Explore Harvard's Nieman network Nieman Fellowships Nieman Lab Nieman Reports Nieman Storyboard

Category Archives: tips

‘It’s not about the cameras, it’s about how you see the world’ — and 49 other tips and inspirations from the BU narrative conference

Fifty takeouts from some of the speakers at last weekend’s Boston University conference on narrative, culled from the Twitter feeds of Lauren Alexander, Alletta Cooper, Cat Cowan, Jessica DuLong, John R. Gagain Jr., Sascha Garrey, Nate Goldman, Kate Hoagland, Robin Lubbock, Cristian Lupsa, Sophia Diogo Mateus, Simina Mistreanu, Lisa Mullins, Amy O’Leary, Greg Rienzi, Beth [...]

Writing the book: Neil Swidey on ‘Trapped Under the Sea’

I love inspirational quotes from august authors as much as the next writer. But the quote I thought about the most during the long years when I was writing my new book, Trapped Under the Sea, didn’t come from an author. I stumbled across it in a New Yorker profile of the writer George R.R. [...]

Audio Danger: Radio storytelling and the perils of digital permanence

Back in the distant 1990s, This American Life host Ira Glass described a recurring dream of NPR’s Scott Simon: Simon would shoot a basketball over and over, but then it would disappear. The ball never landed. That, Glass said, was a perfect metaphor for broadcast: We tossed words and stories into the ether, but we [...]

Want to write great narrative? Study screenwriting.

“That’s all fine,’’ the L.A. film executive said briskly, “but who’s the antagonist?’’ Cut to: Me, author of a soon-to-be published biography of the 1940s/’50s wrestler and pop culture figure who called himself Gorgeous George. I’m on the phone with the woman in charge of selling HarperCollins books to the movies. Time: 2008 or so. [...]

Writing the book: Ben Montgomery on Grandma Gatewood’s Walk

One night in January 2013, deep into the writing of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, I found myself alone at the keyboard, crying. Weeping, really. Thinking back, the storm of depression and anxiety that made me bawl that night was brought on by a mess of psychological pinpricks I’m just not used to: the remorse of a [...]

Watch Kurt Vonnegut demystify story structure with a fairy tale and a piece of chalk

A couple of years ago, in a Storyboard piece on John McPhee‘s gorgeously built Encounters with the Archdruid, the acclaimed author Adam Hochschild wrote about narrative structure: A few years ago I was with a young cousin, a college student who told me she was majoring in civil engineering. “I’ve never really understood,” I asked her. [...]

The Bread Loaf files: Ted Conover, Cheryl Strayed, Richard Bausch and Robert Frost on craft, dedication, discipline, poetry and what to ban from your bookshelf

This week’s theme: semi-obscure archives that might prove valuable to your narrative storytelling. On Tuesday, we highlighted Mark Berkey-Gerard‘s posts on multimedia narrative, which he warehouses at his classroom-based website, Campfire Journalism. Today, we call to your attention the archived lectures and readings — available for free, through iTunes — from Bread Loaf, the venerable writers’ conference at Middlebury College. [...]

Multimedia narrative and how to interview, structure, choose your medium, edit for sound, identify the story arc and more

The new student of multimedia narrative may want to bookmark an archive on digital storytelling by Mark Berkey-Gerard, who teaches online journalism at Rowan University, in New Jersey. A Columbia Graduate School of Journalism alum who has won awards for innovative teaching, Berkey-Gerard logged resources and learning tools on a site called Campfire Journalism: Notes [...]

20 writing and editing tips from Tracy Kidder + Richard Todd

In the book Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction, memorably instructive lines for writers and editors appear on almost every page. The authors, the Pulitzer-winning nonfiction writer Tracy Kidder and his longtime editor, Richard Todd, broke the work into eight chapters — “Narratives,” “Being Edited and Editing,” “Beyond Accuracy” — and there is something useful, and even [...]

10 things you can learn from Roger Angell’s “This Old Man”

The story of the week has been Roger Angell’s “This Old Man” (The New Yorker). Angell is widely revered for his body of work on baseball, but in this piece he writes about what it’s like to be 93. As James Fallows put it, in The Atlantic: You don’t often read things in the periodical press [...]