Most writing books dwell on common issues of style and grammar. Yet most writers also confront complex problems of story design. This fifty-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.
Playing on the title of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, Flaherty, a New York Times editor who teaches journalism at New York University, shares 50 simple and insightful tips on the many elements writers can convey in stories. Not a style guide, this is instead a nuts-and-bolts examination of the larger elements of a story. First and most adamantly, he stresses the importance of bringing a human face to every story. Flaherty gives us real and invented examples of the cream of the crop of nonfiction writing in the form of narrative news articles. VERDICT This book can be read in one fell swoop to expose yourself to the full spectrum of story elements such as theme, motion, artfulness, truth and fairness, leads, and titles or it can be used as a guide during the process of writing nonfiction. An essential read for both freelance writers and students of journalism. David L. Reynolds, Cleveland P.L.