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Writing for Story
Jon Franklin
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Writing for Story

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  389 ratings  ·  61 reviews
It's the new nonfiction: the creative hybrid combining the readability and excitement of fiction with the best of expository prose; the innovative genre that has been awarded virtually every Pulitzer Prize for literary journalism since 1979. In this book, an undisputed master of the great American nonfiction short story shares his secrets.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 5th 1987 by Signet (first published June 30th 1986)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  389 ratings  ·  61 reviews

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Eric Smith
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
This is an unusual book about writing, at least in my experience, because it is more prescriptive than usual. Rather than give advice on sentences and paragraphs, or even style and symbolism, it focuses on structure. Franklin stresses that every writer outlines their stories, even if only in their head, but he goes much further. He states that every story should have an outline consisting of five lines of three words each. The outline must be a perfect structure for the story with each word chos ...more
Dave Allen
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this as a textbook for a college journalism class almost 30 years ago. I finally read it front to back, and was enthralled. While dealing with non-fiction story writing, it's the best instruction I've seen for aspiring fiction writers.

A Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Jon Franklin, true to the Truman Capote school of writing non-fiction in a fiction style, breaks story-telling down into individual sections, with separate dedicated to structure, outlining, focus, transitions, etc... ...more
George Sr.
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first it reminded me of Aristotle's "Poetics" with its description of the nonfiction short story. Then it turned to a conversational hands-on description of how to write a story. A little dated with its references to typewriters and 3x5 cards, but otherwise quite good.
Kate M. Colby
I have mixed feelings about this book, and I'll start with bad so I can end on the good. The book is clearly outdated, both in some of its mechanical references and the author's mindset toward genre fiction. Throughout, the author writes with arrogance and speaks down to the reader. That being said, the craft advice is actually well-presented. The author provides clear methodologies, useful information about outlining, structuring, and polishing, and ample examples of these techniques. Most help ...more
Andrew Diamond
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book contains excellent practical advice on how to define, structure, and outline your story. Franklin emphasizes the need to clearly define the story before writing by expressing it in series of simple statements that explain character, conflict (or complication, as he calls it) and resolution. If you can't clearly express the three C's, you're not ready to start writing.

Franklin repeatedly emphasizes the value of clear, lucid, straightforward prose that conveys the substance o
Carolina Castro
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well I'm just at the beginning of this book. Being a non native English speaker gotta confess that I wasn't able to put down the book when reading about the neuro surgeon and the complicated process he performed because of that weird condition the woman had. I didn't want to make pauses to look for the unknown words but just keep reading. It made me sait outloud twice "Oh, my God!", Franklin really put me in the OR with how he describes everything. Usually I skip the stories that books about non ...more
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
If you can get over the author's personality, there are some solid recommendations in here. I also enjoyed the author's own essays which bookend the work: first in their published form and then annotated and deconstructed to illustrate the author's points. It made the book unique and specific in ways that most writing reference books are not.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've taken my time with this book, applied many of Franklin's ideas and suggestions to my book. I hate to have finished it. I read it section by section, each morning, as inspiration. It made me want to get back to my writing, outlining, editing, to the words of my dancers' story.
Katie Robles
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very helpful. Opened my eyes to how creative and 'story like' nonfiction can be.
Candice Baxter
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Helps breakdown story ideas and plot to basic building blocks. I draw the chart for every essay and new chapter I endeavor.
Brian Blickenstaff
I came to this through an acquaintance who is on staff at one of the biggest magazines in the US. It's a look at how to structure narrative nonfiction written by a 2-time Pulitzer Prize winner. It breaks down how stories work and offers a fairly simple method for organizing narrative. I don't necessarily agree with everything in here, and there are certainly plenty of examples in contemporary magazine work that breaks his rules, but overall Franklin's analysis and method make a lot of sense. The ...more
Mar 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Aspiring narrative writers
Recommended to Alexandria by: Required reading for my intermediate writing course
Although I do enjoy reading books on how to write well, I was required to read Jon Franklin's "Writing for Story: Craft Secret of Dramatic Nonfiction by a Two-Time Pulitzer Prize Winner" for my intermediate writing class. This how-to book largely deals with narrative journalism, and stories that absolutely must have a complication, development and then resolution.

The problem with this criteria, I've found, is that most stories I write don't necessarily have a resolution. When I write news stori
Adolphus Writer
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Jon Franklin, two-time Pulitzer prize winner, wrote Writing for Story – Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction to teach authors his methods. Franklin illustrates his technique with annotated versions of his two essays: “Mrs. Kelly’s Monster” and “The Ballad of Old Man Peter” the first of which won the 1979 Pulitzer prize in Feature Writing. The goal of his technique is to impart knowledge and truth to readers. To paraphrase Franklin:

The secret to professional writing is a fusion of learned craftsmanship with artistic/>

Jason Hough
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alena Naiden
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"And then it happens. You load one more thing into your active memory and it displaces something else. The whole structure of the story, which seemed so clear at the beginning, cracks and falls into pieces. You sit there looking at your writing implements, trying to remember who you are, what you were doing, and why you didn't go into some profession that was simple and straightforward, like immunochemistry."

The author of this straightforward and practical book calls this term "spaghettiing," a
Jamie Collins
Jon Franklin advises the reader on how to read this book the first time (straight through, like a novel), then again how to re-read. He promises "you won't be bored". Eh....

Franklin is a Pulitzer prize winner for a short non-fiction piece that serves as the center piece for this how-to-be-a-writer tutorial. The Pulitzer is BFD, and the guy is clearly a veteran writer with sheetloads under his mattress, so I have a hard time knocking Franklin. But his works and methods are pure Reader
Andrea Badgley
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
This book slipped into my writing bag when I needed it most - when, frustrated by my inability to find the story in my stories, I decided to begin a self-directed apprenticeship. In this book, Jon Franklin lasered instantly on the problem with my writing: I rarely identified my conflict or resolution, even to myself, and my "stories" therefore had no central core to which every sentence would be magnetized. In other words, I did not structure.

Franklin's book is clear and almost clini
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gripping book for anyone trying to write non-fiction to a popular audience! Chapters 2 & 3 will seize anyone: they're Franklin's 2 Pulitzer-Prize-winning short stories. The rest of the book dissects these two stories, giving a clear step-by-step guide to building a compelling story.

This should be a must-read for any journalist. My problem is trying to apply his lessons to non-fiction that isn't journalism: theological concepts and practical ministry tools are a couple more steps removed f
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of all the books I've read on the writing craft, this was one of the easiest to get through. It was informative and funny. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to get a better handle on how to apply the concept of structure to their writing. My favorite portion is about outlining, which is a habit that I've stalwartly despised since the third grade, but I found my self scribbling out the major plot points of my own novel as I read through his description of outlines. I would say he clearly and ...more
Rena Graham
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-writing
After going through a year in a very good writing program, I saw this book and was completely dumbfounded why I'd never heard of it. Of all the books I've read on writing, this one may prove the most useful. His instructions are very precise and he drives home his point in an exacting manner. Written for non-fiction short story writers, this book has terrific ideas on structure for anyone who writes. I highly recommend it.
Kressel Housman
May 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Unlike many of the other writing books I've read, this one is heavy on the craft and light on the psychology. He's especially big on outlining, not the Roman numeral type, but a really good one that I've since applied. The author even provides two of his own articles and tells you phrase by phrase why he chose the words he chose. I learned a lot from this book, and it didn't matter that it's about non-fiction. A good story is a good story, and this writer helped me improve.
Dec 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers of any genre
This book is unlike many a study in writing by a writer, and a great one at that. Franklin uses two of his most dramatic and unique stories and shares his nearly sentence-by-sentence thought process for choosing specific words, phrases, and story techniques, as well as an unusual glimpse into a writer's mind as a story grows. Fascinating; a book every writer should have on the shelf.
Sep 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comms
When you win two Pulitzers, I suppose you are free to enjoy and flaunt an ego the size of a cathedral, and Franklin certainly has one. If you can stomach that and really want to learn how to craft a decent story, this book will be indispensable. Mandatory reading for all would-be writers, even if/especially because it does pain them.
Jan 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As is true for many, many nonfiction writers, Franklin's structure for writing narrative nonfiction utterly changed the way I think about story. Though the examples he gives (from his own work) are lackluster at best, his rubic for story structure is an essential part of the education process for every teller of true tales.
Robin Yaklin
Jul 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tried. I really did, but I just couldn't make his ideas work for my current manuscript. That may be because his techniques are for non-fiction or it could be inexperience on my part. Nevertheless, it is worth reading and keeping and re-reading. Nuggets have a way of jumping off the page after several rounds through.
Lisa Reads & Reviews
I enjoy reading books on the craft of writing. This one is basic, and directed at nonfiction, meaning more craft than inspiration, more clarity than creativity. Although I doubt it'll influence my own fiction, I suspect I'll read journalists' stories with a different appreciation and eye for structure. So, well done, 3.5 rating, but no socks were blown off in the revelation of craft secrets.
Eric Durso
Dec 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a booked assigned to me in the Creative Writing course I took in college. Picked it up and re-read it. I love it. It will improve your writing if you take some time to practice what it's saying.
Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
I loved this book, despite what others might characterize as a narrowly tight formula for constructing story. For me it was mind-opening. And worth multiple read-throughs and even study for perfecting one's own story writing ability.
Vincent DiGirolamo
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing, finished, 2016
Useful. But may require rereading for each new project undertaken. Sometimes I wondered how applicable the structure tips and other advice is for writing history, or projects where narrative is only one of the elements at work.
Mary Ann
Jun 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
Excellence guidance on writing dramatic nonfiction,from developing skills to identify a good story to writing the story, emphasizing the importance of complication, development and resolution throughout.
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