We've all been told to keep our stories spare, to show rather than tell, to let the narrative scenes convey theme without us putting our thumb on the scale with explication and editorializing. That's good advice, all of it. But ideas matter, too, as do context, data, history, and the internal mental mechanics of the … Continue reading Where Action Meets Mind: The Power of Emplacement!
This exercise is designed to help writers bring together the two essential vectors of creative observation—the external and the internal—discover the connections between them, and learn how to move seamlessly between them: Choose a place of interest to you and spend 20 minutes staying very still, observing everything around you in as much sensory detail … Continue reading The Place and the Mind: An Exercise
1. What is a story? Story reorganizes the information of the world by depicting the development of events, ideas and characters in time. Stories track transformation. They show us our world, and ideas about our world, in action. They weave moments—or scenes—together with concepts and context to give us a compelling portrait of the life … Continue reading Story Design: Strands and Structure
An interview is an organic, writhing, shape-shifting creature. It depends on the moods of both interviewer and interviewee, the setting, the residue of recent days in the interviewee's life, and the peculiar meshing or non-meshing of two independent personalities. Nonetheless, we as interviewers have a job to do, and it won't do to blame either … Continue reading Straight “Dope” on the Narrative Interview
Welcome to the Storytelling Workshop! This class focuses on the art of narrative writing, from initial observation to story selection to research to structure. We will pay particular attention to writing about people, exploring some of the most exciting challenges of telling stories about the human condition. How do our protagonists change, grow, fail, triumph, … Continue reading The Storytelling Workshop—Introduction and Syllabus
Space speaks. Space acts. It is the character that contains all of the other characters—real or fictional—in your work. Yet we too often take it for granted, as a sort of window-dressing to add color to the comings and goings of characters, the machinations of plot, and the Big Ideas of theme. But think about your … Continue reading Become the World You Want to Write: An Exercise
You've just finished conducting weeks of interviews and research. You've organized your notes, even color-coded them according to subject matter and speaker. You've thought through your major themes. You think you ought to be ready to turn this mountain of information into a flowing narrative or argument. And yet, you're stuck: When you sit … Continue reading Finding the Heart of the Nonfiction Story: A Creative Drafting Method in Seven Steps
As The New York Times reports in this story, many news and information organizations are beginning to rely on robot reporters to organize information and craft basic news stories, from financial reports to basic sports coverage. Read the Times report and think about what the implications of developing "robo-reporter" technology might be for the future of flesh-and-blood journalists. Will … Continue reading Can You Compete With the Robots?
I promised to send along a couple of longform features for you to analyze and emulate. Here are two excellent examples from The New Yorker. The New Yorker: Rachel Aviv on Elder Abuse. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/how-the-elderly-lose-their-rights The New Yorker: Janet Malcolm on Rachel Maddow. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/rachel-maddow-trumps-tv-nemesis The first is a fascinating investigative feature that focuses on the … Continue reading Longform Reverse-Engineering Exercise 1
Greetings, grad students: Great job this semester on our independent study course on story exploration! Your final paper is due on December 4. As we've discussed, the paper should be 8-10 pages, double-spaced Times New Roman, and should cover the following: I. The topic. A discussion of your topic, including A potential title (both before and … Continue reading Graduate Independent Study Exploration Template