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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.

(more…)

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What It Takes

What It Takes

The Bar, the Blonde, and You

By Callie Oettinger | Published: March 17, 2017

There’s a scene in the movie A Beautiful Mind, when the John Nash character explains the best way for he and his colleagues to get laid.

A blonde walks into the bar with a group of brunette friends. Nash’s colleagues start ogling her and making stupid comments.

HANSEN
Have you remembered nothing?
Recall the lessons of Adam Smith,
father of modern economics.

ALL
In competition, individual ambition
serves the common good.

AINSLEY
Every man for himself gentleman.

BENDER
Those who strike out
are stuck with her friends.

 

Nash stares at the blonde and Hollywood jumps in with voiceovers and special effects as Nash makes a breakthrough and starts monologuing.

 

NASH
Adam Smith needs revision.

If we all go for the blonde . . .

We block each other.
Not a single one of us is going to get her.

So then we go for her friends,
but they will all give us the cold
shoulder, because nobody likes to be
second choice.

What if none of us go for the blonde?

We don’t get in each other’s way
and we don’t insult the other girls.

That’s the only way we win. That’s
the only way we all get laid.

Adam Smith said the best result
comes from everyone in the group
doing what’s best for himself.

Incomplete . . . Incomplete . . .

The best result will come from
everyone in the group doing what’s
best for himself and the group.

 

However, this only applies to Nash’s colleagues. There are four of them and four brunettes. If their goal is to get laid they can’t help other men in the bar, because they’d lower the odds, with a greater man to woman ratio (all off this living under the assumption that the women even give a crap about men whose maturity levels are as low as their IQ’s are high).

We see this outside the bar, too. There are certain circles in which I often see the same authors endorse each other. By supporting each other’s work, the idea is that they help grow the success of each individual and the group.

This true?

Yes and no. (more…)

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What It Takes

What It Takes

Nonfiction Stories

By Shawn Coyne | Published: March 10, 2017

The late Don Hewitt was a master nonfiction story editor

The late Don Hewitt was a master nonfiction story editor.

 My next series of posts will concern the relationship between storytelling and nonfiction. In order to boil down my nonfiction editorial philosophy into a digestible 10,000 word-ish series for the www.sp.com crowd, I’ll be adapting voluminous material that I’ve previously released at www.storygrid.com

Bottom line is that you die-hard fans may discover material that I’ve written and published before. My intention is not to pass off old writing as original and new, rather to reuse sturdy prose that I stand by in my efforts to streamline my nonfiction editorial philosophy. So let’s get started.

The title of this post is an oxymoron right?

Nonfiction is supposed to be factual and “real,” while Stories are made up of flights of fancy, decidedly unreal. That’s what I was told in the classroom when I was just a wee boy and even later on in college.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30s, with years in book publishing’s trenches on my curriculum vitae, that I realized that those lessons were absolutely ridiculous.

(more…)

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