Problem, effect, solution

An old reporter once said that good stories require three things from the writer:

  1. Problem — He or she must define and describe the dilemma.
  2. Effect — What effect does the problem have on the principal character, so that the character will have a reason to solve it?
  3. 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

Published by

Rix Quinn

Rix Quinn is a former magazine editor and now a syndicated columnist for over 100 weekly newspapers. He holds degrees from Texas Christian University and California State University.

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