Writing is a tough gig to get into. But it can also be a hell of a lot of fun. Our friends at VICE.com let us know their top 10 tips for getting creative with words, and we needed to share them with you! At FYA we're all about giving a platform to the stories, ideas and opinions of a diverse group of young Australians.
PS: If you’re interested in writing for FYA, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a bit about yourself and your story ideas. We can’t wait to hear from you! Here are 10 ways you can get started…
1. Look at every part of the story.
When people are starting to write for VICE, the first thing we talk about is looking for the untold part of the story. Even huge issues such as war, poverty, disease, and climate change have elements that are being missed by mainstream media. By seeking these out you can not only find fresh content in a saturated media space, but make a difference by providing your audience with the most nuanced story possible. A recent suite of content around Truvada is a good example of this. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t much else to say about HIV, we’ve been reading and talking about it for decades.
But many probably don’t think about the interesting and complex world of pharmaceuticals and how they interact with the disease.
2. Embed yourself and get good contacts
VICE has always been progressive on issues around gender and sexuality. And this is largely what led to the Canadian office working with Femen. They were one of the few media outlets, and the only North American one, to really get close and report on the Europe based group.
The resulting coverage was great because it was immersive, and showed you’re only as good as your contacts. But it’s also encouraging that good reporting, and talking about what matters, brings respect and access.
3. If you’re going to do something popular, do it better than everyone else
I thought I never wanted to see another piece on tattoo culture until this video came out. A decade or two ago tattoos were part of the fringe, but we’ve been so saturated with content about them I thought no one would care about another story. The Japanese office’s exploration of Japanese tattoo culture showed me there was a lot I didn’t understand. This story could have felt passe if it was handled differently, and took the usual “cool” route. But by exploring the philosophy and this specific culture of tattooing it felt fresh.
4. Everyday stories and people are interesting
You don’t need to be a famous reporter, or someone with a big publication to tell the best stories. And celebrities and people with a profile are often the least interesting to read about. There are crazy, amazing, bizarre, and fantastic things happening all around you. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. And it pays to look at your own community with fresh eyes. Small town politics, local eccentrics, and urban legends can make the engrossing, unexpected, and moving content. You don’t need a passport to be a journalist.
5. If you love something or find it interesting so will other people
We have a bit of a rule at VICE, if you find yourself talking to people about something constantly, or thinking about it a lot, it’s probably a story. Even things that seem mundane like toys you used to love, or games you used to play can be a lead into a whole universe of content. Remember, things become popular or cult items for a reason, there is something drawing people to them. Dig around and you’ll probably find something cool.
6. There are no right and wrong sides
People think VICE writers are all kaleeating pinkos who want to legalize everything going. And that’s probably true, but we don’t write like that. All good journalism, whether it’s alternative or not, is balanced and always shows both sides of the story. There is no point preaching to the choir, or telling your audience what they know or want to hear. The most interesting thing in life is hearing from people who are different from you.
7. What aren’t you seeing?
Everything that is visible and popular will have a way more interesting, much smaller, subgroup associated to it. Often it’s men or women doing jobs or tasks that are usually related to the other gender. But it can be any inversion of expectation. Example? Why watch a video of dudes being tough when you could hear from the women who are doing the same job and being way more baller? Also, on VICE channel FIGHTLAND, read about Rose—a transgender kickboxer from Thailand.
8. Stories are everywhere
This piece about cockfighting in the Philippines was a bit of a fluke for our office. Well, not a fluke, because a huge amount of skill and work went into it. One of our producers was over there working on a piece of content for a client when she drove past this man’s training setup. She got the driver to stop the car, got out, checked it out, realised it was awesome, pushed her flight back by a few days, and came home with an extra piece of editorial content.
My mind still swims when I think about how fast she pulled this together. But she knew if it was interesting to her it was interesting to other people, and she didn’t let herself get bogged down by the fact she wasn’t looking for a story at the time.
9. Weird is good
10. Smart/dumb talk
Another thing we like talking about at VICE is smart/dumb talk. So much of what makes VICE unique is the ability to kid around about serious stuff, and speak really intelligently about things that at first glance seem silly. When you can mix up the audience’s expectation of what is serious and what isn’t you’ll move the narrative into some really interesting places.
A party robot seems like an extra from an 80s comedy, but this piece on Casanova became a kind of sad reminder that our dreams of the future don’t always come true.
Interested in journalism and writing? Write for FYA! We’re always on the lookout for young people who have something to say about pretty much anything! Get in contact with us at email@example.com and tell us a bit about yourself and any ideas you might have for stories. We distribute content to an online audience of 150,000 young people across Australia and want to hear unique stories, ideas and opinions from a diverse range of young people.