History and nonfiction narrative

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 17, 2019, 2:30 PM | comments: 0

I hated all of the literature classes I had to take in college. Well, I didn't have to, but the difference between minoring in journalism and being a double major (with radio/TV as the first) was three or four English classes. As much as I question the place and value of college, I'm glad that I sucked it up and got it done. But the literature, ugh, I found it boring. I wanted to be a writer, not a reader, and back then I didn't see the value in being critical of guys who had been dead for decades.

But there was one class that I absolutely adored at Ashland University, and that was Dan Lehman's class on nonfiction narrative. We were his guinea pigs on the subject, and it's one that he literally wrote the books on years later. It was of interest to journalists, because it isn't uncommon for people observing a story to be entangled in it. Certainly there are varying degrees to this, and the questions about how or if you bend the truth to facilitate story telling. Hunter S. Thompson was arguably the most notable of the people practicing "gonzo journalism," where the writer most certainly has an angle and isn't particularly concerned about objectivity. It's written from a first-person perspective, it has an opinion, and it's not apologetic about it. There are also questions about whether or not this is a particularly narcissistic endeavor, but you also can't ignore the fact that objectivity is difficult to achieve, and modern journalists, the few we have left, are frankly so preoccupied with objectivity that they forget truth is often more important.

I'm sitting on about 20 years worth of news soundbites, interviews and first-hand accounts of changes in the amusement industry. That's probably not that interesting to most people, but I sit in a unique position to piece together all of that information. To that end, I've been jotting some notes down, writing some fragments and piecing together some things. What's remarkable is that the research is all there in plain sight, in my email, in forums, in audio and video clips. I was able to piece together with great detail the start of my little hobby sites. Next I started compiling notes that tell a tale of two CEO's (you can guess which ones), and the richness and texture in the detail is surprising.

Does any of that make for an interesting writing endeavor? I'm not sure, but I'm going to write a few chapters and see where it takes me. At the very least, it will make for some features to post online. At most, it could be a book a few dozen people would buy. I'm interested to see where it leads.

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