Help Desk | Story-Telling 101

“…the dash between the years” ~ Linda Ellis


Imagine, it’s the eleventh hour and you feel the end is near.  You pause and ask yourself,  “What have I done with my life?  Have I really lived?

What does my “dash” reveal? ”

OK, so it may be a bit morbid.   But what if someone had to tell your life’s  story; how would it read?

In their book, “How to Tell A Story: The Secret of Writing Captivating Tales”, renown  writer instructor Gary Provost (1944-1995) and literary agent Peter Rubie give us some insight on the structure of life’s journey.

Rubie and Provost say that 90% of stories you’ve ever read, told or heard follow a plotting formula that reads like this:

The Plot

“Once upon a time, something happened to a woman, and she decided that she would pursue a goal. So she devised a plan of action, and even though there were forces trying to stop her, she moved forward because there was a lot at stake,  And just as things seemed as bad as they could get, she learned an important lesson and when offered the prize she sought so strenuously, she had to decide whether or not to take it, and in making the decision(s), she satisfied a need that had been created by something in her past.

~Gary Provost, How to Tell a Story

As you survey your life, you’ll probably find some points on your dash that read just like this plot.  But the real gem of this outline helps you stay the course  in both your fiction writing and through the difficult times in life.

THE WRAP:  A Plot:

A Protagonist has (Who)

to overcome a challenge(What)

to achieve a goal (Why)


Help Desk|Turn Your Opinion into a Feature Article

421px-Fist4Opinions are like a heart; everybody has one.

If you think about it, you probably have an opinion on everything.  This is a good thing if you’re responsible for producing content.  It means you’ll never run out of ideas. So let’s get to the heart of the matter and turn those opinions into features.

Step 1: Know the difference between a subject and a topic.

Subject: branch of knowledge; discipline or field

Topic: specific aspect of the subject

Step 2:  Pick a subject (provocative is better). We’ll use Climate Change.

Step 3:  Think about topics that fall under the category “climate change”.  Choose one.

I was thinking about the sea level this morning during my workout.  Let’s use “rising sea level” as an angle for our article.

Step 4. Write a Headline:   

More than 20 American cities will be under water by the turn of the century.

Step 5: You or your designee are reporting on this story, therefore you must remain unbiased. Still that doesn’t mean you’re brain dead.  It just means you need to examine and present at least two sides (pro/con) of the topic.

Bonus: If there is someone, product or company you’d like to feature in your article, here’s the chance to let them/it shine.

Who: is at risk?

What: is at stake?

Where: will be the hardest hit?

When: will we see evidence?

How: will it happen?

Once you’ve answered the aforementioned questions via your “newsmakers”,

Final step:  Edit your article to 750 words. Most people read on mobile devices. Make brevity  your friend. Wrap up the article with an unbiased course of action related to the headline.  A sentence or two such as:

“Sea-level may not rise more than a few inches in our lifetime but the threat of flooding is a real risk for anyone living near water.  Here’s how to prepare…

Voila! You now have editorial content also known as a feature article.

You’ve also won some extra points for featuring two of your favorite clients who both have written books “Climate Change: What a Bunch of Malarkey” and “Climate Change: How to Build an Ark“.