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What is a Story Anyway?

To be human is to tell stories. That’s a powerful statement I came across when reading “Telling True Stories” from the Nieman Foundation at the Harvard University.

In the opening essay, Pulitzer Prize winner and juror Jacqui Banaszynski quotes from Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried:

“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

Banaszynski then goes on to say:

Stories are history. Write and edit and tell yours with accuracy and understanding and context and with unwavering devotion to the truth.

Stories are parables. Write and edit and tell yours with meaning, so each tale stands in for a larger message, each story a guidepost on our collective journey.

The book is packed cover to cover with 91 pieces with everything from germinating an idea to constructing scenes, being fair to the subjects, the fine line between fact and fiction, going freelance and a whole lot more.

For any storyteller in non-fiction be it writing or documentary film, this is one book you will keep coming back to. I know I will.

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