The Power of Written Storytelling: The Middle: Setting the Scene by Reporting the Story to Death (Part 3)

This is the third part of a series of posts about writ­ing a story. (Again, when I write the word story, I mean a true tale, non­fic­tion). Here, I will dis­cuss how to set the scene of a story by “reporting it to death.”

It is also a beautiful landscape.

I love barns so maybe I’m just biased when I think this is beautiful. But it does raise a million questions for me. Who built the barn? What’s in the barn? Who owns the barn? Why is the barn falling down? These are questions that you can use to set the scene in your story. (Photo credit: Ian Sane)

Let’s look at another firework maker in the story I mentioned earlier. I use Prak Sam Nang to set the scene and write about how he makes fireworks.

“Prak Sam Nang sits on a wooden bench his legs crossed in front of him, dipping his hand in a pot of glue and smoothing it across the thin brown cement bags. The firework makers create the glue by frying Tapioca flour and water until it becomes a thick white substance. Using a round metal mold, they shape the paper into a curved cup.

They fit two cups together and fill them with the homemade explosive ingredients: charcoal and metal burnt and melted together. They then smooth the ingredients over with more glue and paper and attach a string covered with another layer of the thin brown paper to one end of the device.”

You might have heard the phrase “setting the scene” in relation to fiction, but you can also use it when referring to a nonfiction piece. In some ways, it’s much more difficult to write. When you report a true story, you have to be a hundred percent sure the information is hundred percent accurate. That takes a lot of work. If I remember correctly, I spent at least a couple of hours learning about firework making that I then shortened into the above two paragraphs.

Accuracy is vital because you’re putting information out into the world as fact. You not only want it to be true, but also, your organization’s name is on the piece. Double check your sources. Don’t report anything you would like to be true just to support your cause.

So how do you set the scene?

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