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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Storytelling Takes Sources

When it isn't how-to, most marketing content you encounter is pure myth, uniformed and unsubstantiated.

Myth-making isn't storytelling.

Storytelling takes sources, and sources must be cultivated.

In The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, Bill Blundell, former editor at The Wall Street Journal, chides the journalist who fails to cultivate sources.

"Like so many others, he has been counting on plucking ideas out of the air through some kind of immaculate conception," Blundell says.

"But this is backward thinking. He should be using his best-informed and most cooperative sources to help him originate those ideas."

Sources not only spur story ideas, but supply the facts that bring stories to life—even when those facts aren't brought to bear.

When novelist John O'Hara decided the main character in Appointment in Samarra would asphyxiate himself, O'Hara spared no effort to cultivate sources.

"When I wrote Appointment in Samarra," he told a friend, "I established a dummy garage business, took my papers to a guy I know who is a v.p. at General Motors (who wanted to know when the hell I had run a garage), and he in turn passed me on to a fellow at the Automobile Chamber of Commerce. Not much of that appears in the book, but everything that does appear is accurate and sound. I also boned up on toxicology with the late Yandell Henderson so that the carbon monoxide suicide would be all right."

Hard facts and direct illustrations from life "hammer stories into the reader's memory," Bill Blundell says.

How far do you go to gather them? 

Or are you satisfied just to make myths?

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