Telling True Stories: Part VII:

Source:,  By: Vernon Doucette

By: Vernon Doucette

Emily Heistand: On Style:
  1. Embody ideas in the nature of language: Language is not a conveyor belt trundling a cargo of something else called “the idea” but is itself integral to the idea. Poets— those pure research scientists in the laboratory of language— might say that language is entirely the idea. But even in prose, whatever else our words mean to convey, the nature of the language is itself a mighty signal.
  2. Restore worn-out words: The most current meanings of words only skim the surface; as any time with the Oxford English Dictionary reveals, each word is a house of history.
  3. Take an art class: Much of what artists learn in school is how to see: how to look at the world free of the abstracting preconceptions and the myriad simplifications that we form in order to navigate life.

  5. Use concrete detail: The mind develops in response to sensory experience and because our intelligence is so multifaceted.
  6. Compose the pace: The pace can be in alignment with the subject— moving glacially for the slowed-down time of grief— or can counter the subject.
  7. Experiment with form: Perhaps narrative is at once daring and humble in the way that science is— offering provisional truths, saying in essence: This is the best story we can tell now, based on limited knowledge.
  8. Cultivate your own style: “You don’t just go out and pick a style off a tree one day. “The tree is already inside you. It is growing naturally inside you.” – Dexter Gordon.

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.”