Monday, March 4, 2013

Tool # 25: Learn the difference between reports and stories.

...Use one to render information, the other to render experience.

Today I am featuring another chapter tidbit from Roy Peter Clark's book,
"Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer," published by Little, Brown and Company. You can find a copy here.

"Reports need not be dull, nor stories interesting. But the difference between story and report is crucial to the reader's expectation and the writer's execution.

...Reports convey information. Stories transport the reader, crossing boundaries of time, space, and imagination. The report points us there. The story puts us there.

A report sounds like this: The school board will meet Thursday to discuss the new desegregation plan.

A story sounds like this: Wanda Mitchell shook her fist at the school board chairman, tears streaming down her face."

As we all know, a good reporter uses the well-known "Five Ws and an H"...

Roy goes on to say:

Watch what happens when we unfreeze them, when information is transformed into a narrative. In this process of conversion:

Who becomes Character.What becomes Action. (What happened.)
Where becomes Setting.
When becomes Chronology.
Why becomes Cause or Motive.
How becomes Process. (How it happened.)

In summary:

The writer must figure out whether a project requires the crafting of a report, a story, or some combination of the two.

Here is one exercise from Mr. Clark's WORKSHOP:

The next time you read a novel, look for the ways in which the author weaves information about politics or history or geography into the tapestry of narrative. How can you apply these techniques in your own work?

Next week-- Use dialogue as a form of action.

Stay tuned!


  1. This has helped with my daughter's homework, since she had to write a report and we were unsure what she actually had to write! Thank you!

  2. Thank you, it helped me a lot. I got this question in my exam. thank you a lot, cheers.


I would love to have you comment...thanks!

Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
From Egypt to Israel