An old reporter once said that good stories require three things from the writer:
- Problem — He or she must define and describe the dilemma.
- Effect — What effect does the problem have on the principal character, so that the character will have a reason to solve it?
- Solution — How is the problem addressed, and how it is solved…or not solved?
In 30 years I’ve been assigned news stories, features, biographies, and question-answer columns. Nearly all of them required that I address a problem, explain the effect it had, and conclude by either pointing out a solution or presenting the main character’s plan to develop a solution.
Even humorous stories often begin with a problem. Have you ever noticed this when you read comic strips.
When you’re assigned to write a story, e-mail, or essay, do you first start out by defining the problem?
E-mail me how you discovered or defined a problem, and how you solved it. My e-mail address is email@example.com.