Most writing books dwell on common issues of style and grammar. Yet most writers also confront complex problems of story design.This 50-rule guide by Francis Flaherty, a New York Times editor, offers much-needed solutions and sage advice to address these concerns.
"Sometimes, say things sideways," Flaherty writes. "The reader will be grateful." "White is whitest on black," he observes. "Let contrast work for you." Through such hard-won, story-level insights, sprinkled with examples from real stories and leavened with a good dose of newsroom memoir, The Elements of Story merits a spot on every writer's shelf.
A powerful set of essays about nonfiction writing, The Elements of Story is aimed primarily at newspaper and magazine writers, and contains the kind of real-world, gritty and professional advice that so many writing books seem to lack.
That's due in part to the author's pedigree; Flaherty was a longtime New York Times editor. I believe most nonfiction writers will find something of value in this book, which I resisted reading for a long time (I'm a huge fan of The Elements of Style and many of the knock-off titles haven't come close to measuring up).
Organized by topics like The Theme and Motion, this kind of subject matter resists simple, binary organization, and therein lies my only real difficulty with this book.
Not all of the real-life story excerpts seemed to clearly illustrate their point, and a certain choppiness to the chapters (some were very long, others unhappily short) made the book sometimes difficult to digest.
I read this book cover-to-cover, but suspect it would have been best to tackle the sections singly and then allowing them to digest a little before moving on.
Those quibbles aside, this is a book that tackles difficult, somewhat esoteric subject matter and largely succeeds (the Motion chapter was a favorite), and it's worth a little of your time.read more
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