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Storytelling formats

Last updated
August 3, 2020

If you have an idea or a story but are feeling stumped about the best way to tell it, have a look through this list. You may even want to include a proposed format with your pitch

Research paper translation article

This is the foundation of Massive's writing training. The template you'd use is here, and here are a few great examples of pieces.

Op-Ed

We recommend that you try an op-ed after you write your first research paper translation. The template you'd use is here, and here are some fabulous examples.

Hot take 

This is a timely, short, opinionated reaction to something happening in the news cycle. For example: "The Science Nobel Prizes are sexist, racist, and misleading. Let's rethink them." Lab Notes are an excellent way to approach this format.

Q&A (interview)

This can be in any medium – video, audio, written. A conversation between two (or more) people is a great way to dig into a meaty topic. Read co-founder Nadja Oertelt's great Q&A with Max Tegmark, or this Q&A-style piece from a biostatistician.

Listicle

A story told in bullet points, listicles can be an engaging, efficient way to share information. We use it often for our "Science Heroes" pieces. (Here's a more BuzzFeedian example of the genre.)

First-person essay

Read an anonymous example by a Black scientist and another about mental health, which has elements of both op-eds and the first-person format.

Narrative nonfiction 

Another word for this is long-form. It compiles a group of scenes to tell a larger story, with a narrative arc, characters, and deeper themes. Getting all these pieces requires interviewing sources, visiting sites, and doing whatever else needs to happen for you to experience or hear everything that ends up in your work. Scientists that do this well include physician-researchers Atul Gawande and Siddhartha Mukherjee (both, in this case, in The New Yorker).

Photo essay/slideshow

Visual events or discoveries can often be best represented visually. Here's a photo essay from the 2017 science march; here's one from Cassini's mission to Saturn. 

First-person video journal/vlog

The Green brothers have elevated this format to an art. It would be a great personal essay alternative.

Animated explainer

See Massive's occasional explainer series, Condensed Matters

Comic

We love xkcd, Dinosaur Comics, and anything drawn by Massive contributor Matteo Farinella.

GIF essay

Sometimes the best way to articulate something is in gifs. Yes, really.

robot and human playing chess