WRITING FOR STORY: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by a Two-Time Pulitzer Prize Winner by Jon Franklin

WRITING FOR STORY: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by a Two-Time Pulitzer Prize Winner

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A breezy but nonetheless detailed guide to producing ""dramatic non-fiction,"" the genre inaugurated (with considerable fanfare) by Truman Capote in his In Cold Blood back in 1965. According to Franklin, dramatic non-fiction ""combines the appeal, excitement and reading ease of fiction with the specific information content of non-fiction."" The amalgam is made possible by applying the time-honored elements of short-story writing--complication, development, resolution--to journalistic reporting of ""hard facts."" Franklin does not attack the question of whether such ""shaping"" distorts the ""factuality"" of the material presented, but he does provide concise, no-nonsense tips on researching, organizing and writing salable articles. Franklin reproduces his two Pulitzer Prize-winning articles--one on a Baltimore neurosurgeon's efforts to save a patient, the other a longer recounting of the struggles of an elderly black man to retain his dignity in the face of death--and then offers a detailed, almost word-by-word analysis of the texts. It's a technique that beginning journalists, and even those more experienced, will find especially helpful and revealing. In addition, Franklin offers advice on the selection of material, pointing out the necessity of finding a situation in which the potential reader can become involved, of presenting a protagonist with whom that same reader can identify, etc., etc. It's basic stuff, but Franklin presents it in a lively, easy-to-follow style that's refreshingly free from the usual ""creative writing"" jargon. In the same way, he leads his readers through the thickets of ""outlining,"" ""revising,"" ""focusing"" and ""polishing."" All in all, an impressive introduction to a difficult subject, done with disarming candor. If there is one quibble to be cited, it's the vague air of self-congratulation that crops up from time to time when Franklin is describing his own journalistic and academic career. Although some readers may be put off by this ""and then I wrote; and then I won. . ."" approach, there is no denying that Franklin knows what he's talking about and shares his knowledge with an admirable generosity. Sure to be of interest to would-be Woodwards and Bernsteins.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Atheneum