Saturday, August 1, 2015

Make a Scene!

Lee Gutkind defines creative nonfiction as "true stories, well told." Unlike the inverted pyramid of traditional newspaper writing (most important facts first, least important last) or a simple chronological thread ("this happened first, then this, and this..."), creative nonfiction puts people and their doings in a meaningful context by relating the events in scenes.

In fact, Gutkind believes this is the key difference between creative nonfiction and run-of-the-mill news reporting: The creative nonfiction writer unfolds a series of memorable scenes to portay what's happening. He doesn't simply note that long-term unemployment increases the prevalence of mortgage foreclosures; he shows us a sheriff serving eviction notices to a dozen families in an afternoon, and describes the anguished pleas of one desperate homeownwer at the end of the circuit.

That's powerful stuff.

Look for any "fast forward" segments of your storyline, passages where you try to skip many days (perhaps years) of maturing, brooding, or languishing for your protagonist. The mere fact that you dismiss such a yeasty time with a casual phrase will make the interim seem like a "fast forward." Your readers will wonder how your heroine changed so much in the space of three words (" Twenty years later..."). Instead, demonstrate those changes in a meaningful scene or two.

In fiction as well as nonfiction, a well-crafted scene brings human credibility to simple facts. It can spell the difference between an ordinary story and a story well told.

--Joe Allison

No comments:

Post a Comment