Become a great storyteller

NBCU Academy 101

You may be a good writer, but how do you become an even better storyteller? NBC News NOW anchor Joe Fryer shares tips on creating compelling storytelling, breaking down one of his broadcast stories to show various ways of improving news narratives.

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An excellent feature story should grab and hold your attention from beginning to end. That means not putting all your great moments and characters at the beginning of the story. You should be revealing things throughout the piece.

A focus statement is one of the most important things when it comes to writing and storytelling, it’s what you want the story to convey to the audience.

Having a theme for a story is important because it acts like a thread. Including similar references in the beginning, middle and end will tie your entire story together.

Carefully screen and log your video: Highlight the best sound bites, noting facial expressions and the emotions of the subjects to better write these moments into your script.

Outline your script in advance: Figure out where you want to start, where to add sound bites, where the transition moments are. A creative opening line helps grab people’s attention.

Feature objective information: What are the facts? What is the name of the event? When does it happen? What are the rules for the event?

Sound bites: They should often feature subjective information, opinion, emotion and great moments. Sound bites in feature stories can also be funny moments — things that will make the viewer laugh — and think.

Some quick tools for creative writing:

  • Alliteration: A series of words in a row beginning with the same letter, like the “bouncing baby boy.”
  • Rhyming words: Use sparingly.
  • The “rule of three”: Use when listing things in your script. Listing two doesn’t feel like enough, four feels like too many.

Tips to become a better writer:

  • Find people whose work you like and study it, watch it, write out their scripts. See how they do it.
  • Read as much as you can: fiction, nonfiction, magazines and newspapers are good places to start.
  • Always ask for feedback in your work. There’s always something you can learn.

Your sentences should end like fireworks. They should explode at the end. You can look at every single sentence you write and realize that if you put the strongest part of the sentence at the end, it just feels better.
Joe Fryer