Always follow the flow of money

When I was just starting out as a writer, I had a single mentor who wouldn’t let up on me. Sometimes he would recite state secrets, even to a rookie.

Every other day, he’d off-handedly spout out a key piece of advice as if it came at random.

“The first paragraph should always say what the story’s about,” he’d command.  “In extreme cases, you’ll also need to tell readers why you’re telling the story at all. I see it in your piece, but it’s — let’s see — in the ninth paragraph. We’ll tear this up and start over, OK?”

I got accustomed to rewriting from the top. Invariably, the results would be much better. To prove it, I’d just read it aloud.

Then I started getting into gnarly business stories. Sometimes, there’d be an extra adrenaline shot — a dispute ended up in court. Or we’d learn someone had stumbled across a pot of missing money. It was then he’d counsel me: “When in doubt, always follow the flow of money. Do not get distracted. Follow the money wherever it comes and goes. Make sure you get the directional signs right. Some are in red and some in black. Do not be color blind.

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    • Dave Danforth, Aspen Daily News Columnist