Tips from an amazing storyteller

Gary Smith offers many tips to sportswriters in his interview with Poynter's Jemele Hill.

Gary Smith offers many tips to sportswriters in his interview with Poynter

Readers of this blog know how much I admire Gary Smith, perhaps the most talented narrative sports writer in the universe. That’s why I am so excited tonight. About 15 minutes ago, I found an interview with Gary Smith on Poynter’s website (required reading for all journalists) that has terrific advice and great insights into developing longer-form sports journalism. And there is a certain eloquent simplicity to his approach to journalism. For example, how does Smith reconstruct scenes so finitely?

Smith: By asking a zillion questions. When I sense a scene could really be a compelling one, a revealing one, an important one, I’ll just think of a million little questions about what that moment was like. I talk to other people who might have had some glimpse into it as well. It’s basically painstaking questioning, really.

And how does Smith craft those compelling conclusions?

Smith: If you’re going in looking for the conclusion, then you’ve just short-circuited the whole journey. [You have to] trust what you find and trust the process to bring you somewhere, but not want to wrap it up prematurely at all. …

The other thing I’ve found is that ambiguity is where the reality lies. It’s much more honest. When you inspect yourself about what’s pushing you to make one decision or another, it’s usually this whole flux of things that are going on inside of you, a whole mixture of things weighing and leaning on the choices you make. It’s not that clean. So writing in a way that just irons out the wrinkles and gets you more to the black and white mode of human nature is really kind of dishonest.

Welcome ambiguity and the complexity because it’s a lot closer to the truth. … There’s a gold mine there if you don’t try to skirt it.

You must do two things. First, read Jemele Hill’s fine interview with Smith. And, second, read Smith’s collected stories, Beyond The Game. You’ll be a better sportswriter for doing this.


Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: