Story structure: Here’s a long-form example from Sports Illustrated

This poignant piece about how elite distance runner Gabriele Grunewald is coping with repeated instances of cancer offers a nice chance to study a piece of narrative writing that includes a non-chronologic structure.

It’s also just a real good story to read to appreciate Grunewald’s efforts — and what her resolve and her personal growth teaches us.

We mentioned in class that modern films often jump from one time period to another, not always in chronologic sequence.  In other words, they can switch time periods, from the present to the past and back to present — or more.

A good piece of writing can do this too, especially lengthier feature stories that follow the lives of people over time.  So here we see a nice story by longtime reporter Tim Layden that begins with a scene from the past, then moves forward to develop the main character’s story, then jumps back into the deeper past — and then finally ends with the runner’s outlook now.

As you read this, try following the structural turns.  This is primarily a narrative.  It begins with a key scene: The discovery.  When does the writer switch scenes?  When is he move into explanation to help us make sense of Grunewald’s story?  When does he slip us back into the past — and how does he bring us back?  Study.  This is how we learn.  First we study; then we try.

Notice, too, the amount of information Layden provides.  How many times did he interview Grunewald and others?  Where did he find the running stats? How does a media writer become well-enough informed about a rare type of cancer to report authoritatively?  How many years, do you suppose, did he observe Grunewald, knowing something of her battle, before he set out to write about her?

You may not want to become a feature writer for a magazine, but the fundamentals still apply.  (1) Find your idea, then (2) your angle. (3) Carry out lots of research. (4) Organize (map) your structure.  (5) Write a draft.  (6) Revise until it’s wonderful.

The more you practice, the better you’ll get.  And when you write stories like these about people like Gabriele Grunwald, well, it keeps you in touch with why we’re alive.  And perhaps it helps others to stay in touch.  I imagine Tim Layden wrote a few stories like this before he gained this high degree of command and artfulness.

It comes with informed, focused practice.


Top brands spend billions on interactive video ads


By Gardy S. Swengbe

Chris Roebuck, founder and CEO of Clicktivated Video, published an article in on top brands expected to spend billions using interactive pre-roll video ads, for additional engagement with their consumers. I enjoyed reading an analysis on brands such as Facebook and Tommy Hilfiger, and their plan to increase product placement, eliminate passive video ads and enhance user interface.

Mr. Roebuck included completion rate percentages to highlight the ineffectiveness of pre-roll ads. He writes, “the lion’s share of video spend goes to cheap ineffective pre-roll (currently 60 percent). It generates a 78 percent completion rate, and is five times more likely to be abandoned compared to mid-roll units.”  The decision to include completion rate percentages helped me realize the importance of monitoring consumer behavior.

 “With swipes, taps and custom animations — the possibilites are nearly endless” 

Interactive video ads will transform the way top brands target consumers. Imagine a world where you “actually” enjoy and welcome those intruding ads – – the possibilities are infinite.


Skift: the future of travel and technology

By Sarah E. Donahue

Skift is a remarkable brand name which comes from the Nordic word meaning “shift” or “transformation,” and the company is all about that idea of transformation: “that shift into the future of travel.” The Skift brand has positioned itself at the center of the global travel industry and aims to be a “homepage” for travel tech information and intelligence.

Skift is the largest industry intelligence platform providing MEDIA, INSIGHTS and MARKETING to key sectors of travel.”

Read more about Skift here:

I chose to delve deeper into a piece titled: “Skift Manifesto: THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL IN 2020” because I am interested in travel and technology, and I would enjoy working for a company like Skift in the areas of design, storytelling, coding, research and content creation.

The Skift website is notable for having outstanding content and design. Word selection, sentence structure and graphic design choice for color, font, and placement work together seamlessly to communicate this Manifesto in a clear, concise and captivating manner. The first page of the manifesto has few, but powerful words:

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 2.34.48 PM

This page is concise and wastes no time getting to the point.

The manifesto does not limit itself by always being so succinct; in turn it also emphasizes the beauty of words by peppering its paragraphs with unique and colorful word choices as in this sentence:

“Watch out for the rise of Southeast Asia, that cauldron of teeming humanity that is very mobile & very social.”

Skift has met the goals it set out for itself in this manifesto, of creating content that is “smart, sharp, surgical & strategic” and also meaningful.

An agency job that focuses on writing, editing

Since, thanks to Kaylin, we’ve been referring to Pace Communications in Greensboro, let’s examine a description for an opening there called senior editor.

This is a full-time position at the mid-senior level, requiring five to seven years of professional experience.  It’s not an entry-level job, but it speaks to the future for people who refine their skills in editing and writing.  It’s a job for a word person.  The agency also has a lower-level position called editor, and we have a few Elon grads in those slots.

Here’s the position summary:

The Senior Editor leads the creation of all assets for an account or various work streams on an account or project, as an editor and/or writer. Reports to the Creative Director or Associate Creative Director.

This person is responsible for writing and editing all content types including video scripts, short-and-long form articles, white papers, digital and social, display and body copy. Candidates must have a deep understanding of the emotional and tactical needs for target audiences, channels and platforms.

You can see the full announcement here.