Take-aways From Telling True Stories

While reading a post on the Nieman Storyboard blog, I saw this quote:

Young children often create fabulous paintings, only to be told after they start school that real houses don’t look that way.

This quote resonated with me because of my interest in sketchnotes. While research has demonstrated the powerful impact of sketchnotes, which involves some simple drawing elements, many adults say, “I can’t draw.” For sketchnotes, your drawings only need to be recognizable by you.

I decided to purchase the book that included this quote (on p. 158). Telling True Stories provides insights from narrative journalists into storytelling, working with subjects, editing writing and ethical considerations.

Below are the quotes of my favorite take-aways from the book.

Tell stories as if they are all that matters. P6

We create stories by imposing narrative on events that happen around us. P98

In nearly all stories, the characters go through some transformation. … The key is to find that significant point of change. P110

I was a beginner in a scary and little-known world – right there is all the drama you need. P36

Sometimes I ask a writer to describe the story in six words. Then I ask if she can describe it in three words. What about one word? P204

It is a lot easier to write the rest of the piece when you already know where you are going. P121

If you gather 10 facts but end up using 9, subjectivity sets in. P166

Revising = Building quality into the work. P125

Two Questions

The reader must be able to answer two questions, each one in a sentence.

  1. How would you characterize this person?
  2. At the end of the piece, do you know whether or not you like the person? P68

Techniques from Fiction

  • Scene-by-scene construction
  • Copious dialogue
  • Careful notation of status details
  • Point of view (PP150, 151)

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