Thursday, November 17, 2011

Writing a Great Lead for a Great Story

In the article I gave you earlier about sports writing I said that from time to time sports writers sometimes use allusions from the classics, from the Bible, and from literature to open a story and capture the drama and emotion of an event that, while not really all that important, still inspires the deepest feelings of the human heart and soul.
The example I gave you was the famous quote from sportswriter Grantland Rice about a football game in which Notre Dame had, somewhat unexpectedly, defeated the US Military Academy (Army) in a football claim played in New York City. The story of the game, basically, was that four principal Notre Dame ball carriers couldn’t be stopped. Rice went to the Bible to find a metaphor to illustrate this. (Note: Notre Dame is located in South Bend, Indiana.):
"Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore their names are Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine. But those are aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below."

That “lead” is frequently cited as one of the great example of how, sometimes, media writing comes close to being literature. Some people, to be sure, must think Rice overdid it. But note that Rice did cover who did what, when, where, why, and how.
Whatever the case, I want you to write an opening paragraph for a story summing up the recently concluded Friendship Games in La Paz that will both  tell (more or less) what happened, and capture the grandeur, the scale, and the immensity of the event for SCCS, using some grand metaphor or simile or “rhetorical device.”
Let me give you an example of what I mean. If you had studied Latin (which I know you have not) you would have encountered Roman Emperor Julius Caesar’s famous phrase describing his conquests in what is today France (then known as Gaul). “Veni, vidi, vici,” he wrote.  That translates as, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
This is a pretty good description of what the Jaguars did in La Paz. If you cannot think of anything else, you may use this as your “rhetorical vehicle” (your method of getting into the story).
You might keep in mind that it is possible to go too far with an exercise like this. There is a famous story of a reporter who was sent to cover a disastrous flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889, and in an effort to capture the immensity of the tragedy in which thousands of people drowned, started his story, “God sat on a hillside overlooking Johnstown today and looked at the destruction He had wrought.” The reporter’s editor, clearly unimpressed, telegraphed back, “Forget flood. Interview God.”
Your assignment on the opposite side of this sheet (or any other piece of paper you have handy) is to write an opening paragraph for a story about The Jaguars triumphant sojourn in La Paz at the Friendship Games. I will put the best one on the weblog. Take your time. You are writing about a Great Historic Moment. It’s OK to take a few tries, but your deadline is 8:30. This will count as a quiz grade. So do the best you can.