Advanced Video Camera and Editing

Mapping the Story

Stories are not a list of facts. They should follow a clear thread that takes viewers on a journey.  If you want your audience to follow along, then the story must be presented clearly. It must have a beginning, middle and end. Your job is to engage the audience so that they don't lose interest. Ideally, stories should have the following:

  • Strong Characters (to help make the story personal)
  • Surprise (don't give everything away all at once. Hold back, hold.... then reveal!)
  • Drama (provides conflict and emotion when characters are faced with obstacles to their goals).
  • Resolution (a way to tie up loose ends).

The Hook

Start with a “hook” that grabs your audience’s attention. Remember, you have only one shot to do this because if you confuse your audience, you’ve lost them forever. Think before you write. Most audiences are hooked within the first four seconds of the story. But if it takes too long to get to the story, you risk losing your audience.


Keep the Story Simple

Don't feel like you have to tell the whole story. You can't possibly use all the information you find in your research. The focus helps you narrow down the information. Be specific and focus on one thing at a time.

The Outline

Before you start production, outline the story into sections. Outlining the story provides you with a map to help guide the photography and editing. You want to tell the story in a logical order. Some common broadcast story structures look like this:

I.               The problem or central question

II.              What it means

III.            What happens next

Another structure might look like this:

I.               Someone relates an experience

II.              Expand the experience in broader terms

III.            What the experts say

IV.            What the future holds

V.             What it means for the person who started the story

Peter Rosen, winner of the 2008 NPPA TV writing award, tells how he gathers elements, plans, and writes his stories.