Steve's All Is Lost Moment, 1974

What It Takes

What It Takes

Genre and Nonfiction

By Shawn Coyne
Published: March 24, 2017

This is the second in my Storygridding Nonfiction series.  To read the first, click here.

Who's responsible for the mess in the kitchen?

Who’s responsible for the mess in the kitchen?

“The Story Grid is interesting and all for fiction,” many say to me, “but I’m a journalist and I deal with facts and interview transcripts, you know ‘the truth’ … so it’s not going to be helpful to me.”

Au contraire, mes frères et soeurs.

The Story Grid is a way to clarify your writing intentions, especially for nonfiction writers. Once you know what kind/s of story you want to write, it then provides prescriptive advice to best realize it.

A pile of research with loads of facts, interviews and ephemera does not a compelling nonfiction book make.  But that pile does hold the clues necessary for you the writer to organize those facts and interviews into a compelling argument that puts forth a well-conceived judgment of what exactly the data means.

For example, when my oldest son and I come home from a walk and we find a trail of bread crumbs from the mudroom to the kitchen (fact number one), and we discover a jar of peanut butter on the counter (fact number two), with a butter knife with a glob of peanut butter and raspberry jam soiling one of my finest linen napkins (fact number three) and after interviewing my wife and daughter about their whereabouts the previous hour (they were working through a violin lesson in my daughter’s bedroom), the story that I concoct based upon that information is not difficult to construct.


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