Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Use the Principles of Journalism to Create Creative Nonfiction — and Fiction

Nonfiction techniques in fiction
Anyone who has studied journalism will recall that a good lead must include the five Ws and an H: who, what, where, when, why and how. One of my editors adds the caveat of a 35-word maximum. This approach to writing a first paragraph and to creating or recreating an entire story works for fiction forms, too. Before we study each letter in its turn, let's start with the lead.

Exercise: This lesson is best learned by doing, so start by selecting a nonfiction story you've written one you especially like and have written recently and edit the lead to conform to the journalistic style. If you're looking for ideas for new stories, scan your local newspaper (print sometimes works better), select a story that grabs you and follow the same steps.

Using the journalistic style to craft a first paragraph offers several benefits. It's an artistic approach to starting a work of creative nonfiction or fiction because it presents your entire work in microcosm. It also gives an editor reading your submission a sense of where the work is going, and what you may be able to do with it.

For examples of successful submissions using this technique, see Marco Polo Quarterly and Midway Journal.

Happy writing!

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