The intro – the first sentence – is, of course, the most important part of a news story, arguably of any kind of writing.
It should be direct, simple and attention-grabbing, contain all the most the most important elements of the story and it should be short, not more than 20 words, I was told.
In terms of content, the best intros should answer the question “What happened?” using words that are short and simple and grammar that is clear.
After answering the What? question a good news article then needs to answer Who? Where? When? Why? and How? – The Five Ws and H – WWWWWH.
It occurred to me that how you answer the five Ws and the H are the key questions that define how live your life.
What do you want to do? Who do you want to be? How do you want to iive your life? Why are you here? Where do you want to live? and When do you want to die?
Clearly we only have a certain amount of control of some of these questions, particularly the When? though dedication to a healthy lifestyle may have some bearing.
The easiest one to answer is the ‘Where’, you would think, and yet that is fraught with complexity even in the most straightforward of circumstances as our arrival at our latest campsite demonstrates.
It’s near impossible to A) choose the best pitch and B) agree on it with whoever you’re travelling with.
The camping ground we arrived at yesterday is a large rural site spread over a very large area with 158 pitches. We spent a good two hours walking round the site yesterday and got little closer to agreeing which pitch was best. Here are some of the criteria you need to consider:
Location – various aspects to this including how close to the toilet facilities but also other important places such as swimming pool, restaurant etc. This is not just a matter of how near they also but how accessible the route is in the dark.
Amenities – can you reach the electrics, is there an accessible water tap nearby?
Sun/shade – how sunny is it on the pitch, how much sun is good, what time of day do you want it?
Size/shape – will you be able to manoeuvre your van and fit your awning, tent and other kit on it?
Flatness – critical for getting a good night’s sleep but sometimes difficult to judge
Appearance – grassy looks nice but can get very wet, muddy and dusty pitches can make it impossible to stay clean. Is it near trees, a lake or some other attractive feature?
Noise – how close is it to noisy places such as bars and pools, is it on the main route onto the sort so you’ll get lots of passing traffic.
Neighbours – do they seem friendly and, if so, is that what you want, do they look set to be doing anti-social things like making lots of noise at night, smoking etc.
And that’s just the start of it. I once thought we could agree our criteria and what mattered to us most and then score some of the likely pitches against the criteria so we could come to some sort of objective decision.
Truth is that would be quite a complex algorithm and the research and discussion involved could take an entire day for some of the bigger sites.
This is a decision that usually affects just a few days of your life and yet it’s so complicated. Answering the Where for the rest of your life involves consideration of even more factors and yet this is the easiest of the WWWWWH to answer.
Sometimes life can be complicated, sometimes it’s best to be a bit random, be prepared to get things wrong and most importantly agree to disagree.