July 2, 2007

Hey, You, See, So -- Rules for writing well

Once again Al Tompkins offers great advice on writing a story.

Look over the "Hey, You, See, So" rules of writing at http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=2&aid=125933

Here is the start of the column.


QuickLink: A125933
Al's Morning Meeting
Monday Edition: Bob Dotson's Essential Storytelling Tools
Dotson draws on simple techniques to bring his 'American Story' segment to life.

By Al Tompkins (more by author)

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Here we are in America's birthday week. So what better opportunity is there to focus on one of my favorite storytellers and friends, Bob Dotson, whose "American Story" segment appears on NBC's "Today" show.

I sat in on Dotson's lecture at the recent RTNDA Canada convention and learned that long ago, a college professor gave him a guide for how to tell stories. That guide has helped shape one of the most known and honored storytellers in broadcasting. Dotson says every story should include these elements: "Hey," "You," "See" and "So."

Bob Dotson
courtesy of 'Today'
Every story begins with a "Hey," as in, "Hey, give me your attention."

"You" is the reason why you should care about this story wherever you are.

"See" is the two or three facts you have in your story that nobody else knows.

"So" is why the viewer should care. In other words, "What does this story really mean?"

"When I write stories," Dotson says, "I always write the middle first. Then, if I have to cut the story for time, I cut a couple of the 'sees' and trim the 'so.' "

If he gets stuck for an opening line, Dotson says he often finds the second-best soundbite that he has but cannot use in the story because of time. Then he paraphrases it to make the lead sentence in the piece.

"Robert Frost said a poem beings with a lump in the throat," Dotson says. "Stories should begin with the lump in the throat."


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