Friday, May 25, 2007

Workshop Recap: Details add energy to your stories

Recognize where your story has energy, John Lofflin said. Then think about moving that part of the story closer to the top, he added.

A journalism professor at Park University in Parkville, Mo., Lofflin also serves as special assignment editor for Veterinary Economics, an Advanstar Veterinary Healthcare Communications publication based in n Lenexa, Kan. He gave the presentation “The Art of Storytelling: How to Make a Boring Story Interesting” at the Spring Writing and Editing Workshop on May 15 in Overland Park, Kan. The Kansas City chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors organized the event held at the Brookridge Country Club.

Lofflin said he finds it difficult to explain his energy theory to students. The energy happens when a writer, at one point in the story, recognizes he or she has nailed it and becomes inspired. The writing happens at a quicker pace.

Sometimes a direct quote sparks the energy. Details give a story energy, too.

“Detail is a thing you have to learn to see,” he said.

Details can give a reader a sense of being at the event, or peering over the reporter’s shoulder during an interview. Details can cause a reader to interact with the story on a sensual level.

Even if reporters are unable to attend an event in person, they can use other tactics to obtain detail. Lofflin said he uses Google Earth on his computer to learn about places. Using this strategy once, he said he felt confident calling a Colorado town a two-story town.

He gave another example of calling back a veterinarian while writing a story about animal abuse. He wanted to know the weight of a cat that had died. It led to this sentence: “Excuse Dr. Brett Levitsky if his blood still runs hot when he’s asked to remember that April day in 2004 when 9-pound Darwin was laid on his exam table DOA.”

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