At this year's Western Pennsylvania SCBWI annual conference I listened to our main speaker, Jonathan Gottschall, (The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human) talk about the importance of story. He reminded us that story is everywhere, that it has been with us throughout all of man's history and that it comes to us in many forms. It was told orally in prehistoric times. It was documented on cave walls to help remember, or to perhaps celebrate a successful hunt. Today, having evolved over time, story comes to us in movies, music, television, and advertising. And most importantly, for us as writers, in the form of books.
The speech reminded me I should be constantly alert for story ideas, for the way story is told, and for ways to incorporate these new ideas into my own writing.
Why then was I so surprised, that while beginning research for the ending of my novel on how write an investigative report, one of the first pieces of information the author, Luuk Sengers (The Hidden Scenario: Plotting and Outlining Investigative Stories) conveyed was that underlying all the facts and figures you might uncover while doing research, there must be a story.
A story in investigative writing?
I shouldn't have been surprised, yet as I thought back on newspaper or magazine articles I had read, I realized they were right. Story was at the heart of every piece. Facts and figures were included, but they would be meaningless without story.