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First crack at the overcame adversity story

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by Illino, May 10, 2011.

  1. Illino

    Illino Member

    Thanks for your help
  2. TheHacker

    TheHacker Member

    It's a good subject for a story. A lot of times when kids come from difficult circumstances nobody wants to talk about it and coaches are reluctant to even tell you anything about it. So good job pursuing the kid to do a piece on him.

    Couple of things to think about that would make a piece like this stronger:

    -- The way to go about a lead for a story like this is to paint a picture of who this kid is. The phoenix reference is a cliche, and the way the lead is written (Belgian coins from six years ago) doesn't have anything to do with the story you're telling. Try not to fall back on cliches and generalizations. If it's a story about a kid, tell me about the kid. Show me who he is.

    -- You could do the phoenix reference simply based on the kid's tattoo ... you didn't need to reach for the Belgian coin thing. The analogy might be a little oversold for the circumstances, but if the kid has straightened his life out, you can probably get away with it.

    -- You could use some more specifics throughout the piece ... about the kind of trouble he was in and about his movements between households.

    -- You mention he moved in with a brother, but didn't say how old the brother was or where the brother was in his life. You also say at one point that the sister-in-law (brother's wife?) is living in one town while the brother is in another town. It sounds like brother and his wife are living separately in order to facilitate the kid going to high school where he wants? That seems really significant. Was there any chance to talk to the brother and sister-in-law? That could have given you a lot of insights about the kid. With a story like this, talking to the family really makes the story.

    -- In general, writing a piece like this is much more about reporting than it is about weaving well-written prose. If you collect enough facts and anecdotes from people, the story writes itself. Keep that in mind the next time you go to do one of these (which you should) ... talk to anyone who is close to the subject.
  3. rmanfredi

    rmanfredi Active Member

    Unless the kid was born in Belgium, there's no need to mention the coin - the phoenix as symbol of "rising from the ashes" is pretty common knowledge. In fact, I'd say that it's a cliche and you can probably find a way to describe the kid's plight without resorting to it.

    Also, I'm confused about the facts - you say that a judge allowed him to live with his brother rather than in foster care, but later you say that his brother now lives in Springfield. So does the kid live by himself now? Is he renting an apartment and going to high school? I would think the logistics of having to go to school, work a part-time job and live on your own along with finding the time to do a sport like track would be a compelling story right there.

    I don't know how much time you had on the piece, but always dig beyond the first layer. Ask the kid what he's thinking about when he's running in practice or a race. Does it help him forget about all the other stress he has in his life? Has the coach noticed a difference in his persona or attitude since he joined the team?
  4. Illino

    Illino Member

    Thanks for the suggestions. Turnaround time wasn't supposed to be as fast as it turned out being, so that's why it's not as smooth as it normally would be. I had been planning to do some of things suggested, but not all, so for the new thoughts, I am appreciative.
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