Narratively stories are defined by our style, a particularly immersive, active form of storytelling. We don't publish articles *about* a topic, instead we take readers inside another world, another life, through vivid scenes and compelling narrative arcs.
As always, the best way to get a clear sense of what makes a Narratively story is to read several pieces on our site.
There are a few key factors that every Narratively story has:
-It’s untold. It’s original, fresh, and not already covered in other major publications. Think offbeat, unusual, beyond the news cycle.
-It’s human. Every Narratively story follows either one central character or a group of characters. We explore big ideas and topics, but always through the lens of human experience.
-It’s narrative. As you may have guessed from our name, we like stories with a narrative arc. That means that each Narratively story has a beginning, middle, and end, and that something changes over the course of the story. That also means that there are compelling, vivid, active scenes. Don’t just tell us about something that happened, bring us through the events and let us see, feel, and hear them unfold.
In addition to these three unifying factors, most Narratively stories fall into one of the following categories:
Memoir: Narratively has become known for our high-caliber personal stories, which rise above the flood of confessional “it happened to me” first-person writing. The one incredible, truly unique story that only you can tell. (More details here)
Renegades: Narratively’s profile section, featuring subjects who are going up against the powers that be and making real change.
Super Subcultures: We love a good niche – the more obscure the better. (More details here)
Hidden History: Stories from the past that illuminate the present. Larger-than-life characters who never made it into the history books, astonishing forgotten tragedies, heroes that never got their due, and stories that bring the past to life in full, vivid color.
Secret Lives: The series includes both reported profiles and first-person essays, and is defined by stories that bring readers into a slice of life they normally wouldn’t have access to. Often they focus on an obscure or unusual job.
Finally, here are a few things we're definitely *not* looking for. Please check this list and make sure your idea is not any of these things before pitching:
-News response op-eds or "hot takes"
-Anything written in the second person
-Stories about ghosts, aliens, demonic possession, visitations from God, or any other paranormal experiences that are not fact-checkable
-Personal essays about your time in the Peace Corps, hiking the Appalachian trail, online dating, or anything else that's been done to death. Keep it fresh and new!
-Reported pieces about someone you have a personal connection to
-Fiction or poetry, no matter how incredible
Please note: We pay competitive rates for every story we publish. Because our rates vary depending on the story and the contributor, we can't give rate quotes until we've seen your specific pitch.
Believable, a podcast by Narratively currently in production, is looking for pitches!
In each episode of Believable, we dive into a personal story where narratives conflict, and different perspectives about the truth collide.
We’re looking for stories about the way that narratives shape lives in both positive and negative ways. We’re looking for solid, nuanced ideas about narrative rooted in strong characters going through interesting circumstances. Our stories are 20-30 minutes long, character and scene driven, and have several twists or surprising moments. The people in our stories are diverse, and we’re especially keen to receive pitches from female producers, LGBTQ producers, and producers of color.
Our stories focus on a single character navigating the grey area between personal experience and objective truth. In one of our stories, a woman has a spiritual experience when she survives a medical phenomenon, and has to square that experience with skeptics, including herself. In another, a survivor of a police shooting is charged with the attempted murder of the officer who shot him, and a jury has to decide who to believe in the face of mounting evidence of police misconduct. In another, a therapist takes a risky and ethically dubious approach to help a man shed a false narrative he has about himself. These stories focus on extraordinary experiences and expand to say something larger about the role of narrative in the lives of people. But on their own, they're just interesting, complex stories.
If you think you have an idea or a story that might fit the bill, please pitch us!
(Compensation: AIR rates, $1,500)
For Hidden History stories, Narratively looks for larger-than-life characters who never made it into the history books, astonishing forgotten tragedies, heroes that never got their due, and stories that bring the past to life in full, vivid color.
The key to these pieces is that they haven’t been widely told elsewhere, and that you’ve uncovered something with your reporting that adds new dimension to an old story. You’ll need to uncover enough detail to make these pieces just as vivid and active as the present-day stories that our reporters are watching in real time.
And this is important: these pieces need to make it clear why the piece of history you’re digging up is relevant today. What’s happening in the news right now that we can get a new perspective on from reading this hidden history story?
We are particularly interested in pieces about women, people of color, and anyone else whose incredible story has been unfairly obscured by history.
Some examples we love:
Narratively’s profile section, focused on subjects who are going against the powers that be and making real change.
The subjects that don’t make the cut can usually be described as “someone doing something interesting.” Conversely, Renegades are not only doing something interesting, but working around obstacles to make a mark on their field, their community, or the world at large.
As always, it’s important for there to be some action to these stories. Renegades need to have more than just a great idea; they need to be making tangible progress that you can describe in vivid, gripping detail in your profile.
Some examples we love:
We love a good niche – the more obscure the better. These stories take us inside a hidden world we would never have access to otherwise, and introduce us to the people who built it and live in it. Weird obsessions we’ve never heard of, and the people who build their lives around them. Sometimes it’s a subculture of one; a character whose obsession defines them.
With these pieces, it’s especially important to paint a vivid picture, so that the reader enters this strange world with you – and to dig below the surface. These pieces don’t just hold up a subculture and say “can you believe it?” – they bring the reader into that subculture so they can see how it works, what drives it, and what draws people to it.
Some examples we love:
“Secret Lives” is one of Narratively’s most popular ongoing series, and one that we’re always looking for new pitches for.
The series includes both reported profiles and first-person essays, and is defined by stories that bring readers into a slice of life they normally wouldn’t have access to.
Like all Narratively pieces, “Secret Lives” stories are narrative-driven, not topic-based. This means they go beyond “this is what it’s like to have this job” and take the reader through a *story* about the job or experience at hand. There needs to be a narrative arc with a clear beginning, middle, and end -- the writer or subject needs to be transformed in some meaningful way over the course of the story, and that transformation needs to be communicated through active, engaging, vivid scenes.
There has to be something at stake, something universal and human that’s being unraveled and examined. The most successful “Secret Lives” stories draw the reader in thinking that they have nothing in common with the writer or subject, and by the end leaves them feeling connected to their experience in a way they never imagined possible.
Narratively has become known for our high-caliber personal stories, which rise above the flood of confessional “it happened to me” first-person writing. We want to publish the one incredible, truly unique story that only you can tell. We want a glimpse into your life, and through that, into a world we’d never have access to otherwise.
As with all Narratively stories, memoir submissions should be made up of compelling, vivid, active scenes. Bring us into the story with you, and let us see it unfold – rather than just telling us about it after the fact.
And there should be a narrative arc – a beginning, a middle, and an end – that shows you developing a new or different perspective by the end of the piece. That is, we need more than just an account of something wild that happened to you; we need to see the impact that experience has had on your life.
Most of our first-person stories are in the 2,000-3,000 word range. *Please do not submit personal essays under 1,500 words or over 4,000 words.*
Some examples we love:
**PLEASE NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS**
Narratively is always looking for photo stories that bring new perspectives and voices to accompany our catalog of human-centric storytelling. Please note that we publish photo essays as opposed to photo galleries – while great photography is the backbone of each piece, every photo essay must al have a story arc that is driven by both visuals and original reporting.
Our photo stories usually have between 10-20 photos, with reporting presented via captions and accompanying text that inform the readers about the larger story as well as all of the details.
What to Submit: We review completed photo essays or works in progress. Each submission should include a headline that defines the unique focus of the story, along with a series of photographs and explanatory text. We collaborate closely with all contributors to edit the stories and prepare them for publication
We are always looking for something new and untold. If the story has been done before, we want to see a surprising perspective or a new angle. Submitssions should fall into one of Narratively’s primary channels:
Stories about people who build their lives around weird and wonderful obsesions.
Profiles of fearless game changers who are reconstructing the world in their own unique way.
Ambitious projects that put a human face on an important and newsworthy issue.
Photo series that provide an intimate look at a photographer’s life, with a concrete narrative.
Other things we are looking within these categories:
– Always focus on the human appeal of the stories. Tell us: why is this story important to readers right now?
– Please review the example photo essays above and consider how your story and angle could fit into Narratively.
–Offer an untold story, or a fresh take on a story where the nuance and details are often overlooked in mainstream media coverage.
– Engage the reader with a cohesive storyline that takes us from one point to the next, with a concrete beginning, middle and end.
What we are not looking for:
– Parachute Journalism: A good photo story is well researched and photographed over some period of time spent with the subject(s). We want readers to be transported into the world through careful examination and documentation.
– Undeveloped ideas: Unfortunately, we don’t fund projects from scratch; we need you to at least have a solid understanding of what the main subject/storyline is, along with some examples of your work.
– Pretty photos with no context: Oftentimes, we receive beautiful photography with little reporting. We need to know who the people in the photographs are and what their story is.