The Emotional Core of the Story, by Tom Wolfe - JPB

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Journalism 4001, Tuesday 2/2

The Emotional Core of the Story, by Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe's essay starts out with a quote from Philip Roth, "We now live in an age, in which the imagination of the novelist lies helpless before what he knows he will read in tomorrow morning's newspaper." Wolfe spends the next three paragraphs describing the contrast between what a novelist would write about a blond heiress caught staring in a pornographic movie and the real life of Paris Hilton. Wolfe's observation only reinforces my own father's view that "fact is always stranger than fiction."

Wolfe says that fiction has to be plausible, while I believe many real world events are far too chaotic to be plausible. Far too often, history is made by innovations and groups that are not in the public consciousness. Wolfe's essay makes me realize how powerful cell phones, or shirt pocket computers, have become. Not only have cell phones become technically advanced, but have powerful holds over the minds of their users. One mother told me that her teenage daughter sleeps with her cell phone hanging on a cord around her neck, so she will not miss any calls.

Wolfe says that there are two types of nonfiction narrative, the autobiography and using storytelling devices we learn about in our class. Wolfe talks about New Journalism, but never gives us a really detailed description of it. Therefore, I looked up this expression online.

Wolfe's phrase, "provide the emotional reality of the news" page 151 is similar to a comment about writing speeches for a political campaign that I saw on C-SPANS2's BookTV, "Forget the brain and go for the heart." Can you imagine that it is it possible for a writer to simultaneously convey facts in a way that touches the readers' emotions?

Let's consider an example of real world news. It is one thing to report about a native of Haiti who was buried under the rubble of a collapsed building for several days. It is another thing for the reporter to convey via his or her word skill what it was like to be buried alive under the rubble of a collapsed building for several days.

Wolfe's turns his attention to the concept of Zeitgeist that means in English "the spirit of the age." Hegel's theory describes that every age has a "moral tone" that is an unavoidable influence on the minds of all who live in that age.

One example of Zeitgeist is the famous and effective 1984 political campaign television commercial for Reagan's reelection. In this case the horizontal plane was the setting of the 1984 U.S. presidential campaign. The vertical plane was Reagan himself.

Wolfe then makes a comment that to find the state of Zeitgeist in America that one must seek out the people that live between the coasts.

Wolfe states that journalist Stephen Crane asked questions that would be useful to any nonfiction narrative reporter. "What are they thinking? What is it like to be one of these people?" Crane's nonfiction narrative writing technique conveyed the emotional heart of real world human drama into the minds' of his readers. Wolfe says that such nonfiction narrative reporting is needed today or newspapers may not be around tomorrow.

I suppose that Wolfe is telling me to craft well-rounded stories that highlight the emotional drama of the individuals with my narrative nonfiction, than make general statements than puts some emotional distance between what I witnessed and my readers' minds.

I will conclude my essay to you with two traditional newspaper credos, "Publish and be damned" and "Print the news and raise hell."

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This page contains a single entry by jbuchana published on January 31, 2010 4:02 PM.

Jonathon Lebed's Extracurricular Activities, By JPB was the previous entry in this blog.

Readings that tug on the emotions is the next entry in this blog.

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