Today, you received feedback from one of your peers on your four story ideas. From what I heard, most of it was quite good. Your classmates are perfect sounding boards – think of them as representative of the audience you’re hoping to reach.
For Wednesday, your assignment is take that feedback, and what we learned today in class, and revise your ideas. Try to make all four of them compelling. No half-baked musings. Pretend you’re pitching these to an editor, or telling the idea to someone over coffee, attempting to get her excited. Convince her (us) of why it’ll be good, and different, and why we won’t want to stop reading. Make sure it has potential for a narrative arc, good characters, a deeper theme, action and all the other elements we’ve discussed.
To do this, you’ll need to do research. Some of you already have. Great. Do some more. Make use of the library/internet/Nexis.
Then think through your idea: How would you execute it? What are the potential strengths? The pitfalls? Think about that now, before you get stuck halfway down a road to nowhere.
If one of your existing ideas isn’t any good – or two or three of them – get rid of them. Come up with new ideas. This process, of looking around the world and seeing stories and deeper meaning, is part of what will be valuable to you to take away from this class. It applies to almost any discipline – curiosity is an invaluable skill. Look for small stories that puzzle you, or surprise you, and investigate whether they could become bigger stories. Look into controversial topics – like the example of the egg donor story – and think of how you can turn them into a narrative.
Put in the work now and your future self will thank you current self, believe me.
Send your revised ideas to me by 8 AM on Wednesday, at my gmail address. Then bring a printout to class. We’ll be talking them through in class again. Afterward, as usual, I’ll be providing email feedback individually. In this case, I’m interested in ALL of your ideas, not just one good one you may have. It’s the process that matters. I’m also interested in how you revised, and how creative/ambitious you’re trying to be. If you’d like to talk, I’ll be in my office Wednesday morning and around after class as well. I encourage you to come in, especially since I won’t be on campus next week.
The first reading below may help limber up your thinking. It’s an interview, not a story. As you’ll see, he’s quite a character. What I want you to notice is how he finds these stories in unusual places, and twists ideas around to make them more interesting. I don’t necessarily expect any of you to write the type of story Newman wrote – though it’d be fine if you did – but use it as potential inspiration.
The second reading is actually a video. It’s short – six minutes. It’s science-y but powerful. Keep it in mind as you think on ideas. It’s a theme we’ll come back to in every class: It’s the story arc that carries power. Take advantage of that. Keep it in mind at all times.
- The Art of Humorous Nonfiction – A Beer in Brooklyn with the King of the A-Heads – http://blog.longreads.com/2015/08/10/the-art-of-humorous-nonfiction-a-beer-in-brooklyn-with-the-king-of-the-a-heds/
- Video: The Neurochemistry of Empathy, Storytelling and the Dramatic Arc, Animated – http://www.brainpickings.org/2012/10/03/paul-zak-kirby-ferguson-storytelling/