Think of your story as a collection of sections, and each section as an assemblage of paragraphs. These sub-sections (e.g. one that explores the major players in a national scandal, or the history of a secret society and what led to its rise) take one aspect of your overall investigation and explore it fully, breaking down the big theme into parts that are manageable for the audience. It starts with a ‘topic sentence’ that tells the reader which aspect you are dealing with, or how it links to what has gone before. Each section should provide the following:
- (a) Evidence (details, quotes, facts and figures)
- (b) Definitions or explanations
- (c) Context, history, comparison or contrast
- (d) Cause or effect
- (e) Arguments for and against
- (f) Analysis or suggests consequences
Reporters working for daily newspapers often quickly discard the childhood habit of planning and writing stories in paragraphs. This is because newspapers rarely print their stories in the original paragraphs; sub-editors break up paragraphs to create extra lines, or merge them together to save space. Do not worry about that. The paragraph is an essential building-block of every story. Plan and write in paragraphs and let the sub-editors deal with layout issues later.