May 16, 2009

Writing Cinematically

A friend of mine asked me the other day about difference between non-fiction and fiction--how to market something that seemed the blur genres. In the case of what he wanted to accomplish, a sort of magical, Fear and Loathing reportage, I recommended declaring "fiction" up front and registered for unrestricted poetic license.

It reminded me of a key quote that's relevant for biography as much as for fiction. John Gardner said fiction should be a "vivid, continuous dream."

Vivid. Continuous. Dream.

All three descriptors contribute. It goes back to an earlier strategy I never seem to tire of. To craft good biography, in my opinion, is to write cinematically.

Cadence Conundrum

For one of my required projects this term, I analyzed Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech. It's worth a look I think as an example of executive messaging. Many critics believe it to be one of the most tone-deaf, soporific, strident presidential speeches of all time--a stick in the eye of the American public. Others, looking back, see it as prophetic. As Johnny Cash would say, "strong medicine."

Decide for yourself. Credit goes to the Miller Center at University of Virginia for archiving the speech: