Have you ever attempted an article so complex that it demands a timeline or a character map? Right now I am working with an editor to come up with an angle on a story about an inland lake. What do we want to cover? What is the essential story given the magazine’s audience and its orientation?
As with anything involving water rights in California, multiple agencies play a part. Local, state, federal, and non-governmental organizations each have their roles, those often overlapping. Money for remediation projects is an issue as are plans slated for the lake, most only partially implemented or set in the future.
As the editor and I discuss the potential article, the subject becomes an expanding balloon, growing ever bigger and more difficult to handle as it increases in size. Numerous sidebar ideas present themselves as our preliminary research continues.
Over the next week I’ll develop a timeline and a list of key players. Then, I may use my reMarkable tablet (internal link) to make a graphic showing how these groups come together and what their role has been over time. Yes, it does sound confusing.
The potential article is like a jigsaw puzzle without an illustration showing what the finished puzzle looks like. We have the pieces in rough form needed to construct an image but we don’t know yet what that image will be. By laying out the details in graphic form we may yet finalize what angle we should take.
All of this fiddling around won’t be wasted as it now constitutes the preliminary research for the article. Identifying the key players and important dates is necessary to write the article no matter what direction it finally takes.