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Story Craft
The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction

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Story Craft

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Story Craft
The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction
By Jack Hart
The University of Chicago Press: Chicago & London (2011)
ISBN: 978-0-226-31816-5

Reviewed by Harry S. Chou - February 19, 2013

To craft good narrative nonfiction you need to write with the flare of a fiction writer and to follow the same types of story arcs that are found in fiction, and to do all this without crossing over the line into fiction. Narrative nonfiction is just that, nonfiction, and writers need to stick to the facts while structuring their story in a traditional story arc format. When a narrative nonfiction writer hits all the right marks, he creates a fascinating story that draws the reader into a real life story and keeps him glued to the story until the last word. Narrative nonfiction works well in a variety of formats that range from short news stories to book length treatments.

In Story Craft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction, Jack Hart, the former editor of the Oregonian and one of the progenitors of narrative nonfiction, provides a solid overview of the genre and the techniques that go into crafting a work of narrative nonfiction. Hart is also the author of A Writer's Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies That Work. Story Craft is not a beginner's how-to book on the mechanics of writing, although even novice writers will greatly benefit from this book. Rather, this is a how-to book on how to craft a specific form of writing. While the information contained in this book is geared toward creative nonfiction writing, much of the advice and techniques that he proffers in this book is also applicable other forms of nonfiction writings, as well as to fiction writing.

Within the pages of this essential guide, Hart explains what narrative nonfiction is and what it is not. He also details how this style of writing was developed. Most important he examines and provides advice on how to acquire some of the key skill sets that you need have to write solid nonfiction. These skills include plotting, character development, selecting the correct point of view from which to tell your story, creating memorable scenes, crafting dialogue and using direct quotes, and much more. He also provides advice on developing your own voice and style. Ethical issues related to narrative nonfiction, along with essential information on how to structure your story for a variety of different story types from short vignettes to much longer pieces, are also covered.

Filled with outstanding examples of narrative nonfiction, sage advice, and clear and simple steps to take to develop your narrative skills, Story Craft is essential reading for anybody with an interest in narrative nonfiction. Writers of every ilk and skill level will benefit from reading this book. However, for those interested in learning how to write narrative nonfiction, this is a book not just to read but to study, and to keep on your bookshelf for ready reference as you delve into this exciting genre.


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