One week of learning to write well. Our trainers focussed on what is in German called the »Reportage«. The following is a list of tricks they suggested. Some, I just wrote down like this, some they said so specifically.

Detail makes a story pop

  • What was the weather like?
  • What did the trees look like?
  • How was the smell, did the small change?
  • How does it feel to be hungry? What goes through your mind? Can you give us a picture of this scenery?
  • What do you do with your hands if you feel uncomfortable? Did you already do this when you were young?
  • What is something you like to spend money on? What does your purse look like?

Get language to the point

  • Start with the last sentence
  • The last sentence of your paragraph should sum it up and be strong
  • Don’t use adverbs, use strong verbs.
  • Be cautious with quotations. They take the reader out of the action
  • Describe not as a Steckbrief but with movement:
    • »Masha moved towards the windows where a buffet offered solace.«
    • »He combed his shoulderlong hair with his fingers.«
  • Use short words.
  • Use active voice.
  • Use specific words where you suspect abstract words: They don’t buy groceries. They buy apples, bread, and butter.
  • Use the ladder of abstraction (zweite Ebene):
    • What does it mean?
    • What is this an instance of?
  • Start right in the middle (of the action).
  • Be cautious when describing eyes/view/Blick.
  • If you’re stuck writing: Read people you like and then write.

Interview well.

  • Try not to take notes.
  • Trust your memory.
  • Treat your interviee as an expert.
  • Come back to a challenging situation and ask again.
  • Be bold.
  • Ask for detail.
  • Ask for turning points, biographical meaning.
This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.