Saturday, May 5, 2007

Narrative writing tips from the pros

Dan Golden of The Wall Street Journal, Stephanie Banchero of The Chicago Tribune and Douglas McGray, who has written for West and The New York Times magazines, were all very humble about their narrative writing skills during Saturday's first post-lunch session at the annual meeting.

But all three offered some practical tips for reporters.

Here are a few:

    Choose great characters for your narrative. McGray, who as a magazine writer does have more time than most newspaper reporters to work on his pieces, said he interviewed, or screened as he called it, about 30 potential main characters to find the one for the story that EWA will honor him for at tonight's banquet. (Both Banchero and Golden will be honored too.)

    Remember that reporting a narrative piece-- which should have scenes and characters just like a work of fiction-- is even more important than the writing of it.

    Make sure every word and every scene relates back to the one-sentence theme of the story.

    Be transparent with your sources. Prepare them as much as you can for what they will see in print, including the tone of the story. All of the writers on EWA's panel said they stop short of showing their entire story to sources. They do check facts and direct quotes.

    When dealing with reluctant subjects, let them know how their story relates to the national or even international story of many other people. Let them know the story is much bigger than them. If they still have issues with being involved, try to find out exactly what they are worried about and resolve it, Golden said.

Read superior writing. Banchero recommended theNieman Narrative Digest for finding good examples of narrative writing.



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Personal Narrative Essay  said...

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