Editing and crafting a story that sticks

Good Tape will help you to create a piece that allows you to focus your impact around the moments that make you laugh, cry, or feel inspired. I don’t mean lead with it, I mean start with it. Find it, choose it, and build around it.

So…what is Good Tape and what is Bad Tape?

Simply stated:

“Good Tape” is the part of the story that your audience wants to listen to.

This often looks and feels like:

“Bad Tape” is the opposite of that. It’s the stuff people don’t care or want to hear much about.

This often looks like…

Good stories are built from good tape.

So how do we identify Good Tape?

In the midst of crafting our stories, we have to rely on (and work at) our senses, these will help us distinguish between good tape and bad tape.

Good tape might make you laugh, it might give you chills, might make you want to cry. You will observe that you have been paying attention and that you know what is being said.

Bad tape has you losing focus, it makes you tired or bored, it’s confusing, or it feels robotic. Often times you can find good tape by understanding what it is not. “I zoned out there,” is something you’ll hear around our offices.

Next time you are writing, editing, or crafting a story, find your best piece of tape and start with that. Then begin building narrative around it.

A story from the field

Detroit’s Tax Foreclosure Crisis

During the 2015 tax foreclosure crisis in Detroit, we spent a week at Cobo Hall sharing the stories of residents who were at risk of losing their homes. One woman we met was Toia — a lifelong Detroiter who had inherited her grandmother’s home along with $10,000 of tax debt. We spent the day with her as she waited alongside thousands of other residents in an effort to save her home from the tax auction. Over the course of 5 hours we captured a lot of “good tape,” but one moment stood out in particular —during which Toia described the difference between a house and a home: “A house is just a structure. But a home is where you have love and compassion and family and Thanksgiving dinners and arguments and fights — that’s a home, you know? A house can be anything — this building right here is a house for about 5 hours.” That emotional moment hit us in the gut and ended up serving as the foundation for the rest of the story. You can watch the final video here:


Now, it’s your turn

Use this exercise to help you identify Good Tape while you’re crafting your next story:

Once you have identified the Good Tape, you can start to build a narrative around those moments. Keep in mind that this exercise is one that you should return to throughout the story crafting phase. You can cycle through it over and over again until you’ve distilled your story down to its most essential and compelling parts.

Hat tip to Alex Blumberg of Start Up Podcast for the guidance on Good Tape. Hear his thoughts here.