News writing for Fictionistas
by Dana Sitar
Everyone loses readers to distractions, boredom, low attention spans, time constraints, obligations — any number of things that have nothing to do with your writing talent. So, what if your reader puts down your book in the middle of the introduction and never gets a chance to fall in love with your main character? How do you get her to remember you — and possibly come back?
News reporters pioneered the solution to this problem ages ago, and fiction writers can follow in their footsteps to craft solid, concise stories. If you’re worried that your first paragraph or first pages aren’t capturing your readers’ attention, try the “inverted pyramid” method of story-writing.
What is the inverted pyramid?
A style that addresses the issue of limited space in a printed paper and the tenuous connection of a telegraph machine, the inverted pyramid can also be a creative way for you craft compelling stories that keep your readers interested.
The pyramid is a visual used to demonstrate leading with the most important information of a story, with other details following in order of diminishing importance. As the image shows, this style of writing is top-heavy. You open with the meat: the most vital of the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of your story. Craft a lead sentence that draws readers in with an understanding of exactly why they’re reading.
How to use the inverted pyramid for fiction
Rather than carry on for pages with a vague description of the location and elusive pronouns to describe a faceless main character in hopes that the reader wants to keep reading to learn more, just give it to them! Give readers what they need to know early on: Where does the POV come from? Who are the main characters, and why are they in this setting? What’s the setting?
Unlike in journalism, you don’t necessarily want to craft your fiction to allow for readers to stop reading the story. Although the inverted pyramid lets you do that, it can also be a way to get your readers invested in the story. If they know the characters they’re dealing with and what major issue they’re facing, readers just might be interested in continuing. If you parse details out too slowly, you risk losing a reader’s interest, driving them to leave the story before they even know what it’s about.
Here are three simple steps to crafting a story using the inverted pyramid method:
1. Answer the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of your story
2. Rank the information gathered from those questions in order of most important (6) through least (1).
3. Write a story that shares the information in descending order of the rank (6, 5…1)
Caution: This is NOT a back-story dump!
Although you want to give useful information early, this style of story-writing is not an excuse to overwhelm your readers with trifling details from the get-go. When you read a news piece, you don’t get a subject’s full history up front, but you still understand the story. You’re given the characters, the setting, and — most importantly — the ACTION right away, and smaller details are left for later or not included at all.
Can we try an experiment?
Here’s your homework! (Don’t worry, I won’t be checking; you’re responsible for yourself here.) Write a piece of Friday Flash this week using the inverted pyramid method. Imagine that you’ve got only three minutes with the most important person you know, and you have to tell your most interesting life story. What are the vital details, and how do you use them to capture his attention?
If you’re feeling bold, publish your story and share a link in the comments!
Thanks for having me, Julie I look forward to what you all create.
Thank you Dana! I love this post and am so thankful you stopped over to share it. I love the inverted pyramid concept, and I plan to work with it in my new WIP. I’m in the planning/plotting phases, so the timing is *perfect*. Can’t wait to get started!
About the Author
Dana Sitar is a freelance journalist and indie author. She shares writing tips and anecdotes for dreamers in search of a path through her blog and DIY Writing Newsletter.
**Inverted pyramid image credit: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_pyramid)
Find Dana online:
Covet by Melissa Darnell
Dangerous to be together. Painful to be apart.
Savannah Colbert knows she broke up with Tristan Coleman for the right reasons. Most of all, to keep from killing him with her new vampire abilities. But try telling her heart. Now, lost in a sea of hostile Clann faces, Sav tries to come to terms with what she’s becoming and what that means for her future. And that someone is doing their best to bully her into making a terrible mistake.
Tristan can’t believe Sav won’t even talk to him. If being apart is her decision, fine. Just don’t expect him to honor it. But even as he prepares to fight for the girl he loves, forces beyond their control take them both in directions neither could have foreseen or prepared for.
A reckoning is coming…and not everyone will survive.
Thoughts by Julie
Covet is book two in The Clann series by Melissa Darnell. I loved the first book, Crave. I wasn’t disappointed with Covet. Darnell has a unique ability to draw her reader into her world. Though it’s been some time since I finished Crave, I fell right in step with Covet. Her imagery is fantastic. Her characters are so real, it’s easy to forget they’re imaginary. Their struggles are heartbreaking and their love is toe curling.
In Crave, Savannah struggles to deal with her changing body, mind and life. She suffers loss and heartbreak. But she’s never weak. Always determined, she’s strong in the face of bullies, enemies and fear. I love this. Who hasn’t felt surrounded? Sav gets in there and resolves to stay her path. She’s amazing. Her true love, Tristan, is as endearing and lovable as ever. Despite the huge amount of time passing after their break up, he doesn’t give up on them, doesn’t rebel against her, doesn’t lash out. He believes in them and that unwavering passion is inspiring to a romantic like me.
It was fun to see the transformation of Sav. In the first book, Tristan protects her many times, emotionally and physically. In this book, Sav’s strong enough for herself and for him. She’s inspiring. Filled with girl-power. And speaking of girl power, her friend Anne steps up her game in this sequel. She’s more than a quick wit after all. Just as I suspected/hoped. Everyone needs a friend like her. Another reason I gave Crave 5 stars, Darnell expands the cast a bit, delving into who they are, enriching the story and creating endless possible story lines – which has me drooling already for the third installment of this series. This was an overwhelming, page turning ride. My emotions ran the gamut and I am hooked on The Clann Series.
Despite the fact this is another YA with vampires, the story is fresh, fun and powerful. I’m so glad I gave Crave a chance. It became one of my favorites in 2011 and Covet is one of those in 2012. It’s not about the vampires. It’s about the people, the tension, the choices. Beautifully done. I would recommend this to any YA reader. Fabulous read. Amazing ending. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Finally, I want to thank Harlequin and NetGalley for making this title available to readers, early and at no cost. If you aren’t familiar with Net Galley, please check it out. It’s a wonderful resource for readers and authors alike. *Thank you*
About a year ago, I joined the Turquoise Morning Press family where I write sweet romances and plot to curl toes of readers everywhere I contracted a three novella series of sweet romances for their upcoming Honey Creek line of books. Honey Creek Books share the same small fictitious town in rural Ohio. I fell in love with the concept of centering multiple genres inside this town, sharing secondary characters and geography. And I was blessed to be accepted into this line. Today I have three novellas and two novels coming to Honey Creek! The novellas come in 2012. The novels in 2013. No matter what else I write, or where I go in between, my heart always comes back to Honey Creek.
My debut novella, Bloom, kicked off the Honey Creek line in February. The second installment in my Seeds of Love series arrives the first week of September. Love Blossoms. I sigh just thinking about the short glimpses we get into the lives of characters discovering love, overcoming troubled hearts and moving past broken ones.
I found the new cover in my inbox and couldn’t wait to share it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I think this picture tells many more. It’s perfect for this love story. It starts with a wedding, an inn and a love that waited a decade to be spoken. What a lucky girl my heroine is! Almost as lucky as me.
Love Blossoms by Julie Anne Lindsey
Jillian thought she had everything she needed until Jackson walked through her door…
There’s a wedding coming to Honey Creek and the whole town’s preparing for the party. When Jillian Parker agreed to host a few groomsmen at her inn, she had no idea what she was getting into. One of those groomsmen is Jackson Tate, and he’s making her concentration completely impossible. He’s funny, fascinating, frustrating, and leaving in a week. Jillian does not have time for that level of distraction. With Jackson nearby, events to coordinate, a bride to please, and an ex-fiancé to dodge, her peaceful life’s getting crazy fast. With any luck, she’ll survive the week and put the whole thing behind her as soon as possible.
…But not if Jackson has anything to say about it.
Cover art always makes me smile. I think this one sets up the super sweet romance inside. Huge thanks and love and hugs to my wonderful boss lady for telling my story with just one pic.
I love getting gifts. Not jewelry or long stem roses or $50 chocolates. I mean, I won’t turn ‘em down LOL but those aren’t what I want to blog about. I’m thinking about the most romantic gifts I’ve ever received and what made them perfect.
To me, romance has to do with truth, not cost. I don’t need a guy to make a quest across the globe to find the last whatchmadoodle on planet Earth. I just want to know he gets me. Or my heroine. There’s nothing sexier than a guy who pays attention. I don’t want my heroine to ask for things. I want her hero to appear with something he knew would make her smile. Maybe the heroine works at an upscale flower shop where the arrangements look more like abstract art than flowers, and that’s sort of a bummer because she love flowers. Her hero might show up with a small bunch of wildflowers tied with a simple ribbon. He’d know this was perfect, even though she’s surrounded with flowers all day, she wants these. He gets her.
In college, my husband (then new boyfriend) bought me a leather bound copy of Wuthering Heights. Why? Because he saw me reading it, heard me saying I read it every Christmas, and the copy I had in hand was tattered, corners curled, cover torn. I didn’t even know I wanted a new copy until I saw the glorious one he had in hand. He’s like that.
He still does things for me like put gas in the car so I never have to. I hate doing it. I could do it. But he does it. I don’t ask. It just happens. Not a “romantic” gesture to you, maybe. But it tells me he gets me. For mother’s day every year, he takes the kids away for breakfast and they don’t come home until after lunch. Sometimes I stay home. Sometimes I go out, but I get what I need – a moment to myself before alllll that awesome mothers day celebration time begins later.
When writing a relationship in a story, I keep these things in mind. I want him to earn a place in her heart. I make sure that above all else the hero “gets” her.
I think the most important thing a heroine can have is a brain. There’s nothing sexier than confidence. Nothing more beautiful than a girl who knows her stuff.
I write lots of different types of heroines. They come from my life, usually. I might know them personally or just see them somewhere. Something about a woman’s looks, fashion choice, voice or almost anything else catches my attention and keeps her in my mind. Next thing I know, my heroine begins to resemble the quality that got my attention. I don’t do cookie cutter characters. People are different. Our heroines should be as well. As I look through the books I’ve finished this year/last year I see they’re all beautiful. To me, all women are beautiful though they don’t always know it.
One reason I write a smart heroines: I want to showcase women with brains, street smarts, book smarts, some trade or artistic talent. They are more than curves and soft skin. They live out their passions and/or pursue their dreams. I think readers of all ages can be inspired by a heroine they connect with. Side note: If ever I write a story that encourages a reader to go back to school, open the business they always dreamed of, train for that marathon — whatever it may be, then I’m set. I will die happy. Before I met my husband and dropped grad school like a decaf coffee, I was on my way to becoming a motivational speaker. Okay that was the dream. I was working toward a Masters in counseling and wanted to work specifically with women of any age who lost their way, hope, gumption, or smile. Maybe one of my heroines can do that.
A secondary reason I write a smart heroine is because I do my best to write the perfect hero for her. I contour him to meet her needs. And none of my heroes want to hook up or fall in love with a ding-dong. They too want a challenge, to be inspired, to do better, be more. Ditzy Mc Doe-doe won’t do much in that way for a decent hero.
Bee-tee-dub: I take my own advice too. In case you think I’m all talk I seek to learn something new everyday. Then I share it with at least one person. Sometimes they already know my new information. Sometimes they don’t. But either way, it starts a conversation that builds our friendship/relationship. Reminds them that we can talk about anything even something as silly as “In every episode of Seinfeld, there’s a Superman somewhere.” Who cares? I did. It was a fun thing to test. <– And that little nugget of info started a week long Seinfeld marathon for Hubsy and I after kids went to bed. First one to find the Superman got a prize. And that’s all Ima say about that.
Now, I’m off to go learn something! It’s all about the brain.