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Telling True Stories: Navigating the Challenges of Writing Narrative Non-Fiction

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An invaluable guide to the key challenges in writing narrative non-fiction, showing how some of the best in the business do it It's etched into our neurological pathways; we can't live without it. Telling true stories is one of the things that makes us human, and a strong narrative has the power to profoundly change the way we think. Truman Capote's groundbreaking In Cold B An invaluable guide to the key challenges in writing narrative non-fiction, showing how some of the best in the business do it It's etched into our neurological pathways; we can't live without it. Telling true stories is one of the things that makes us human, and a strong narrative has the power to profoundly change the way we think. Truman Capote's groundbreaking In Cold Blood set the tone and narrative non-fiction now appears in print and online journalism as well as in books. Capote's work is also a classic case study of the thorny issues arising in telling true stories: how to maintain editorial independence while becoming close to your subject, how far to take the narrative when reporting on real events, whether an "omniscient narrative voice" is appropriate for non fiction, and what kind of relationship to create with the reader. The stakes are high: true stories deal with real people, often at turning points in their lives. Matthew Ricketson uncovers the techniques of some of the best international practitioners from the U.S., Australia, and Britain, and shows how to produce authentic, vibrant, and memorable writing.


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An invaluable guide to the key challenges in writing narrative non-fiction, showing how some of the best in the business do it It's etched into our neurological pathways; we can't live without it. Telling true stories is one of the things that makes us human, and a strong narrative has the power to profoundly change the way we think. Truman Capote's groundbreaking In Cold B An invaluable guide to the key challenges in writing narrative non-fiction, showing how some of the best in the business do it It's etched into our neurological pathways; we can't live without it. Telling true stories is one of the things that makes us human, and a strong narrative has the power to profoundly change the way we think. Truman Capote's groundbreaking In Cold Blood set the tone and narrative non-fiction now appears in print and online journalism as well as in books. Capote's work is also a classic case study of the thorny issues arising in telling true stories: how to maintain editorial independence while becoming close to your subject, how far to take the narrative when reporting on real events, whether an "omniscient narrative voice" is appropriate for non fiction, and what kind of relationship to create with the reader. The stakes are high: true stories deal with real people, often at turning points in their lives. Matthew Ricketson uncovers the techniques of some of the best international practitioners from the U.S., Australia, and Britain, and shows how to produce authentic, vibrant, and memorable writing.

29 review for Telling True Stories: Navigating the Challenges of Writing Narrative Non-Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Andrew McMillen

    Matthew Ricketson is a former journalist for The Age and The Australian who is now Professor of Journalism at the University of Canberra, and 'Telling True Stories' is based on his doctoral thesis. While drawing occasionally on his own experiences in the field, for the most part Ricketson takes an academic lens to the practice of narrative non-fiction, which he deems 'true stories' in the sense that feature journalists work with facts while often relying on literary devices and novelists' sensib Matthew Ricketson is a former journalist for The Age and The Australian who is now Professor of Journalism at the University of Canberra, and 'Telling True Stories' is based on his doctoral thesis. While drawing occasionally on his own experiences in the field, for the most part Ricketson takes an academic lens to the practice of narrative non-fiction, which he deems 'true stories' in the sense that feature journalists work with facts while often relying on literary devices and novelists' sensibilities in order to engage readers who seek more detail than what is regularly presented in the daily news cycle. Though this book is firmly in the centre of my interests, 'Telling True Stories' is a tough read. It sat on my bedside table for two months between starting and finishing, and I read three other books in that time. It often felt like hard work to pick up this book, and this is mostly due to the academic nature of the text. Ricketson does his best to spice up the dry, theoretical nature of some of these discussions by drawing on classic real-world examples, like Janet Malcolm's dilemma of developing trust with principal sources while also keeping editorial independence, and Truman Capote's 'In Cold Blood'. He also interviewed key Australian practitioners such as David Marr, Helen Garner, Chloe Hooper and Margaret Simons, though I learned at the back of the book that these interviews were conducted in 2007, seven years prior to the date of publication. Which isn't to say that their wise comments are outdated in any way; I guess it just goes to show the amount of time and effort that went into this text. I bought this book after reading Trent Dalton's rave review in The Weekend Australian in early June (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/...). Dalton called it a "detailed, auth­oritative book for anyone who wants to tell such things and anyone who wants to read them." I disagree; I couldn't possibly recommend this book to anyone but those who are already working in the field of feature journalism, or those who have a strong desire to work there. This is not a book for the layman or the average reader. Instead, it is a serious, heavy piece of work that explores the difficult and nuanced nature of the job that journalists do, which is essentially to strike up conversation with people in the hope that they will share their story with the reporter, their recorder, and ultimately, the reader. The most useful part of the book is included at the very end: 'a checklist for writers of narrative non-fiction' that Ricketson has developed as a code of ethics for feature writers, of sorts. It is an excellent list and I can see myself returning to it regularly while working on my own 'true stories'.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda

    Easy to read book on the challenges for both writers and readers of narrative non-fiction, particularly "true crime". The checklist at the end of the book for writers of narrative non-fiction has some good tips. I particularly agree with the recommendation to consider carefully before attempting to write interior monologue for a source - and would go further and say "don't ever do it". Bit depressing to read about the low sales of one Australian book after 6 years of painstaking research by the au Easy to read book on the challenges for both writers and readers of narrative non-fiction, particularly "true crime". The checklist at the end of the book for writers of narrative non-fiction has some good tips. I particularly agree with the recommendation to consider carefully before attempting to write interior monologue for a source - and would go further and say "don't ever do it". Bit depressing to read about the low sales of one Australian book after 6 years of painstaking research by the author. As an editor, I'm going to follow up on one of the books mentioned - Sarah Harrison Smith's The Fact Checker's Bible.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Declan Howlett

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Weiss

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rob Bignell

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karen Morrow

  8. 5 out of 5

    Leigh

  9. 4 out of 5

    Letitia Ft

  10. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Otero

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jane Lopez

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  13. 4 out of 5

    Corrine

  14. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Wayda

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kaylene

  17. 4 out of 5

    Albee

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Park

  19. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Murphy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jobber

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ezy Mozo

  22. 4 out of 5

    Irene

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ruby Maya

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jessie Jellick

  25. 4 out of 5

    John Efron

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bekah Smith

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gitte

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Brodbeck-Boyles

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ezy Mozo

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