Three R’s of Narrative Nonfiction | Lee Gutkind

Posted: December 23, 2012 in Narrative non-fiction
Tags: , , , , ,

“Nonfiction means that our stories are as true and accurate as possible. Readers expect — demand — diligence. I won’t say that nonfiction writers don’t on occasion make mistakes or even knowingly make stuff up, as for example Jonah Lehrer did in his recent book, “Imagine,” or James Frey did in his memoir, “A Million Little Pieces.” (Yes, truth in memoir is often a matter of memory and perception, but that doesn’t mean that the writer shouldn’t strive for accuracy at every opportunity, even when ideas and information are presented in scenes, as in the Williams-Feeney encounter.) As I explained in my previous article for Draft, all creative or narrative nonfiction books or articles are fundamentally collections of scenes that together make one big story.

But to reconstruct stories and scenes, nonfiction writers must conduct vigorous and responsible research. In fact, narrative requires more research than traditional reportage, for writers cannot simply tell what they learn and know; rather, they must show it. When I talk with my students, I introduce a process of work I call the three R’s: First comes research, then real world exploration and finally and perhaps most important, a fact-checking review of all that has been written.”

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  1. […] Three R’s of Narrative Nonfiction | Lee Gutkind (narrativeblog.wordpress.com) […]

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