Literary Journalism: The 5 W’s and the H revisited
This session was led by Frank Coffman, a professor of English and journalism at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Ill.
In his lecture, Coffman referenced authors like Ernest Hemingway and Stephen Crane. Hemingway, who was also a journalist and ambulance driver in Italy, happens to be one of my favorite authors. I plan to read some of his works and emulate his writing style. Pendulum, be prepared.
Below are the five W’s and the lonely H. They define what literary journalism is and how to use it correctly.
The 5 W’s and H:
WHAT does literary journalism mean?
WHY write it?
This style contradicts the inverted pyramid. The inverted-pyramid style gives the story away at the beginning. Unfortunately, for those who want to write in a literary-journalistic style, readers don’t have a high tolerance for excessive information. People want information and they want it now.
WHEN is it appropriate?
Writers can use this style of writing when they have more time to compose and structure their story. It’s easier to produce this style of writing and when the material allows for comment, analysis or opinion.
WHERE do you include it?
It’s appropriate in columns, editorials, news analysis, features news stories told in a narrative fashion because they are compelling.
WHO should attempt it?
Not everyone is capable of writing like this. It takes a lot of good writing, hard work and practice.
HOW to prepare it.
Rule one: You believe in it.
Rule two: Read well to write well
Rule three: Establish a way with words and use tired, true formulae that have been shown to work again and again.