Can anecdotal leads be over done?
leads: a cliché
I'm falling into the habit of writing nothing but
anecdotal leads. I'm not the only one. Our news pages are
full of stories written by writers forever stretching their
legs out under roll-top desks, surveying lush gardens and
other trivial activities. What's going on? --Habitual
We call them anecdotal leads. But often, they are not technically
anecdotes -- just weak descriptions of non-activities that
only succeed at irritating readers. They can often serve to
mask other problems, like not having a clear story focus.
Sit down and ask yourself: Do I use a narrative, anecdotal
or otherwise delayed lead only when it is vital to the story?
What role does the lead play in the story as a whole? How
does it illustrate what the story's really about?
If any of your answers is, "Well, gee, I don't know if it
... like, you know," then get rid of the lead.
If the lead includes children scampering nearby, underfoot
or anywhere else, get rid of it. Scampering children usually
signify that it is a wash-'n'-wear lead that could go on any
story that has to do with people.
What is the story about? If you can answer that before you
write, then the lead (and the story) won't be pointless.
About the column
Ask the Coach is updated regularly. Have a suggestion for
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