Developing a Good StoryWriter's Web
(printable version here)

The first question to be answered is, what is a good story? A good story tries to include the elements of interest, research, and reputable sources.

Developing Interest

Writers should attempt to accomplish an engaging style of writing that will pull in the reader without using spin. This is usually accomplished in the headline or lede.

It is possible to develop interest through writing, using descriptive language and verbs. A writer should carefully craft his or her words. For example, where a general verb like fell could be used, a writer should try to more thoroughly describe the fall. Could the words plummeted, diminished, tumbled, or collapsed be used instead?

Depicting a sense of the scene is pertinent to developing reader interest. For example, in a story covering a plane crash with survivors, it should describe what was going on in the plane. How many passengers were on the plane? Was there crying, screaming, or praying? Which passengers stood out in the cabin and why? A writer should attempt to cover interesting aspects like this in a story.

Exception - Vegetable Stories: Some stories, no matter how hard a writer tries, will probably fail to appeal to the writer. These stories can include speeches by prominent figures, new report findings, legislative decisions, and so on. These stories are covered because they are important, rather than interesting. These stories can be referred to as vegetable stories, because like a stubborn child, vegetables sometimes may not taste good, but they're good for you.


Thorough and factual research can allow writers to develop stories with the best information available to readers. Researching gives writers credibility in their knowledge of a topic. The internet can provide a great deal of resources to writers. Check out the following links:

  • CIA Factbook (Information on all the world's nations.)
  • Google Scholar (Provides academic references)
  • Google or Bing (Comprehensive search engines.)
  • Facebook (Schools attended, jobs held, known friends of individuals)
  • Merriam-Webster (Free, online language references)
  • New York Times (Provides solid references, most for free, on published content since the year 1851)

When referring to researched materials, a writer needs to cover himself and attribute his information to where he found it. No matter how credible the information seems, it can always be false (see Quotes and Attribution)

For example, "According to John Doe's Facebook site, he was employed at the Aspen Institute for 8 years and held positions as a assistant director and public relations manager."

In that example, were John Doe not available, the organization could be called to verify John Doe's facebook page. However, job positions like Doe's are usually undisputed facts and will not need to be attributed, unless a writer finds substantial discrepancies in the details. Again, see the section on quotes and attribution.

Reputable Sources

Like reliable research, sources act to provide sources to a story. Writers should seek to find the best sources on the topic they're covering so that a reader should not strain to see the relevant connect to the story.

RIGHT: Middlebury College announced the end of its 17-year bike sharing program on Wednesday and caused students to question the school's solid commitment to sustainability. Sophomore Amanda Irving said, "It came out of nowhere. Because I don't have a car right now, there's no other way for me to get off campus."

WRONG: Middlebury College announced the end of its 17-year bike sharing program on Wednesday and caused students to question the school's solid commitment to sustainability. Regina Fitzgerald of 188 Gooseberry Road in Middblebury, Vt. said she was sad to see the program go.

As it stands, Fitzgerald has no apparent connection to the ending of the bike share program. Did her son who attends the college beg her for a car now that it's ended, or was she the founder of the program? If there's a connection, make it. If not, don't bother the reader with pointless inclusions of sources.

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