I’m Looking for the Quote Lede Man
Most reporters know how controversial opening a story with a quote can be.
The rule of thumb is, it better be a damn good quote.
It better grip you right away and not let you go until the end of the story.
That quote better stay with you forever and cause you to repeat it to others and then they do the same.
Some writers will argue that using a quote as your lede is pure laziness and if you do it often, it shows you have no skill.
I’ve come to agree with that. Starting a story with a quote, it has to be special. It has to almost be foreshadowing, or it has to hit you upside the head with so much impact, or as you read further, the person who utters those super important words has to be just as interesting or surprising.
After all, you chose them. You placed them above yourself as a writer to let them speak, before you even do. And writers have ego. Nothing is more precious than our control over the words we write. It is a true act of humility and surrender to just how powerful the story, or the subject of your story is in the act of telling the story.
That should hold a lot of weight.
I have been tempted to use quotes as ledes, but I’ve always wanted to be respected as a writer. That rule has been important to me.
But there were moments during reporting as people spoke to me, they said the “perfect things” without my prodding or a question to solicit the answer I wanted, that allowed me to construct where those quotes should go in my story. It was like writing music, it just fit. Like seeing the notes in the air and hearing the sounds.
Some folks would say certain things and I knew, boom, that goes at the end. And I would nod with a grin as soon as those magic words left their lips and I’d furiously write, or just hold my tape recorder.
But the moments when folks said things that would be my lede, standing where they were standing, ironically next to something that could provide symbolism, the time of day, the weather, I would feel it.
My body would tingle.
Right there, in that moment, they simply said it all. They did the work for me.
Even the days I got sent on an assignment that made no sense to me, where I thought there was no story, when that moment happens, it pulls everything together. It’s unreal.
If you are a good writer and reporter, you’ve had this moment. You know it and you know that feeling.
This is how I can best describe what it is like for me when I’ve met any of the men that I have had real relationships with.
I need my quote lede man. Period. It goes back to knowing what something feels like. And yeah. It’s the same feeling.