Beverley Scherberger

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#6 Story with Human Interest

A human interest story is fun and interesting to write.

A human interest story is fun and interesting to write.

Story with Human Interest

Tips on How to Write a Human Interest Story

Although newspapers run both press releases and human interest stories (among other types of articles, of course), a human interest article differs from a press release in several important ways. A press release usually delivers just the facts, using few-to-no adjectives or anecdotes; a human interest piece uses much description and anecdotal information to engage the reader emotionally, discussing issues often through the experiences of another.

The press release is normally written in an inverted pyramid style while a feature piece uses the BME (beginning, middle, end), much like a story you would tell in chronological order.

A press release is usually much shorter than a human interest story since it deals mainly with the facts. The human interest piece includes not only the facts but descriptive, anecdotal, and emotional information, making the article considerably longer.

This type of article is generally referred to as “soft news”, taking a break from the more serious stuff to highlight something funny, unusual, or occasionally, inspiring. They are written in such a way as to inform, entertain, or involve readers emotionally.

To write a human interest piece, there are steps to follow that will make the actual writing easier and will result in a more comprehensive and logical story.

  • Locate your best sources of useful and relevant information. Interview those people most involved with the event and, if possible, go to the business, home, or other location where the event occurred. This will also provide you with a prime opportunity to take photos to accompany your article. If you can’t interview people face-to-face, set up appointments asap for telephone interviews.
  • Paragraphs 1 – 2 should consist of your “lede”. Craft a compelling first sentence, often using a ‘hard news hook’ of “just the facts, ma’am”. Or get your readers hooked into the story by relating a short anecdote no longer than two paragraphs, leaving the facts for later on. Either of these approaches can be very effective.
  • Paragraphs 3 – 4 (often called the ‘nut graph’) should explain why you’re telling this story. Why now? Explain the key statistics that add urgency to the story (check your statistics to be sure they are current and up to date). Go into the facts and reveal what the story is really about, providing the reader with the “Five Ws”: who, what, where, when, and how.
  • Paragraph 5 is the conclusion. The BME style uses one of seven types of endings: 1) Summary ~ summarizes points made, focusing on impact, effects or outcome  2) Tie-back ~ plants a fact, idea or scene in the lede and completes it at the end  3) Wrap-up ~ ties up loose ends, answers questions, or solves problems posed in the lede  4) Climax ~ provides a natural ending to a chronologically-told story  5) Unending ~ leaves a key question unanswered to stimulate the reader into getting involved with the situation posed in the story  6) Stinger ~ a surprise ending designed to jolt the reader  7) Combination ~ combines any two of the other endings mentioned above.
  • Revise, re-write, and proofread, proofread, proofread. This is where you check for typos, grammatical errors, misspelled names and proper nouns, re-check dates, and read the piece out loud to feel the flow. If it doesn’t flow when you read it, it won’t flow when others read it, either. Does the piece answer all questions it raised? Does it have a clear beginning, middle, and end (BME)?

This is a general guide to writing human interest stories. Depending on the subject matter, some articles will have more than just five paragraphs. But regardless of the topic or the length of the piece, you always want to keep your writing concise, clear, and correct (dates, proper name spellings, etc.) and, above all, always check your facts.

Human interest pieces can be fun and very interesting to write since they include more than just dry facts. So have fun! And remember…

“Read to escape reality . . . Write to embrace it.”   ―     Stephanie Connolly

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