Telling True Stories: Part VI:



Roy Peter Clark

The Line Between Fact and Fiction:

The line between fact and fiction in America, between what is real and made up, is blurring. The move in journalism toward infotainment invites just such confusion, as news becomes entertainment and entertainment becomes news. Deals in which editor Tina Brown joins the forces of a news company, Hearst, with a movie studio, Miramax, to create a magazine that would blend reporting and script writing are only the latest headlines signaling the blending of cultures. . . 

Tom Rosenstiel, of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Basic principles to help journalists navigate the waters between fact and fiction- by Clark:

  • Don’t add, Don’t Deceive.
  • Be unobtrusive.
  • Avoid using anonymous sources.
  • Never put something in your story that hasn’t been checked out.

Though this is a work of nonfiction, I have taken certain storytelling liberties, particularly having to do with the time of events. Where the narrative strays from strict nonfiction, my intention has been to remain faithful to the characters and to the essential drift of events as they really happened.” John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.


Telling True Stories: Part V:

JoN FrAnKliN

Jon Franklin is a well-known pioneer in creative nonfiction. His books include: The Molecules of The Mind, Atheneum, (1987); Writing for Story, Atheneum, (1986); Guinea Pig Doctors, (With J. Sutherland) Morrow, (1984); Not Quite a Miracle, (w/ Alan Doelp), Doubleday, (1983); Shocktrauma, (w/ Alan Doelp), St. Martin’s Press, (1980).



“The Most Powerful Thing in Literature Can Do is Move People to Suspend Disbelief: Readers forget that they are on the train or at the doctor’s office or babysitting, and enter the story.”

Lessons Learned: “Character”…
  • Narrative writers need to tell readers how a character’s inner world stacks up against outside reality he or she faces.
  • If the writer thinks more deeply about character, especially the relationship between plot and character, the story becomes much richer.
  • No writer can capture a whole person; they chose just one facet of a person’s life.
  • A writer chooses what matters.
  • Information that explains motive goes into the piece, everything else stays out.
  • The Writer’s goal is to understand how the character looks at the world and understand the character’s responses to events.

Walt Harrington

Author, professor and a journalist. His books include: Next Wave(2012), The Everlasting Stream: A True Story of Rabbits, Guns, Friendship, and Family (2004), Intimate Journalism (1997), Slices of Life (2013) and At the Heart of It: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives (1996).



Details do hold meaning, but sometimes not the sort we expect. Tom Wolfe defined status details as the items around people that define their social circumstances. Such details make the subject’s interior world clearer to us.”