President Franklin Roosevelt examines a model of the proposed Quoddy Dam, Eastport, Maine in 1935. The project barely got off the ground before it failed miserably. (Photo courtesy the National Archives.)
Leslie Bowman and Normand LaBerge keep the dream of a dam in Eastport alive seventy-five years later. (Photo by Emily Friedman.)
It’s hard to start a story. In fact, it took me a long time to figure out that I wanted to start this post with that sentence then tell you it took me a long time to start this post with that sentence.
But, in short, the opening of a story should (most of the time) orient the listener to the focus of the story and get their attention. Frequently at Salt, we suggest a story start in the present. Then, after establishing a scene in the present, step away for context and history.
Producer Emily Friedman tried that approach again and again to no avail when writing the script of her piece “Dam Radio Story.” Every time she inserted context and history it “cannonballed” the opening. So, she switched them starting with history then the present. Not a big deal, to be sure, but her struggle to find a good opening is illuminating. Have a listen.