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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Finding Ideas, II

A mild reminder as I'm talking about story ideas: Not every idea is suited to be turned into a narrative. There's plenty of room in the world--and especially in a freelancer's life--for straight news, service articles, and so on.

Some writers have the interest and wherewithal to go hang with penguin scientists at the South Pole for six months. Even if you don't, narrative is still possible. Tracy Kidder chooses to do stories that are within a certain radius of his house--I think it's within a 45-minute drive.

Let's start with the newspaper. I don't work for a newspaper, so I'm not concerned with meeting a daily deadline with a piece of narrative. As I read, I'm thinking: What do I want to know more about? The question applies to news pieces, ads, classifieds. Hard news stories give us a slice of action. What we as narrative writers do is fill in what came before and what comes after.

Having had a story reported doesn't put it off-bounds for a narrative. Look, the movie Sunset Boulevard begins with a dead guy floating in a pool. You stay for the rest of the movie because you want to know why and how he died.

Another thing to be reading for are trends. If something happens/is spotted/is mentioned three times, I consider it a trend. Once you see a trend, decide how to detail it for an audience. Can you profile the person who started it? Can you write about the people it affects?

Above all else, the key is to find stuff that interests you. If you're not on a staff taking assignments, you have only a certain amount of time to write. Don't waste your time and dissapate your passion with topics you think will be marketable but don't care about. The trick is to find markets for the articles you think are cool, weird, important for the social welfare on the planet as we know it, etc. . . . but that's a post for another day.


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12:47 AM  
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4:00 AM  

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