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1 Burnside Reference- Writing Nonfiction

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The Art and Craft of Feature Writing: Based on the Wall Street Journal Guide


The Art and Craft of Feature Writing: Based on the Wall Street Journal Guide Cover


Table of Contents


The disorganized, debilitated reporter

Learning to function more efficiently

The major commandment: Make it interesting

Chapter 1: Raw Materials

How and where to get ideas

Picking the proper subject matter

The need for files

Finding and cultivating sources

Thinking about story ideas: Extrapolation, synthesis

Advancing story ideas: Localization, projection, viewpoint switching

What readers like and don't like: Dogs, people, facts, observers, numbers

Why the ideas with action in them are the best ideas

Chapter 2: Shaping Ideas

The importance of forethought

Range of the story: Keeping it narrow

Theme of the story: The importance of the main theme statement

Developing the theme of a general profile or a microcosm profile

Approach of the story: The limits of the profile and the roundup

Tone of the story: Why it is important

Chapter 3: Story Dimensions

Time: The importance of the past and the future, as well as the present

Scope: The quantity, locale, diversity and intensity of a development

Variety: Using various source levels and internal proofs

Movement: The built-in kind and the alternation of opposite elements

The reporter's role: Neither lawyer nor scholastic nor objectivist nor formula follower. But what then?

Chapter 4: Planning and Execution

A six-part guide for the reporter:

I. History: Does the main theme development have roots in the past?

II. Scope: How widespread, intense and various is the development?

III. Reasons: Why is it happening now?

IV. Impacts: Who or what is affected—and how?

V. Countermoves: Who is acting to counter or enhance the development or its impacts—and how?

VI. Futures: What could happen if the development proceeds unchecked?

A slightly altered six-part guide for preparing profiles

Another story element: Focus points and people. Descending to the lowest level of the action

A reporter's sources: Wise Men, Paper Men and Rabbis

Interviews and techniques in relation to storytelling

How long should the reporting take? When to begin writing?

Chapter 5: Organization

Follow the laws of Progressive Reader Involvement: Tease me, you devil; tell me what you're up to; prove it; help me remember it

A first reading of materials gathered for the story: Refining the main theme statement, looking for conclusions, looking for endings

Indexing materials to help proide order

Rules of organization in writing:

—Keep related material together

—Let what you have already written suggest what comes next

—Try to isolate material from one source in one place

—Digress often, but don't digress for long

Type of narrative lines: Block progression line; time line; theme line; and hybrids

The lead paragraphs: Why they are often elusive. What to do when they are

Chapter 6: Handling Key Story Elements

Types of leads: Hard news, anecdotal, summary

Standards for anecdotal leads: Simplicity, theme relevance, intrinsic interest, focus

Why the general, or summary, lead is often better, difficult though it may be

Numbers: How to handle them; when to avoid them

People and quotes: Limiting the number of "talking heads" to emphasize the important actors in the story

Reasons to quote people: To lend credibility, emotional response, trenchancy or variety

Using anonymous quotes judiciously

When paraphrasing is preferable

Three roles for the reporter in the story: Summarizer, referee and observer

Chapter 7: Wordcraft

Being specific in words and phrases

Being mean and tough with yourself and your turns of phrase

Choosing what to describe

How to describe well: Imagic exactness, the people principle, animation, poetic license

Promoting a conversational quality

The narrative flow and typical troubles with transitions, attributions and explanations

How "purposeful structures" in writing can promote speed, force, and rhythm

Chapter 8: Stretching Out

Some tips on handling lengthy stories:

The importance of maintaining orderly development

Alternating plot and character

Maintaining suspense and setting up material to come

Using typographical devices

Chapter 9: Notes on Self-Editing and Style

Editing yourself for content, for conclusiveness and flow, for pace and precision

The anguish of young writers, and how some overcome it

Appendix 1. Reading for Writers

Appendix 2. Full Texts of Sample Stories

Product Details

Blundell, William E.
Plume Books
Blundell, William E.
New York :
Technical Writing
History & Criticism *
Composition & Creative Writing - Newspapers/Magazines
Feature writing
Style, literary
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
7.98x5.30x.73 in. .52 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Journalism » General
History and Social Science » Journalism » Reference
Reference » General
Reference » Writing » General
Reference » Writing » Nonfiction

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