What we're looking for:
-As you may have guessed from our name, we like stories with a narrative; stories where something actually happens.
-That means active, engaging scenes described vividly.
-The human element: Narratively stories always focus on either one incredible character, or a group of incredible characters. If you want to write about a phenomenon, find the person or group of people who embody it. Most of our stories can be described with the phrase "ordinary people doing extraordinary things."
-Something new: check to make sure your story hasn't already been covered, we want to uncover untold stories, not rehash old ones. We love stories that show unique access to people and places often unseen and unheard in traditional outlets.
- We publish pieces from all over the world and are interested in untold human stories, regardless of location.
What we're NOT looking for:
-Think pieces or op-eds. While your story should engage with big, interesting ideas, it should do so through scenes and narrative.
-Diary entries. We love solid first-person narratives, but, just like our reported pieces, they need to bring something new, exciting, maybe even shocking to the table. Anecdotes from your life, no matter how heartbreaking/hilarious/odd, aren't enough to make a good memoir piece, they need to illuminate some bigger idea, to teach the reader something about what it's like to be you, and what it's like to be human.
-Anything written in a second-person or letter format
-Stories about your time in the Peace Corps or your experience using Tinder. Memoir pieces should be extraordinary stories only you can tell, not your take on a common story.
-Profiles of your friends or colleagues. Reported stories should not focus on anyone with whom you have a personal or business relationship.
-Stories about alien abductions, demonic possessions, or ghosts. Your story should be fact-check proof.
-Fiction or poetry. No matter how great it is. We only publish non-fiction stories.
Themes: In addition to current, rotating themes (which can be found on the category submission pages), here are a few themes/series for which we’re always looking for stories:
Ordinary Obituaries: Some of the best narrative journalism out there shows up in the obit section of publications like the New York Times. But why should only the rich and famous have their full life stories told? This series is all stories of recently deceased ordinary people--those who perhaps had a two-line obit in a local paper--but whose lives deserve a full-length treatment. (Past examples include: A Gitmo Defense Attorney Who Refused to Toe the Line and The Man Who Elevated the Art World.)
Humans Behind the Headlines: Stories that go behind the scenes and below the surface of big, current news stories. These can be national stories or local stories with a universal appeal, but since this is still Narratively, they need to be brand new, untold, and human-driven. (Past examples include: Faces of Ferguson, Inside ISIS: The Making of a Radical, and That Time the Internet Sent a SWAT Team to My Mom’s House.)
The Naked Truth: Revelations about sex, sexuality or gender
that expose a larger truth about all of us. Profile or memoir. (Past examples include: Sexless in
the City, When a
Father’s Son Becomes His Daughter, and I’m a
Straight Man and He’s My New Sugar Daddy.)
Secret Lives: The people who make things happen behind the
scenes. We want detailed accounts of the jobs you never think about. These pieces are quirky, informative, unexpected. They can be profile or memoir. (Past examples include: Secret
Life of a Crime Scene Cleaner, Secret Life of
a Telemarketing Peon, Secret Life of a
We will also always consider a good story idea regardless of theme. So don't wait around until you see a theme that fits, pitch away!
We're looking to do more reported and first-person stories in direct response to the news cycle. A few recent examples:
This first-person story published days after Fidel Castro's death, about what he meant to the writer, her father, and a friend, exemplifying his complicated legacy for Cubans of different generations.
This look back at thirty years in Oakland's DIY scene in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire.
This reported story about the man who prepared the body of a murdered Imam for burial. The shooting was a big news story, and this was a side of it that hadn't been covered anywhere else.
Like all Narratively stories, these pieces need to include action and vivid scenes, not just reflection. They may include opinion, but we're not interested in hot takes. If you're pitching a personal narrative, you must have an actual, direct connection to the news story you're writing about. If you're pitching a reported piece, you must have an angle and information that no other outlet has.
Rates for these pieces will be slightly higher than our regular rates (and, as always, will depend on the story, the amount of reporting, the turnaround speed, etc.).
There's no minimum or maximum word count, but most of our stories are in the 1,500-4,000-word range.
Most of our first-person stories are in the 1,000-2,000-word range.
We're also always looking for talented artists to illustrate our written pieces. If you'd like to be considered for illustration assignments, please send your portfolio to Illustrations Editor Vinnie Neuberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.