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.”


Telling True Stories: Part IV

DeNeen L. Brown:

To Begin The Beginning… The HARDEST THING about the beginning is the


The screen stares and the cursor blinks nothingness, taunting me. It says, “Ready, set, go! What are you going to write this time?” “I summon a voice strong enough to say, Sit down and listen to me.

Source: DeNeen Brown Twitter

Source: DeNeen Brown Twitter

Beginning to read a story should feel like embarking on a journey, starting toward a destination.” “Where would you begin if you were an omniscient narrator?

“Don’t just tell me what so-and-so said and what so-and-so felt. Tell me what so-and-so meant to say and why she said it, and what had brought her to this point in her life that would make her say it. He meant: Create multidimensional stories and characters.

“Go deep.”

“Each one of us has a storytelling voice deep inside. We’ve been listening to stories since we were knee -high, and we know how stories should be told.”

Jack Hart:

We are trained as journalists to describe action secondhand, through quotes and observation. Skilled narrative writers put the reader there and let her witness it, have the experience, feel it. That’s much more powerful than a secondhand version of reality.



Summary Vs. Dramatic Narratives

* The summary:
  • Provides the links between scenes, which are usually written in dramatic narrative.
  • Standard news stories are written in summary narrative.
* The Dramatic:
  • Is required in true storytelling.
  • Traditional journalists, because they have limited experience with dramatic narrative, often have a tough time distinguishing between the two. “

To sum up:

“You’re either in story, or you’re out of story.”