Mary Ann Hogan
Chips Quinn Writing Coach
Finding beauty in the routine
I keep getting assigned routine stories — festivals, fairs, community and school events, especially when I work during the weekend. I know these stories have to be done. But how I can keep them from being — well — routine? — On the Festival Beat
My take on approaching the so-called routine story is this: “Routine” is a state of mind, not a topic. A reporter with a keen eye and a nose for the offbeat can find a delicious story in a state fair green-bean-judging contest, an annual garden festival, a water commission hearing or the most routine of police stories.
William Zinsser, in his book “On Writing Well” (2001, Harper Resource), has this to say about tackling a boring story: “You’ll find the solution if you look for the human element. Somewhere in every drab institution are men and women who have a fierce attachment to what they are doing and are rich repositories of lore. Somewhere behind every storm sewer is a politician whose future hangs on getting it installed and a widow who has always lived on the block and is outraged that some damn-fool legislator thinks it will wash away. Find these people to tell your story, and it won’t be drab.”