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"Writing Powerful Narratives," which was held at the Reynolds Journalism Institute March 4, 2013, featured several speakers who shared their experiences and advice about reporting and writing long-form nonfiction.

Speaker Justin Heckert, a Missouri School of Journalism alumnus, has published his writing in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times Magazine and other publications.

Justin HeckertFirst sentences can make or break a story. Writer Justin Heckert said he has to spend most of his time going over and over and over his opening sentence before he can move on to the rest of the story to make sure it grabs the reader. He shared some of his experience during the narratives workshop at RJI.

Key takeaways for journalists/freelancers:

  • Editor’s advice to Justin: “Don’t inform me at the beginning, entertain me.”
  • Immediately hook the reader so they’ll want to read the rest of the article.
  • Some say the ending is more important than the beginning. However, if no one ends up reading the ending… what’s the point?
  • Be ready to make mistakes and learn from them.
  • Spend a lot of time at the beginning of the story.
  • Heckert’s goal every time he writes is to try to write something that no one has written before. Make it new and different.
  • Think about how to begin the story before you do a lot of the reporting.
  • Write a sentence that readers will remember.
  • If an editor wants to cut a sentence and you disagree, ask yourself again “Is this sentence important for this story?”

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"Writing Powerful Narratives," was sponsored by Meredith Corporation, Missouri School of Journalism's Magazine Faculty and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. The workshop was coordinated by John Fennell, an associate professor and a Meredith Chair in service journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Jennifer Nelson  
   
Senior Information Specialist



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