The Art of Being There: Immersion and Narrative in Nonfiction and Biography by EDWARD HUMES

Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Humes workshop.

The Art of Being There: Immersion and Narrative in Nonfiction and Biography

author

 

A principal method for accomplishing this feat of turning life into narrative is immersion – the art of insinuating oneself inside a place, process, institution or person’s life, then using first-hand storytelling to reveal character, drama and import. Immersion nonfiction is about getting inside a story, in search of the insights, depth and detail that can imbue nonfiction prose with the same richness seen in great novels, and that can illustrate and expose important issues of culture, society, justice and government through highly dramatic and human narratives. Immersion writing has a storied history in America, dating back to such turn-of-the-century muckrakers as Nellie Bly and her classic “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” and continuing with such modern masters of the craft as Tracy Kidder and John McPhee. Whether your goal is short-form writing or long, 500 words or 50,000, the same approach and skills will serve a writer well.

 

This course will serve as a mini-boot camp for immersion research and narrative building. We’ll use the landscape and rich resources of our workshop setting as fodder for a series of “quick fire” research and writing exercises including:

 

– the sense of a place (treating setting as character)

 

– bringing characters to life

– interviewing 101

– using the historical to inform the present

In class we’ll analyze a series of short readings in a variety of narrative nonfiction genres, including crime, biography, environmental/nature and other specialized topics of interest to the group. We’ll explore in-depth the research methods and techniques for “getting inside,” for developing setting and character, and for building coherent narratives with strong beginnings, middles and ends while remaining true to your source material.