Issue 36 / 2009

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36 / First Lede, Real Lead

Finding where the story really starts

In textbook journalism, the lede covers the famous Five W’s—who, what, when, where and why (and sometimes how). In creative nonfiction, the lede functions somewhat differently. Because the primary purpose is not so much to communicate quickly the basic information of a story as it is to draw readers in, the beginning of a story may not capture the Five W’s; often, some of the answers to those essential questions are purposely held back to enhance suspense and to allow the narrative to develop more organically.

During the editing process for this issue, with the permission of the writers, we eliminated the original beginnings of three essays and started them a few paragraphs or pages later. Our goal was to make the beginnings more immediate, to eliminate some writerly throat-clearing, to help plunge readers into the heart of the story—the action, the theme, the substance–from the very beginning.

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