell it.

Some writers like to write the story first and come back to the lede. That’s a valid approach. I’ve taken it on occasion when I was unsure of how to make my main point or of what it should be.

But I usually like to begin at the beginning.

When I’m unsure of where to start, I clear the page and ask myself, what’s at the center of the story? What’s the main idea on which everything hinges?

So find your heart. Don’t plop a compelling anecdote in the middle. Let it give life to your story from the start.

If you’re really stuck, simplify your approach and ask yourself what the most important mechanisms of the story are. Locate its main valves and arteries.

Who is the actor? Who’s receiving the action? What is the action? Work from there.

Your story, your paper, your business brochure deserves life. Reach into the heart of the story and display it at the top.

 

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