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The elements of story : field notes on nonfiction writing

Author: Francis Flaherty
Publisher: New York : Harper, ©2009.
Edition/Format:   eBook : Document : English : 1st edView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
A writer's reference by a "New York Times" editor shares fifty strategies for writing successful nonfiction narratives, in a lighthearted guide that draws on real-world examples and incorporates tales from his work in the newsroom.
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Genre/Form: Electronic books
Handbooks, manuals, etc
Additional Physical Format: Print version:
Flaherty, Francis.
Elements of story.
New York : Harper, c2009
(DLC) 2008053946
(OCoLC)262884170
Named Person: Francis Flaherty
Material Type: Document, Internet resource
Document Type: Internet Resource, Computer File
All Authors / Contributors: Francis Flaherty
ISBN: 9780061892394 0061892394
OCLC Number: 759580851
Description: 1 online resource (xxi, 293 p.)
Contents: Pt. 1. A HUMAN FACE. Every story, even the driest, has a human face. Draw it well and put it on display, for to readers it is a mirror and a magnet --
Shivers on Wall Street: every story has a human element --
Burrito heaven blues: talking heads are just heads. Find a whole person to tell your story --
White knuckles: emotions are abstract, and describing them is hard. But the writer must try, for an article without emotion is like a sun-bleached skirt --
The man who glowed: empathy is precious for the writer. If he is attuned to a subject's inner life, he can double the depth of his story --
Pt. 2. THE THEME. The writer must be loyal to his major theme. He must study all its facets, and he must tamp down other topics that threaten to displace or diminish it. --
A baker named Muffin: a writer who is jack of all themes will be master of none --
Bang the drum strategically: a writer must regard his story through theme-colored glasses --
What babies know: the sound of words and the rhythm of sentences are a language wholly apart from the dictionary. Make sure your story not only says what you mean but "sounds" what you mean. --
Temptation alley: verbs are the most important words in a story, and the most important verbs are those that reflect the main theme. They are verbs with a capital V. Professor Brinker's obsession: keep exploring your subject. The more you look, the more you see. --
Razzing from the rafters: the smart writer is fair, and he also knows he may be wrong. So he is generous in letting dissenters state their case --
The Bentley and the Bodega: choose your main theme and position it, uncrowded, at center stage --
The skinny librarian: a writer must be a sensitive gatekeeper, for every tidbit that she puts into her story is a burden on the reader --
Drive-by deliciousness: a writer can sometimes include a by-the-way morsel without hurting his story. But he must be disciplined, and make the detour short. --
Pt. 3. MOTION. Good stories are a brisk journey, and the reader can always feel the breeze in his hair --
Stroke and glide: all stories are divided into two parts: the action, and the commentary --
A stirring in the garden: making her story move is the writer's main duty. Fortunately, there are many engines for the job --
Paintings without frames: breathless writing exhausts the reader --
Ask not what... Group similar points together. They gain power from consolidation, and lose power from interruption --
Cathedral in the shadows: readers appraise a fact or idea in light of the facts or ideas that surround it --
Pt. 4. ARTFULNESS. The artful writer sees what others see. He just sees it in a drawn-fresh way --
The smell of pleather: the five senses are a writer's most formidable tools --
Sparks on the highway: look until you see something new, for the writer is the watcher of the world --
The sunshine boy: "Show, don't tell" works because a showing is a telling, just a more vivid one. But the wise writer knows that "tell" is sometimes the more prudent choice --
The ballad of Custer's horse: sometimes, say things sideways; the reader will be grateful --
The robin and Stone Mountain: metaphor and other fanciful images are staples of nonfiction, but the nonfiction writer should consider even deeper forays into imaginary territory --
The girl who was a servomechanism: quotations are found art. Use them liberally --
Borrowed grace: white is whitest on black. Let contrast work for you. --
The pebble and the pond: symbols are powerful, so use them; carefully --
The secret of the sea urchin --
Sometimes, a writer must be a sweet talker, wooing his wide-eyed readers with honeyed words. Then, when he has lulled them, he springs his surprise --
The upside-down staircase: a writer should seriously consider the use of drawings, maps and other nonword ways to make a point --
All my darlings: like the colors in a painting, words have a beauty and a worth beyond a writer's composition --
Pretender in a promised land: the writer who indulges in fancy-pants prose sometimes has too large an ego, and sometimes one that's too small --
Pt. 5. TRUTH AND FAIRNESS. Writing is an art, and art bestows a license. But the license is a limited one, and it never sanctions material omission or unfair play --
Something there is that doesn't love a fence: writing is an act of assertion and judgment. Don't evade that part of the job by hiding behind bland language or others' words --
Those cantankerous inhabitants of Clinton: a writer must let subjects respond fully to criticism, must parse his words closely to avoid reader offense and, in features, must be wary of lapses in reporting --
The rose of Spanish Harlem: feature articles are often about mood and other gauzy matters, but they must rest on a hard nut of logic and proof --
The rose of Spanish Harlem II: to strengthen her article, a nonfiction writer will often be tempted to twist the truth. She must suppress this urge, for distortion is a slippery slope, and facts are all the nonfiction writer has --
Pt. 6. LEADS AND OTHER ARTICLE PARTS. Leads and settings, transitions and kickers: each part of an article demands its own peculiar art --
Colonel Foster, commanding: it is easy to write a defective lead and just as hard to write an artful one --
The heirs of Dr. Cadwalader: good leads come in many shapes; but the common measure of their worth is their power to provoke curiosity --
The artist and the old socks: by linking unlikely items, the "double take" lead can lure in the puzzled reader --
The secret taxi signal: the mystery lead can be a brief and powerful way to engage the reader; but used too freely, it sounds cheesy --
Norma Rae comes to Brooklyn: the anecdote lead is much maligned, but its low reputation stems from bad execution than from inherent flaws --
Long lines at Buckingham Palace: of the dozens of lead varieties, three that deserve more attention are the scene lead, the fact lead and the Harry Truman lead --
Death of a banker: no words are more important than the lead. Invest the time to compose, and compare, several possibilities --
Why Snuffy Stirnweiss matters: like a diamond, a story needs a setting --
The man who met Lincoln: besides furnishing the atmosphere of an article, the setting often answers that vital reader question: "Why should I read this?" --
Yellow ribbons and honeylocusts: the nut paragraph is both a map and an ad --
The soccer girls: the best transitions are the ones avoided --
The white tiger at the garden: the end of a story can be the bow on the package. It can also be something more substantial --
Pt. 7. THE BIG TYPE. Titles and subtitles are turbocharged text. They are your work distilled. Why change an apple? The large type presents the first words that a reader encounters. With a big mission and little room, these titles and subtitles are a boot camp for sharp writing --
Cabs and cornfields: composing a title demands a deep understanding of the test and a fine-grained appraisal of different phrasings --
The tides of Brooklyn: a subtitle is an outline to a story; but it is more concentrated, and written with verve --
Pundamentals: word games offer a nice sideshow for the reader; they are never profound, but some efforts are smarter than others.
Responsibility: Francis Flaherty.

Abstract:

A writer's reference by a "New York Times" editor shares fifty strategies for writing successful nonfiction narratives, in a lighthearted guide that draws on real-world examples and incorporates tales from his work in the newsroom.

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