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Contributor Archives: Roy Peter Clark

Full life, tight space? Consider narrative shorthand.

An interesting writing move recently caught my eye in Rosalind Bentley’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution profile of poet laureate Natasha Trethewey. For lack of a better name, I’ll call it the “narrative overview,” and I now see it everywhere. In Bentley’s profile, this overview is expressed as a litany of verbless sentences, each revealing — with brevity [...]

Keeping it real: how round characters grow from the seeds of detail

When I first read the New Journalism manifestos by Tom Wolfe in the late 1970s, they changed forever my vision of narrative. In spite of my Ph.D. in English, I realized for the first time that a narrative had parts and that each part lent to a story a power of its own. I began [...]

The Persuasive Narrator

We call lots of things “stories” in American journalism, but very few of them are true narrative storytelling. Most journalistic accounts are reports, whose primary purpose is to pass along information to readers. Reports require certain writing strategies to help readers figure things out: the telling quote, the revealing statistic, the deep explanation, a piece of [...]

The Line Between Fact and Fiction

Journalists should report the truth. Who would deny it? But such a statement does not get us far enough, for it fails to distinguish nonfiction from other forms of expression. Novelists can reveal great truths about the human condition, and so can poets, filmmakers and painters. Artists, after all, build things that imitate the world. [...]