Do I still have the freedom to choose a story angle?
What’s a story angle? Once I found a definition I simply love that states as follows: «It’s the lens through which the writer filters the information he or she has gathered and focuses it to make it meaningful to readers.» This definition encompasses a very important element: the active role of the writer in choosing a specific angle to tell that story. The same story can be told from different viewpoints but only very few really match the exact layers you want to highlight in that story.
Moreover, a story angle depends on many factors. Some of them can be considered internal factors (i.a. the kind of information shared during an interview (or non shared) and some others can be defined as external factors (what kind of format the story will have, in my case as a freelance journalist the style of the magazine in which the story will be published or if there is a main topic to be followed in a specific magazine issue). All those elements are at the basis of what I will create as a storyteller. And it will be my responsibility to explain why in case it will be questioned. But a story angle cannot be considered wrong until the facts are correct. It’s a story angle. It’s a choice. And in nowadays flat communication world this is a virtue, not something that must be discouraged. As trying to use the richness of a language in telling stories.
If you don’t have an angle, you don’t have a story.
The reason why I’m sharing some thoughts in this regard is due to the fact that lately, I’m under the impression that there is a misconception about what an article, a story is. And this is happening with different people: interviewees, readers, and magazine staff. An article, let’s say a story around a house since it’s one of the formats I am more familiar with, is a mix of different elements such as background and basic info, little details, stories that make a project really unique, a point of view on a certain topic… all reinterpreted in a new story that follows a well-defined common thread. It’s not an advertorial.
Developing a personalized perspective in telling a story is a tricky task. Sometimes you have the chance to interview interesting and generous people and the perfect angle actually pops out already while making the interview (some of my best bits came out in such a very instinctive way). Some other times you are not lucky and you could also have a lot of restrictions about what you can share. And building your story can be very difficult. But fortunately in most of the cases choosing the right story perspective is way more rewarding for everybody. Because the journalist can step into the interviewees’ shoes or immerse herself/himself into a project, understand them better and tell a more beautiful story to the people who are gonna read it. And as happens every time that you are passionate about what you are writing, you can really give readers a story they can relate to.
My writing style is more akin to narrative journalism. I don’t particularly like just presenting facts. They have to be part of a broader story (and accuracy here is key). What I really love and think makes a story unique, it’s going the extra mile, trying to grasp the real heart of what I’m talking about. Of course, it’s not easy but I think it really brings the reader into the story. So… long live the freedom to choose a story angle!