Telling True Stories: Navigating the Challenges of Writing Narrative Non-Fiction

Telling True Stories: Navigating the Challenges of Writing Narrative Non-Fiction

Telling True Stories: Navigating the Challenges of Writing Narrative Non-Fiction

Telling True Stories: Navigating the Challenges of Writing Narrative Non-Fiction

Synopsis

An invaluable guide to the key challenges in writing narrative non-fiction, showing how some of the best in the business do it

It's etched into our neurological pathways; we can't live without it. Telling true stories is one of the things that makes us human, and a strong narrative has the power to profoundly change the way we think. Truman Capote's groundbreaking In Cold Blood set the tone and narrative non-fiction now appears in print and online journalism as well as in books. Capote's work is also a classic case study of the thorny issues arising in telling true stories: how to maintain editorial independence while becoming close to your subject, how far to take the narrative when reporting on real events, whether an "omniscient narrative voice" is appropriate for non fiction, and what kind of relationship to create with the reader. The stakes are high: true stories deal with real people, often at turning points in their lives. Matthew Ricketson uncovers the techniques of some of the best international practitioners from the U.S., Australia, and Britain, and shows how to produce authentic, vibrant, and memorable writing.

Excerpt

The truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.

Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Prize-winning South African writer

Our very definition as human beings is very much bound up with the
stories we tell about our own lives and the world in which we live.
We cannot, in our dreams, our daydreams, our ambitious fantasies,
avoid the imaginative imposition of form on life.

Peter Brooks, Laws’ Stories: Narrative and Rhetoric in the Law

Telling true stories is a powerful form of public communication. Researching what is going on in people’s lives and in the world around us unearths fresh, even revelatory, information that at its sharpest will speak truth to those in positions of power and authority. a well-crafted true story explores events in their complexity and people in their full humanity. Using a timely, narrative approach to write about actual people, events and issues for a broad audience produces works that lodge deep in the reader’s gut and resonates in their mind. They prompt reflection; some true stories stay with the reader for months, even years. Some spur readers to action. That action may mean simply sharing the true story with friends and strangers. It may mean the upending of long-held views. It may mean joining a group or even setting one up to address a particular . . .

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