Friday, August 31, 2007

What is journalism?

(You can be more specific and change that to "What is storytelling?" if you like.)

Either way, check this out. It's a guide to "Journalism 2.0." I don't think it's overdramatic to say that understanding the material in here will, in large part, determine whether you're cut out to thrive in this business.

I welcome argument on that, though!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Perhaps the ultimate narrative non-fiction

From "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets" by David Simon:

Pulling one hand from the warmth of a pocket, Jay Landsman squats down to grab the dead man's chin, pushing the head to one side until the wound becomes visible as a small, ovate hole, oozing red and white.
"Here's your problem," he said. "He's got a slow leak."
"A leak?" says Pellegrini, picking up on it.
"A slow one."
"You can fix those."
"Sure you can," Landsman agrees.
"They got these home repair kits now. . . "
"Like with tires."
"Just like with tires," Landsman says. "Comes with a patch and everything else you need. Now a bigger wound, like from a thirty-eight, you're gonna have to get a new head. This one you could fix."
Landsman looks up, his face the very picture of earnest concern.
Sweet Jesus, thinks Tom Pellegrini, nothing like working murders with a mental case.

That's just to whet your appetite.

Join us noon Wednesday, Sept. 5, to eat lunch and watch an episode of "Homicide," based on Simon's book, after which we'll talk about how character development and dialogue can be used to develop conflict in a story and lead us to the story's resolution.

The episode is about 45 minutes and we'll leave about a half-hour for
discussion, so we should be done in a little over an hour.

See you there.

Words and music

Just caught a clip of Jack Kerouac reading from "On the Road" backdropped by jazz piano on the Steve Allen show in 1959. Scroll down and look on the left side of the page; the video clip is only 30 seconds but the audio clip is 3 minutes or so and worth every second.

Kerouac virtually sings his writing to the beat of the music. It's captivating in and of itself, but it's also a writing lesson for us -- listen to how his syllables, words, sentences and emphasis within those sentences create an irresistable, entrancing rhythm.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A good yarn

Picked up Sunday's Virginian-Pilot while at the beach. Saw an Earl Swift whodunit series beginning atop page 1A. Check it out. Starts with a detective investigating a death; he doesn't know who the dead man is until someone in the neighborhood tells him. By the time I read the following few grafs, I was hooked:

Mears returned to the body. He saw no bullet holes in the coat, so he unbuttoned it. Saw no holes in the man’s dark blazer, so he unbuttoned that. On the white shirt beneath was a spot of red.

Lordy, Mears thought. Tonight’s not going to be so routine, after all.

W. Fred Duckworth was the former mayor of Norfolk.

And damn if he hadn’t been shot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Good stuff flagged by me and others

  • Michele Canty saw this from AP on the Minneapolis bridge disaster. She wrote:
    "Something like this also helps us remember that good writing doesn't have to be a long-term project, and that breaking news stories can be the perfect opportunity to really shine."
  • Dustin Long, a reporter and friend of mine, sent this along -- a Seattle Times piece on a basketball coach's daughter who has cancer. What's different is that the reporter is doing a blog with regular updates about the girl. That's something new. Any thoughts? Do you like it? Not like it?
  • I saw a blurb on Romenesko about this series, which the Newark Star-Ledger says "tells the story of one of New Jersey's most notorious killers, Robert Zarinsky. It is the tale of a cunning psychopath, the dogged lawmen who pursued him and the victims who, even today, await justice." One interesting thing is that the sourcing is basically a huge footnote, their way of preserving the narrative without inserting attribution throughout the story, according to a piece in Editor & Publisher. Check it out & let us know what you think about this method.

Stephen King weighs in ...

... sort of. Buffy and Jen led a group discussion Aug. 1 on King's book, "On Writing." A couple of highlights they pulled from King's combination of technical advice and inspiration (well worth the read even for non-fiction writers):

  • "I want to suggest that to write to your best abilities, it behooves you to construct your own toolbox and then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you. Then, instead of looking at a hard job and getting discouraged, you will perhaps seize the correct tool and get immediately to work." Some things King suggests you carry: Vocabulary; grammar; Strunk and White's 'Elements of Style.'
  • "I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops."

I have copies of both Buffy's and Jen's handouts, which are basically quotes pulled from King's book, if you'd like a copy.